Wednesday, June 24, 2020

An Interview with Nicole Leiren

by Grace Topping

Writing is usually a solitary occupation. However, more and more writers are teaming up to produce works, either under both names of the authors, under a single pseudonym, under the name of a well-known writer “with” a supporting writer, or collaborating with a number of authors on a single series.

This is the fourth in a series of interviews featuring authors who have taken a team approach. Bestselling author Nicole Leiren, who has been teaming with author Elizabeth Ashby in the Danger Cove Mysteries, agreed to tell us about her experience of collaborating with other authors. The latest book in their series, Dark Rum Revenge, was released in February.

Dark Rum Revenge: a Danger Cove Cocktail Mystery (Danger Cove Mysteries Book 24)
Back Cover Copy

As the new part owner of Smugglers’ Tavern, Lilly Waters has found a little slice of happiness. With a steady boyfriend, a renewed relationship with her parents, and a strong circle of friends, she is excited about what the future might hold for her in the never boring town of Danger Cove. The auction of Shady Pines, a creepy reportedly haunted old motel on the outskirts of town, causes an influx of real estate investors from near and far—some nice, some nasty, and all with plans for the property. As the tempers begin to flare, Lilly and her good friend, Bree Milford who owns the local B&B, visit Shady Pines to check out the potential new competition. But instead of answers, they discover the lifeless body of one of the most vocal (and irritating) investors. The police move in record time to point fingers, which leaves Lilly, Bree, and a former foe all in the middle of a dark and stormy recipe for danger. Can Lilly catch a killer, or will this haunted hotel claim another victim?

Welcome, Nicole, to Writers Who Kill. 

As a successful writer, what motivated you to collaborate with Elizabeth Ashby on the Danger Cove Mystery series? How did the collaboration come about?

Nicole Leiren
Actually, Elizabeth Ashby is the fictional mystery author who lives in Danger Cove. She was created by my publisher, Gemma Halliday, and is a nod or homage to Jessica Fletcher from Cabot Cove in the Murder, She Wrote series. All Danger Cove authors “collaborate” with Elizabeth Ashby. She’s been involved in some of my cases and made a couple of appearances in the third book in my series, Tequila Trouble.

What was it like writing with someone else? Are there different levels of participation when you write with another writer? You do one thing she does another? Please tell us about your process? 

While working with my co-author, Ms. Ashby, is pretty easy, collaborating with the other Danger Cove authors provides a unique set of challenges. For those of you not familiar with the series, all of the stories take place in the town of Danger Cove, Washington. We have different storylines that surround several areas of the town. I write for the cocktail mysteries, and we have other authors who write for the farmers market and quilting club (Gin Jones), the Ocean View Bed and Breakfast (T. Sue Versteeg), the bakery (Janel Gradowski) the pet sitters (Sally J Smith and Jean Steffens), the bookshop (Ellie Ashe), and the hair salon (Traci Andrighetti). So you can imagine how much collaboration must take place to make sure we are all on the same page.

There are mainstay characters (police force, attorneys, etc.) that are constant throughout each book. We have a Danger Cover “bible” that has information about the town, the common characters, and basic information about each of the places I mentioned above. We do that so we all describe the Smugglers’ Tavern or the Ocean View Bed and Breakfast the same way.  

Whenever I write a scene that includes any characters from another part of the town, I always send that scene to the author to make sure it accurately reflects their character(s) and offers consistency for where their character is in the timeline.

What’s the biggest challenge you face working on the same project?

The coordination is a big challenge, as I need to make sure the other author’s characters are represented appropriately, and when someone is writing my characters, that they do the same. Keeping timelines straight (whose book is coming out first and when) is also “fun” to keep up with. LOL.

Now with Zoom and other online technology, do you envision collaboration becoming easier?

I could see where that could help. As long as you could coordinate a time when any authors involved in the collaboration were available and at a point where they could contribute.

Do you bring different skills to the collaboration? How difficult was it to blend writing styles?

