This week I had the pleasure of talking to Jessica Reis, who has written an anthology with three of her friends. For our chat, we talked about how they did it, how it came together, and how anyone might do the same.
To find out more about Jessica, check out her website or connect with her on Instagram.
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Read the Transcript
Sarina Langer 00:08
Hello, and welcome to the Writing Sparrow podcast. I’m Sarina Langer, and this podcast is all about writing, publishing and marketing your book. You can find transcripts on my website at sarinalanger.com. Let’s get started!
Sarina Langer 00:26
Welcome back, friends and Sparrows! It’s the seventh of December, and this is episode 14. Today, I have Jessica Reis with me via zoom, and we’ll be discussing how to write an anthology with your friends, something she has experience with, and I have none whatsoever. Welcome, Jess.
Jessica Reis 00:47
Sarina Langer 00:49
So good to have you here!
Jessica Reis 00:50
You did great with my name. Let me say that.
Sarina Langer 00:54
I’m so glad to hear that! It’s always a worry. So–
Jessica Reis 00:59
I know it can be tricky.
Sarina Langer 01:01
I’m glad to hear I did alright. Did you know I briefly learned Spanish, which is obviously not exactly the same as Portuguese, but I like to think I have some skill.
Jessica Reis 01:14
It can be similar. Maybe.
Sarina Langer 01:17
So you’ve written an anthology with your friends. That’s pretty amazing in itself, but you’ve also just shown me the book itself and that is so beautiful. So, how did this idea–
Jessica Reis 01:32
Sarina Langer 01:32
Sorry, you go.
Jessica Reis 01:33
No, no, no, I was going to say that it was a long but beautiful and hard journey.
Sarina Langer 01:43
I can imagine. So how did this idea come about for you and your friends to write a book together?
Jessica Reis 01:51
Well, it is all started with Tania. She’s the organiser of the project. And I only knew her and Gabriela because they have been written other books before. But she invited me for the project and she was like, Well, I have this project for an anthology of short stories related to fantasy. And there is a couple of twists that, if you want to join, I will explain. So it was basically like that. And she asked me to send a couple of my previous short stories, just so her, so she can, could see what I could write, because she, I had read her books, but she had never read something of mine. So it started like that. And then she had us all to a Facebook group, and we’re talking, and I got very excited because we were four authors. So she had this brilliant idea of having each sort, short story, which is almost like a novella length, having the one element. So mine was randomly, they are all were randomly picked. Mine was air. And then she had asked us to write one prompt, that would also be randomly picked. And we had to write the story based on the element and that prompt. So I got air, and I got a prompt that talks about pirates that have powers and that kidnap someone in the royal bloodline. So…
Sarina Langer 04:09
How exciting! You know what that reminds me of? I think when I was in, God, I don’t remember what year it was, I want to say, I don’t know, either primary school or high school. We did this thing where our teachers were trying to encourage us to do more creative writing. Sorry. And they, I think they just gave us basically like a hat with like lots of little prompts and then we had to pick three out of it at random. And then those were our story prompt basically. It reminds me of that. I loved doing that.
Jessica Reis 04:46
Yeah, it’s, it was fun to figure out out how to combine the elements with a prompt because if it, it was water, was like very more and, more a perfect match because pirates, water, but I thought that there is a lot we can do with the air, element air, and pirates. So I ended up with deciding to go to my roots in terms of writing, which is getting inspiration from mythology. So I always love the idea of flying, So I love dragons, angels, and of course harpies. So I decided to pick that. And the fact that they were, in some ways consider to be like, like guards, and like bounty hunters, so I decided to go with that. And write the idea that pirates are bad, the harpies are catching them. But of course, the universe and and society isn’t so black and white. And I decided to talk about corruption and the way that we view values and the way that we view what, what people teach us about religion and all the traditions, so I decided to go with that. And of course, I have pirates that have powers, that have imaginary powers.
