Our Writing Process

This post is a little different. It doesn’t contain our adventures of yet another pedestrian zone embarrassment or our awkward attempts at social conversation that forever haunt us but make great Facebook statuses. We’re taking part in the ‘My Writing Process Blog Tour’, where nominees give details about what they’re working on, answer questions then nominate three other people. So this is basically where we try to convince you we’re proper writers, even though our bank balances suggest otherwise. We were nominated by Roger Jackson. We met Roger through our love of abandoned asylums and setting stories in them. We have Twitter stalked each other ever since. By pure coinkidink Roger’s upcoming novella is also set in a version of Denbigh Asylum and we can’t wait to read it. Here is his blog post part in the tour. Check him out on Twitter: @jabe842 now! Don’t make us get our chappie choppers.

And here are the questions!

1 – What are you working on? Currently we’re on our fifth edit of what we call ‘our plague doctor novella’ but believe it or not, it does actually have a title – The Malignant Dead. This started off as a short story (7K) City of the Dead (we changed the title for the novella due to City of the Dead being an infuriatingly, overwhelmingly popular book title on Amazon. *Curls fists*). It follows the new plague doctor, Alex McCrae in 1645 Edinburgh. The people of Edinburgh fear him in his scary bird-like costume. The previous plague doctor has just died from the plague and the council promised McCrae a large sum of money to take the role, which he plans to use to put himself through the Guild of Barbers and Surgeons. His best friend James spends his time making mad potions in an effort to cure the plague and instead induces his own hallucinations. The council withhold McCrae’s money and start to plot against him as he becomes a problem. They never intended to pay him and hoped the plague would kill him, as it did his predecessor. Unfortunately for them, McCrae won’t die. As well as fighting the council, he is also battling the plague and soon there are more people buried beneath Edinburgh than living in it. And now Edinburgh really is a city of the dead, as their ghosts return to roam between the city’s walls.

It was actually inspired by the real life plague doctor, George Rae, who was promised £100 (about £200,000 today). The council thought he would get the plague and they wouldn’t have to pay him. He survived and spent thirty years trying to get the money. He never did get all of it.

2 – How does your work differ from others of its genre? Generally our horror work is different in that we don’t write about monsters but humans. The horror comes from their twisted minds. Humans are far more evil and dangerous than horror monsters. Also we have a lot of humour in our stories. We can’t help it. We find horror funny. But with The Malignant Dead, it’s different because it’s a historical horror book with many Gothic elements – ghosts, prophetic dreams, a graveyard, doomed romance, etc. Despite loving history (ok, the gory parts), we’ve never written historical fiction before, due to our fear that we’ll get facts wrong and a harsh reviewer will revel in pointing out our heinous crime. So we’ve spent weeks researching everything, from Scottish coins, to plague treatments, clothing, clay pipes, the Covenanters, anatomy drawings from the 17th century, scientific instruments, the history of street lighting, even down to what words were around in 1645. Check out Etymon Online if you’re interested in the history of words. If a word didn’t exist in 1645, it doesn’t go in. We’ve found when men write historical books, it’s about battles or leaning more towards the fantasy genre. When women write historical fiction, it’s almost always romance or set in the court of a famous royal. History was more than just battles and the monarchy. We wanted to write about real, every day history. Ours has a supernatural element which we haven’t come across before. Plus nobody has written a fiction or even non-fiction book about Edinburgh’s 1645 plague. We’ve looked. All the books are about London’s 1666 plague. So research was actually a nightmare. Maybe someone doesn’t want people knowing Edinburgh’s plague existed…*glances around nervously*

3 – Why do you write what you do? We love horror. We live horror. Almost all of our DVDs/VHSs are horror. We grew up watching horror films and when given creative writing projects in primary school, our characters were always chopped into pieces with their body parts displayed artistically. Fortunately our writing has improved, even if our drawings haven’t. In The Malignant Dead, the horror mostly comes from the plague itself. We gleefully describe the blood and pus bursting from the buboes. It was a disgusting time and we don’t shy away from it. We want people to smell the characters’ rotting skin god damn it! SMELL IT! We get ridiculously excited about horror. No other genre makes our minds tingle like that. Though we have to confess (please don’t report us to other writers for this) –  we get our horror fix from films and serial killer documentaries, not books. *Ducks* We’ve read a lot of modern horror from top magazines and we spend our time going “where’s the horror?” We write the horror we’d want to read. Maybe we’re too much from the old school of horror; Dean Koontz, Stephen King etc. We find a lot of horror stories recently too tame with no horror elements at all. But that’s what’s getting published at the moment.

