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Behind the Scenes of “Death Insurance” by Morgan Cry and Douglas Skelton

  14 Apr '20   |  Posted by: Birlinn

We chatted to authors Morgan Cry (aka Gordon Brown) and Douglas Skelton about their Lockdown collaboration, the novella Death Insurance.

Death Insurance brings together journalist Rebecca Connolly from Douglas’ novels Thunder Bay and The Blood Is Still, and claims assistant Daniella Coulston from Morgan’s forthcoming novel Thirty-One Bones.

How did you come up with the idea to write together?

DS: Let me answer that with a tip – if @GoJaBrown phones you and asks what you’re doing, don’t say ‘Nothing’!

GB/MC: The idea was born from the way we run Four Blokes, with four of us making up a softy live on stage. So I asked @DouglasSkelton1 if he fancied trying it for a longer version that we might release in chapters.

DS: Prior to Four Blokes I did know Gordon but had managed to avoid him. He’s very tall so I usually saw him coming.

Who came up with the title of the novella?

DS: That was Gordon again. Did I actually do anything for this? 

GB/MC: That was me. Usually I like to come up with a working title but on this occasion we waited ’till the end and the title ‘Death Insurance’ seemed to fit.

How does it work?

GB/MC: Badly. No it actually worked quite well. I kicked off with around a thousand words and passed it to Douglas who read, edited it a little, wrote and passed it back to me – and so on.

DS: We each came at it from the viewpoint of our protagonist – Daniella from Gordon’s new one (out in June!) and Rebecca from mine.

GB/MC: We also kept the characters in their native setting. Rebecca in Inverness and Daniella in Glasgow (although in the new book ‘Thirty-One Bones’ Daniella heads off to Spain).

Do you set each other word limits?

DS: No, it was all just seat-of-the-pants stuff. We wrote as much or as little as we wanted. I was tempted to do a two word paragraph and send it back but thought it wouldn’t go down well.

GB/MC: Nope. In fact we had no idea it was going to be so long. Originally we were looking at a short story and it kind of grew arms and legs – it’s nearly up to 16,000+ words.

DS: Wait – the last time I saw it there was only 8,000 words. You added stuff in, Brown? 

Do you take a virtual red pen to each other’s writing?

DS: Only in so far as once we had decided what it was about (a good way in, it has to be said) we had to retro fit material. Gordon did take out my alien landing, though. 

GB/MC: Mine was perfect as soon as I finished typing. It always is.

Has writing together changed your style of writing?

DS: Yes, I’ve made him better.

GB/MC: Yes. Douglas has learned a great deal from me…. Eh, I think I’m buying my own Kool Aid here.

DS: Seriously, no. It is actually quite amazing how well our two styles meshed together. Eventually.

Had you planned the story out before you started writing?

DS: No, we don’t plan. Eventually we did have to decide what it was all about – I well remember that phone call. I’d had a wee sherbet. I needed it.

GB/MC: Not a chance. We did have the odd chat in the middle – more to stop us imploding – but in general we took the ‘You hit me- I’ll hit you’ approach to the whole thing. I have the black eyes to prove it.

Did one of the characters try to dominate the story? Either Rebecca or Daniella?

GB/MC: Funnily the answer was no and although Douglas did write a lot of the Rebecca stuff and I wrote a lot of the Daniella’s material – we also wrote a fair bit each with both characters. And it worked.

DS: They each come from two different aspects of the story – Daniella in Glasgow dealing with the office side of the crime and Rebecca out not socially isolating.

Is this written against the backdrop of the Covid-19 outbreak?

DS: No. We needed Rebecca out and about, doing what she does.

GB/MC: We also are aware that a lot of people are going to write about the virus and we didn’t want to jump on that particular bandwagon.

Death Insurance will be published in instalments for free on our website and you can read the first instalment now.

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