Sarina Langer 06:47
That sounds really fun though. That sounds like such a fun story to read. So there were four of you, you said, and you, you all sort of organised everything via this Facebook group. That sounds like a really clever way to exchange ideas and see how everyone is getting on. So to what degree did you utilise the Facebook groups? Or did you just kind of like check in once a week to see how everyone is doing? Or did you exchange ideas and ask for help?
Jessica Reis 07:15
Well, I mostly exchanged ideas, like the brainstorming with Tania. Because at the beginning, it was the person I was more comfortable with, but by now I talked with all of them, we’re still texting each other. But at first it was the person that I knew more. I had been with her in the summer at a book fair. So I decided to go with her in the brainstorming, but we were constantly messaging one another in the chat. We were all checking in, saying where we are going on the things that we are having some difficulties with. And then of course, after we finished the first draft, we gave one another our drafts to be our betas. So that again, we started messaging one another saying, Well, I’m very enjoying your story. I have no idea what you’re going to do, so you’re already giving comments as we read, although we were commenting in the file as well. So we were like in touch every day of the week.
Sarina Langer 08:54
Honestly, that sounds like such a fun progress, erm, process. It sounds so fun, and also so good to just constantly give each other feedback on everything. That sounds like a really good way to grow and develop your story.
Jessica Reis 09:10
Yeah, because we were like, I got a Filipa’s story first if I’m not mistaken. And Tania got mine first, so we got each other, we change it like that. So then we passed on the file with all our comments to the next person. So Filipa’s file went to Tania, I read Tania’s next. So we were constantly doing that until all three of us has read the other ones, all four of us has we read all the ones, the all of the stories, and commenting on. Then we started doing this second draft where I added, like, I think I may have been the person that added a lot more than the, more than the other three girls. Because I have entire chapters that I wrote. And at some point, I went into the group and said, Well, I really am sorry, but I… Is it okay, if I, if I go a bit over the word count that we had planned?
Sarina Langer 10:34
How far over did you go?
Jessica Reis 10:38
Not much. Tania’s stories were the bigger. We did went over. So she was like, well, I, I went over already, so don’t worry. And I’m like, but I still have two chapters left to write completely. And I still have like, I still have like four or six chapters to correct. So I was already in a tight spot. But I did when… Our word count was between 25k and 30k, I went a bit over the 30, like 33.
Sarina Langer 11:26
That’s not too bad.
Jessica Reis 11:28
Yeah, it’s not too bad. But I was freaking out.
Sarina Langer 11:33
Yeah, I think that’s really interesting actually, because I think when most people hear anthology, we immediately think of short stories. We don’t necessarily think of novella length stories. So that’s really interesting.
Jessica Reis 11:48
Our point was really to write a novella length, because we wanted to explore more and not just write like a couple of pages and that’s it. So that’s why the book is very thick, like 500 pages, I believe?
Sarina Langer 12:12
Oh, not bad.
Jessica Reis 12:12
It’s really thick and heavy.
Sarina Langer 12:15
It looks really pretty.
Jessica Reis 12:18
But then again, we had, we didn’t pick a type of letter and space between sentences that were small, which we knew that since it was four stories, we wanted the readers to be comfortable with reading and spending a lot of time reading. And we wanted people, if they were older and has trouble reading, they didn’t like get tired of reading a couple of pages, because the letter was small, so it is very big. Not gigantic, but compared to most books you can see it.
Sarina Langer 13:05
Oh no, it looks fine, actually. It looks very well put together.
Jessica Reis 13:09
Yeah, but if I showed you some books in Portuguese, they are very, they are smaller than this. Not maybe, not the letter, but the spacing in between tend to be a bit smaller. That’s why at first we have like between 3– 304 something, 300 or 400 pages. But then when we did, we got the art first to see how it was all put together, if the cover was right. And then we had to change everything, and we end up with more pages. Because we did all ourselves. We didn’t add anyone to format our book. The cover was made by Gabriela.