4 – How does your writing process work? We’re different because we write together. There’s no magic formula, unless copious amounts of Red Bull counts – genius in a can. We never plan. Ever. We have a vague idea of a character or a setting or a situation and go from there. Sometimes it’s just an image. One of us writes two pages then we switch and we write like this until the story/book is finished. We don’t redraft until the short story is finished. Then one of us will do two redrafts then we switch until the redrafts reach double figures. If we’re writing novels, we write one chapter then do two redrafts of it each before we write the next chapter. Redrafting a novel consists of reading five chapters at a time until we’ve both redrafted them three times then we move on to the next five. So technically The Malignant Dead is on its fifteenth redraft. We’re not even in the same room when we work. The one who’s writing is outside in our writing shed, which has permanent Halloween decorations and the other is in the house on animal army duty, hanging out online and video editing our ghost hunting episodes. We don’t tell each other what we’ve written or what we think should happen next; we write completely blind. It’s like driving at night without headlights – sometimes there are streetlights to guide you, other times you have no idea where you’re going and you’re hoping you don’t break down by the cannibal’s lair. We like the freedom this creates as the stories go in directions we never expected. Kinda like us when we’re travelling somewhere new – we sometimes get lost and occasionally have a melt down but we get there in the end 😀

And now we have to nominate other authors to take the skeletal arm brand and lead you into their lairs. We mean minds.

Gena MantzFirst up is Gena Mantz, who also writes as Angel Edenburn. She lives in Kansas with her husband and many animals. Gena has published two books and had short stories published in various anthologies. She likes to writes paranormal stories about vampires and werewolves, and in her spare time, she enjoys belly dancing. Check out her blog



L K JaySecond is L K Jay, who is also an honorary member of our ghost hunting show, Calamityville Horror. She has published eight books and had written over one hundred articles on martial arts. L K is also 3rd Dan in Taekwondo.  Read her blog



  1. Love this post, and thanks for the mention!

    The new novel sounds great – I don’t know much about that period in history, but certainly I know the imagery of the Plague Doctors … terrifying! 🙂

    I can’t argue with you about a love of Horror, and agree with you that if it’s meant to be scary then make it SCARY! Oh, and a million points to you for still owning VHS!!!

    Your actual writing process is fascinating. It’s interesting that you each “write blind”, as it were. I guess that keeps the ideas fresh for both of you, and always surprising as you explore the story. Wonderful stuff!

    Thanks for sharing such a great insight into your work! 🙂

    • thanks for nominating us 🙂 we had fun writing this post and it was nice to share some of the research we’ve been doing – we didn’t realise how factual historical fiction had to be!

  2. Wow, your novel sounds like it’s going to be brilliant and really unique. Exciting! First I love that period of history, secondly I love Edinburgh (and keep meaning to go to their City of The Dead Ghost tours) and even though I have never read horror your sense of humour really comes through and I think I’d enjoy reading this one. I hope you’re not offended by the idea it’s the history rather than the horror I’m interested in, but much of history was gory and horrific. Goes with the territory.

    Fantastic post. really enjoyed reading it and getting to know more of how your dual writing process works. Fascinating. 🙂

    • To be honest, it’s the history of this story that appeals to us too – most of the horror comes from the gross reality of the time and the disease.
      We’ve been on two of the City of the Dead tours and highly recommend them. We went to Greyfriar’s Kirkyard and down the vaults. They were brilliant. We loved Edinburgh when we visited it last year and are planning to return this year.
      Thanks for reading our post 🙂

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