I just finished a fantastic romp of a book called Sorcery & Cecelia, or, the Enchanted Chocolate Pot. It’s set in England just after the Napoleonic Wars (i.e., Jane Austen time) in an alternate universe in which magic actually works. It’s framed as correspondence between Katherine, who is in London for her first Season, and her cousin, Cecily, at home in the country, as they unravel a magical plot. I heartily recommend it and the sequel, the Grand Tour, which I accidentall read first a few weeks ago (it said Patricia Wrede on the cover and she wrote the Dealing with Dragons books I loved as a kid…I snagged it from the library on a whim.)
Anyway, what really interests me about this book is the way it was written. Two professional authors, Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer, decide to play the Letter Game, which Stevermet had played as a child over the summers to have fun with friends. Her explanation:
“I believe it originated as an acting exercise, one character writing a letter “in persona” to another.
The game has no rules, except that the players must never receal their idea of the plot to one another. It helps to imply in the first letter why the two characters must write to each other and not meet in person.” (from the Afterword)
Stevermer mentioned the game to Wrede over tea, and Wrede thought it sounded like such fun that they absolutely had to do it, and they both got absolutely caught up in the world they were creating. They consulted briefly about timing– “How many more letters is it going to take you to get rid of [spoiler]? I need to know so I can get rid of [spoiler] at pretty much the same time.”– but other than that, they just let it come together as seemed right.
At the end, they looked at the letters and thought, “Huh. We have a book here.” A bit of editing to get rid of loose ends and fix inconsistencies, and they were ready to publish it.
I tell you this because I think it sounds like absolutely the most fun way to write a book ever conceived, and I would love to try it. It would be especially fun to use hand-written letters!
Seriously, if you’re at all interested in writing, and think this sounds like half as much fun as I think it is, email me! (my email address is eloriane (at) gmail (dot) com.) If nothing else, it’ll be good practice writing and and excuse to check the mail.