Sarina Langer 14:06
Well, Gabriela, your cover is beautiful. Well done.
Jessica Reis 14:11
Yeah, she, erm, we all pick the title. But then Tania, Gabrielle were talking about cover ideas, and then they showed us the covers and we’re like, yeah, blue is, it’s perfect. And the dragon, it has a dragon, a skull, a boat. And you can see in the photo like me showing it, showing to you because of the reflection, but it has this glassy filter so you see the reflection of the title. And all of those elements are linked to our stories. So mine is about pirates–the boat. Tania’s story is about dragons, so she has a dragon. Filipa’s story is related to a mirror, so she has that reflection element. And Gabriela’s story is about… I can say as real as it gets, it’s like, very, very dark, but brilliant story, so this goal is related to the main character’s power.
Sarina Langer 15:48
The more you tell me about how this whole thing worked and came together for you, just makes me want to do it more. It sounds so exciting. And it sounds like such a great effort as well from your group. I mean, it just sounds like the best team work has gone into this.
Jessica Reis 16:05
Yeah, you really have like Tania’s idea was founded on the, on the values that she wanted to work with a group of people that she loved to work. So she already had working with Gabriela on one of her book’s covers because Gabriela is a designer. And she is, Tania knew Filipa already, and she, they had talked about stories, and they are brainstorming it and everything. And me and Tania had talked about writing when we met at the book fair. So she thought that all of us could work together. Okay, it wasn’t perfect. We still are four people with four different personalities, so of course there are tensions, and sometimes there are problems. But the fact that we went through them and figured out the solutions for that tells a lot. so we could work together.
Sarina Langer 17:31
I would agree with that. I mean, I know… I think everyone knows what it’s like when you have to work with people when you don’t necessarily all get along perfectly well all of the time, you know, tension can really make things difficult. So I think that you still managed to put out such a honestly beautiful book is a credit to all fout of you. I mean, when, say, when things got difficult, if you disagreed on something, how did you, how did you deal with that? How did you talk through that?
Jessica Reis 18:00
Jessica Reis 18:01
Yeah, that was it. That was it. We said what we had to say. We were respectful of one another, because okay, okay, I might not agree with you, but I understand you and I will try better next time. It was like this kinds of things. And we, for example, in the beta reading process, we all have different kinds of ways of talking about the story. I’m a beta that focus on like, the, the essence of a story. And I sometimes don’t ask questions, a lot of questions. I got not going to say a lot of why’s. I will wait for later because I know sometimes the answer to the why certain characters act that way, will be answered later. Tania is from the field of science. She’s a biologist. She’s working on a thesis right now, so she has that questioning mind. So her beta reading process is more of questioning everything, like why they are doing that, wWhy are pirates doing that? Why are harpies doing that? Why Jessica, why Jessica? She was like that. Which is great, but shocking, but she did let us know. She was like that. So, we, when we are doing a project like this, we are being our beta readers of one another, we have to remind ourselves that it’s not personal. We are just trying to help. And think of the reason why certain someone is questioning us in that comment, or, or the ending commentary, because sometimes it’s just, you know so much about your own story that you forget that some information is not there. And they pick up on that.
Sarina Langer 18:01
There you go!
Sarina Langer 19:35
It’s very easily done.
Jessica Reis 20:49
Yeah, so it’s, it’s talking, talking with one another, explaining things before going into a project, and in the middle of a project, so people know how you are and so you know, all they are and how they act.
Sarina Langer 21:11
That’s such a wonderful, mature approach. I mean, again, you, you guys are such a creditor yourselves. I mean, I’m not surprised at all that you’ve managed to finish it, which is, you know, something that many new writers really struggle with is to just even finish the first draft. And not only have you guys finished your novellas, but you’ve also put out a seriously very beautiful looking book. I think I may have said that before, but your cover really is very pretty.
Sarina Langer 21:37
So I can see that you’ve obviously published it, you’ve shown me the book, is there any chance at all maybe of you getting it translated to English? Because you have me very curious, and I would really love to read it.
