A Life in Words – on co-writing Chanel Sweethearts with half of Cate Kendall

While writing is often seen as a lonely profession, some writers buck the trend and team up. I caught up with half of Cate Kendall to ask her a few questions about co-writing, creating psuedonyms and lampooning yummy mummies.

Cate Kendall is actually a pseudonym for the writing team Lisa Blundell and Michelle Hamer. Michelle, this is your third book co-written with Lisa so it’s obviously working out well for you both. What makes writing as a team so enjoyable for you?

I have written three books on my own and worked as a journalist for more than 20 years – most recently as a freelancer, which is a pretty solitary existence. For me one of the best things about working in a team is knowing that there is someone to pick up the slack if you are having a bad week and someone who loves the book as much as I do. When we get good reviews, or sell overseas it’s great to have each other to celebrate with. It’s also a really interesting working experience; being able to bounce off each other and being open to doing things someone else’s way. It’s good for the ego!

So, why Cate Kendall as a name, and have you an image of what Cate would look like if she were a real person?

We chose Cate Kendall randomly, after trying out dozens of other names. In the end, this was the one that clicked with both of us. I imagine Cate to be petite, with curly black hair, funky little glasses and vintage fashion – nothing like either of us!

What do you both bring to the book?

Lisa is excellent at creating the big picture structure of the book. She is brilliant at the fashion details and in creating gorgeous interior design. I read her descriptions of some of the houses our characters live in, and I just want to move in!

I focus more on the interior lives of the characters, the emotional stuff and their motivations. Because I’ve been a journo for so long I am also brutal when it comes to the editing, so I tend to slash and burn words with greater ease. But neither of us is precious about our work, in the end writing a great book is the main aim.

Do you often disagree, and what’s the biggest bone of contention?

We rarely disagree. When we do it will probably be about something quite small. We have learnt that if one of us cares enough to fight for a scene or a character then the other will accept that is important to them and let it go. After writing three books together (and our fourth is just about finished) we seem to have got it down to a fine art, so personalities don’t come into it.

Your books lampoon the yummy mummy culture, and take a satiric swipe at lots of elements of the social scene. Do you ever take a friendly swipe at each other in your novels, or use yourselves as a reference?

We have a lot of respect for each other as people and writers. We would never make fun of the other in the books or anywhere else. We both use experiences from our lives in the books; but only as snippets here and there. We borrow moments from real life to create fiction.

If you were advising writers on looking for a writing partner, what would you tell them?

I’m not really sure. Neither of us set out to find a writing partner or even to write a book together. It was just one of those things that happened. I’d say that you would have to be clear how you were going to make the process happen and be sure that neither of you was hoping for glory, just to create a great book and have some fun along the way. I think that was the secret for us – we just set out to have a bit of fun.