As I shared, this type of collaboration is a little different than perhaps a typical one. Fortunately, it allows for different writing styles (though our publisher has a Danger Cove expert who has read every installment and makes sure there is cohesiveness and consistency in the world.) 

Do you ever disagree? If so, who has the final say?

Well, the publisher ALWAYS has the final say *grin*, but when it’s a scene that involves another author’s characters, I will defer to their take on how their character might react. For example, one of my fellow authors, T. Sue Versteeg, has been working on the next Bed & Breakfast story. She sent me a scene that has my main character, Lilly Waters, in it. She had her doing and saying some things that didn’t really fit with how I would see my character handling the situation. I sent her back some notes and so she rewrote the scene to make it fit better with the Lilly the readers have come to know. This is super important to us that readers know that the Lilly they read about in a bed and breakfast book is the same one they’ll get in a cocktail mystery book. 

Our editors also ask us if we collaborated with the other authors on scenes that involve their characters. If you say no, they’re going to send those scenes to them, and it may require you to do a rewrite—so we always do that first.

What surprised you the most about the process? What did you learn from the experience?

I’ve learned how important it is to create continuity in a world where a reader experiences books and series written by different authors. As a reader, I would want that and am happy to be a part of such a unique and interesting project.

We are seeing more well-established authors writing with other writers. For example, James Patterson writes with a number of writers, including Chris Grabenstein. What do you think accounts for this trend?

I think readers enjoy getting releases from authors they love. Needless to say, keeping up with the volume can be challenging for even full-time authors. By collaborating, you are able to potentially produce works at a quicker pace, and it’s also a great way for newer authors to be mentored by a well-established author, or for two well-known authors to expand their audiences even further.

After writing with other authors, what advice would you give to writers who plan to work together?

This is a tough one, as authors tend to have ideas already in place for how they want something to play out or how they want a character to develop. I think it’s important to find someone who has a similar writing style and thought process as you do but also brings different things to the table. My critique partner has strengths that I don’t, which allows her to see things in my manuscript that I might miss, and I do the same for her. Finding the right writing partner is just as important. Being willing to have an open mind and some flexibility is a big key to success in any collaboration.

With a foot in the mystery world and the romance world, which one do you find more challenging or rewarding?

I truly enjoy both reading and writing both genres. I think the biggest challenge for me switching from romance to cozy mystery was the fact that while mysteries have a small element of romance, it plays out much slower in the mystery than it (obviously) does in a romance. Learning how to slow that all down and focus on the mystery aspects more than the romance was tough, especially for that first book. 

Please tell us about other projects you have underway?

I’m actually taking a short sabbatical so I can enjoy some time with my first (and only) grandchild. For those of you who read or will read Dark Rum Revenge, that book was dedicated to him. There are always ideas percolating, though, so I’m sure I’ll be hitting the keyboard with some new mysteries soon.

Thank you, Nicole. 

About Nicole Leiren

Described by those who know her best as perky, quirky, and effervescent, USA Today Best-Selling author Nicole Leiren likes to have fun -- in life, with her characters and, of course, her readers. She admits to being sassy (just ask her mother), and inspiration for her characters is drawn from the real-world heroes and heroines she meets while traversing the country. Nicole enjoys sharing the love, laughter, mystery, and occasionally a touch of the mayhem she forces her characters to endure--all for the reader's pleasure. Her real-world heroes and heroines will keep you turning the pages until you reach the whodunit or happily ever after (usually both).

To learn more about Nicole Leiren and her books, follow her at the following:


  1. Interesting interview. How wise to team up by using the talents you each have. Good luck on your next adventure.

  2. Thank you, Nicole, for joining us today at Writers Who Kill. It was fun learning more about your experience in collaborating with other authors.

  3. Fascinating look at collaboration. Thank you!

  4. I have trouble collaborating with myself and my characters when I write.

    So helpful to get some insight into how it works for someone else.

  5. What Marilyn said! Thanks for bringing this series to our attention, although I've already been reading Gemma Halliday for some time.

  6. Enjoy that grandbaby! Sounds like you have found your posse. How wonderful to have a village of writers to keep continuity in the books.