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October 18, 2018

Book Club Girl’s Second Book Club Girls’ Night Out with Team W


On Wednesday, October 17th, Book Club Girl hosted its second Girls’ Night Out at William Morrow’s New York City office. For this event, the featured authors were New York Times bestselling authors Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig and Karen White --- or "Team W," as they are adoringly known. Their feisty, funny and wine-fueled conversation was moderated by Carol Fitzgerald from The Book Report Network. At only $40, the tickets were a steal, and included a tote bag of books, wine, hors d'oeuvres and, of course, a scintillating night of conversation about Team W's latest book, THE GLASS OCEAN.

As readers arrived in William Morrow's beautifully decorated offices, they were treated to snacks and wine as they mingled and discussed their favorite reads. As this event is popular among book clubs, many readers arrived in groups, and I overheard several people trading names and latest reads before the main discussion began. 

To kick off the panel, Carol asked Team W how they began writing together. Beatriz Williams explained that it was the summer of 2012, and her first book, OVERSEAS, had just released. Her publisher suggested that she sign airport books as they traveled, so she was doing just that. As she signed, she noticed tons of copies of FIFTY SHADES OF GREY around her, and several people came in to buy copies. Disheartened and lonely, Beatriz went to a writing conference, where she met up with authors Lauren Willig and Karen White. As they lamented the loneliness of touring (and drank a glass or two of wine), they thought, "Wouldn't it be great if we could get a publisher to pay for a girls' trip?" Immediately a brilliant idea came to their minds --- or so it seemed at the time: writing "Fifty Shades of Plaid."

In the morning, after a conversation with Karen's editor, they were less entranced by the idea of "Fifty Shades of Plaid," but they still wanted to work together. Karen said that she had been toying with an idea about a building somewhere and three women whose lives would intersect through that building. Beatriz said, "I know exactly the building!" In a surprising twist, Beatriz's family owned a historical home on Manhattan's Upper East Side, and it was the perfect place to begin their book. They soon met up in NYC to begin outlining, and THE FORGOTTEN ROOM began its journey to publication.

As their relationship went on, they began to go on retreats to write, starting in South Carolina, where Karen taught her fellow authors the art of "porching" --- aka lounging on a porch with cocktails...with some working. It was at this point in the conversation that Karen paused to make a public service announcement on the pronunciation of "pecan." It's pe-cahn, if you were wondering.

For their next retreat, they visited wintry New Hampshire, where they started to outline THE GLASS OCEAN. In case you missed it, Team W's latest book reimagines the tragic final voyage of the HMS Lusitania from the points of view of three women, one in the present and two in the past. In the present, we have bestselling author Sarah Blake, who is struggling to find a big idea for her next book. In 1915, we have Southern belle Caroline Telfair Hochstetter, who is hoping that a lavish first-class trip on the Lusitania to London will save her failing marriage, and Tessa Fairweather, who is traveling second-class on the Lusitania to return home to Devon --- or at least that’s her story. 

Team W's original idea was to write three characters in three classes, but the narrative felt too close-ended, since it all took place on the ship and no one wanted to write the character in steerage. Discussing their research, the trio explained that there is still a lot of uncertainty about why exactly the ship ultimately sank. As Lauren said, it was really the moment that began the 20th century. Using a modern character who was a nonfiction author, they could play with and explore this idea and the mysteries behind it.

Carol then asked the authors about their writing process, and how it works writing as a trio. As Team W explained, they consider themselves to have a "unibrain," meaning that they can easily outline and draft together, bouncing ideas back and forth and trusting one another to understand and follow along. As they outline, they name the characters, and then figure out who will write which character. Along the way, they deliberately throw in red herrings to confuse their readers. To date, no one has correctly guessed which author wrote which character. As Lauren said, "We're all singers, so we know how to harmonize."

In writing THE GLASS OCEAN, the trio was faced with a unique challenge because they were writing two characters in the same period, so they had to collaborate even more. Luckily, since they work so well together, this was not difficult. One fun thing they mentioned was that when they read one another's chapters, they were spurred to continue their own chapters. When it came to finalizing their edits and going over page proofs, Karen remarked that she was shocked by how good the book was as a whole. She did not feel as though she was reading her book and stroking her own ego, but rather that she was reading a book by her co-authors that she was lucky enough to contribute to.

When it came to choosing a title for THE GLASS OCEAN, Team W's husbands joined in on the fun, and the couples had a blast thinking of terrifically bad titles. Some of the options included "All the Air We Cannot Breathe," "The Ship Also Sinks" and, my personal favorite, "The Kelp." Team W explained that they had to develop this weird sense of humor to combat the trauma of their research into the sinking of the Lusitania. Because their characters could not expect what would happen, they, too, had to pretend they did not know, and these joke titles gave them some much-needed distance.

As the night came to a close, Team W expressed their gratitude for their readers and how much they truly love working together. It was clear from watching them that they truly respect and admire one another --- but they are also just great friends who can joke and laugh as easily as they can pen bestsellers. And then they went on to sign books and chat with readers. All in all, it was a fabulous night --- and that's not even the wine talking!

Ready for more Team W after reading this post? Here is one word to sum up their next book: France.