Today I have the unusual experience of interviewing a writing partnership. Andy Evans and Vesna Kovac live on different sides of the Atlantic, but have written a book together ‘When Spirits Break Free.’
Welcome Andy and Vesna, how nice to see people collaborating on a book.
Can you tell us more about When Spirits Break Free? What genre would you classify it as?
Andy: The book is actually set in my hometown of Featherstone, West Yorkshire. Although fictional a lot of the content is based on my own memories and experiences growing up in a coal mining village. The story portrays Billy, born into a mining family that had worked the coals for countless generations.
Billy Hall was as humble as the very beginnings from those he was born into.
Coal had been king and ruled the landscape surrounding the small town of Castlefields for countless generations.
From an early age, it was obvious to Molly her son did not fit into the mould expected for the traditions of children following their forefathers, deep down into the depths to win out the coals for a grateful nation.
Although Billy had been surrounded by children of his own age, parading, and playing out their games of fantasy along the cobbled streets, he more often chose his own company away from the others. The friends of imagination that crept silently from the darkened shadows, provided him the friendship, and consolation, that he sought more and more, as early childhood progressed.
Adolescence beckoned, and the shadows withdrew, leaving Billy to seek out his own amusement and friendship that the town offered.
Innocently, the key would be turned again, releasing those that had been lost, to once again emerge and make their presence felt.
With the door within his mind once again opened, Billy would be left to face his own ultimate destiny.
Vesna: Melrose books found it difficult to place in any one genre and described it as “genre bending”.
Is this novel the beginning of a series? I ask that because it seems a downbeat ending, ripe for a sequel.
Andy: Alas there will be no sequel (unless the public demands).
What gave you the idea for this story? Have you had paranormal experiences yourselves?
Andy: The idea came about initially after listening to a song by ex Pink Floyd front man Roger Waters. Going to Live in LA tells the story of young Billy, a wheel chair bound kid was sent to live with his uncle following his father’s imprisonment during the miner’s strike of 1984 – 1985. Many books have been written about coal miners but none have really explored the younger generations raised under the shadow of King Coal. Unfortunately I was the last generation to experience being raised in such an environment.
If you believe in the paranormal, then yes, I have had many experiences.
Featherstone is a very old village and the coal mine I was employed at dated back to 1865.Ghost stories are rife and common amidst the fire side stories of winters evenings. All the stories from the book actually have an element of truth about them.
I have heard that although you two write together, you have never met in person. Is this true? How and why did you get to work with each other?
Vesna: We actually met for the first time in June 2010. I traveled from Michigan USA and spent two weeks in the United Kingdom.
Andy: We made contact in October 2008 following my 20 year search to uncover my own granddads true identity in the former Yugoslavia. I discovered, some of his family had indeed survived World War Two and that his brother had died a year before him in 1987. In November 2008 I traveled to Bosnia and met granddads brother’s two grandchildren.
Vesna: Unfortunately I had been displaced to America immediately after the civil war of the 1990’s and so all contact with me was via email.
How does your partnership work? For example, do you send chapters via email and the other one edits, or what?
Andy: The partnership can be difficult to say the least. We write ideas and email these to each other. Usually the subject matter is ok but the wording and grammar is not. English English is very different to American English and we have disputed correct wording and phrases often.
Vesna: Because the story is set in Yorkshire I found it difficult to visualize the setting. I spent a lot of time looking at material Andy sent in order to characterise myself with the setting I had to describe.
Andy: We made attempts at proofing and editing ourselves. Countless emails back and forth finally persuaded us that we did need professional and independent help. I was lucky and found a local proof reader who did a fantastic job finalising the finished manuscript.
Do you think that such writing partnerships will be seen more in future? How will technology make it easier to collaborate?
Andy: Technology is making it much easier to collaborate online. The instant email offers us room to communicate more readily. Ten years ago I feel that writing jointly from either side of the Atlantic would have been a formidable task even for the most experienced of writers. Thankfully now, instant messaging enables us to communicate much more readily.
Have you any other novels and/or projects you are working on? Together or separately?
Vesna: We are currently re-writing our first book In Search of the Displaced Persons which was originally published in July 2009. Unfortunately we did not see the true potential of this and prematurely accepted it was ready for the reader. Much more content has now been added and the manuscript is in the reliable hands of Diane Hall for proof reading.
Plans are being discussed to write a third novel, aimed at the young teenage audience. It will be set in Bosnia and will explore the rich and diverse customs and folklore of my ancient country.
When is the novel coming out? Where can people buy it?
Thank you for the interview and best of luck with your book and future projects.