Jessica Reis 21:52
For now, we have no idea. We may do it in the future, I don’t know. It’s really up to us to decide in the future, if we might have the time to do it, or to get someone. But then again, it’s, it’s an investment.
Sarina Langer 22:21
It really is, yeah. I mean, I remember at one point, I was looking at getting my first trilogy translated to German, because my parents are German, and they… I mean, they are learning English a little bit, but ultimately, you know, it’s a foreign language to them. And they would really like to read my books, so I was looking into that. But as you said, it’s definitely an investment. And it’s a big decision either way, you know, because it’s, it’s quite a big thing, I think, when your book is just out in your own country to begin with, that’s, that’s such a huge achievement, but to then also be able to say that your book has been translated and is now available in another language. That’s, that, that seems like a whole next level thing. So, you know, definitely don’t rush into that, but if you did want to do it, I would read it.
Jessica Reis 23:11
Oh, good to know. But I do have the same problem that you have, because my family in my paternal family is French, my grandparents were immigrants in France, so most of my uncles and my dad and my cousins were born there. So I have a lot of family members that would like to read something that I wrote, but they can’t because they don’t know enough Portuguese to do it. They can understand it, some can talk, but they can’t fluently read Portuguese. Just the menu in a restaurant.
Sarina Langer 24:06
Well, I think as long as you can get food, you’re probably fine.
Jessica Reis 24:11
Sarina Langer 24:11
That’s always my priority. Can I get food if I went to another country? Would I be able to feed myself? And if the answer is yes, I’m probably happy for now. But it doesn’t help me read a book, does it? So, so in this instance, it’s not helpful.
Jessica Reis 24:27
Sarina Langer 24:28
How did you find the experience overall of writing the anthology with your friends?
Jessica Reis 24:36
I found it an experience that helped me grow. It was exciting but scary, but something that taught, taught me a lot. It taught me to be a beta reader more, a better beta reader. It taught me to understand my, the common mistakes I make and how to spot them more quickly. It helped me understand a bit of the writing process after writing a book. And it was really helpful in getting to know other authors in a more intimate way, because we were working very closely. And that was a very interesting idea, erm, concept and I, and experience for someone that is a first time publishing author, especially in an indie way and not with a publishing company. So it was very interesting and very exciting experience that really helped me learn a lot. So yeah, it was like that for me.
Sarina Langer 26:20
I mean, you’re really making me want to do this myself. If anyone, if anyone who’s listening would like to do an ontology with me, I am, I’m game. I’m there. Just say the word.
Jessica Reis 26:32
Ah, I’m here. I can do it with you.
Sarina Langer 26:35
Alright, there you go, we’ve already got two people. So just a few more, and we can absolutely get this started.
Sarina Langer 26:42
So do you have–ahem, on a completely unrelated note, ahem–do you have any tips for someone who might be interested in doing the same thing? Oh, smooth. Well done, me.
Jessica Reis 26:56
Well, get people that you, you believe in to work with you because you have to believe in them and they have to believe in you. So that at least if there are problems, they still believe in the project, they still believe in each other, and they believe that they can surpass the problems and the obstacles. Then, maybe get people that write in the same genre. If you are going to write fantasy, maybe it’s not the best to ask someone that doesn’t really enjoy writing fantasy. So okay, if it’s someone that likes to write in multiple genders, then that’s perfect.
Sarina Langer 27:48
That makes sense. You can probably adjust quite well that way.
Jessica Reis 27:53
And, and that, yeah, just someone that’s really is someone that you believe in, and then you know, you can work with someone you don’t hate.
Sarina Langer 28:07
That sounds helpful.
Jessica Reis 28:08
Hate, at some, at some times, okay, it’s okay to hate some bits of someone’s personality. I even hate some bits of my personality, so that’s fine. But if, if you believe in them, if they believe in you, everything is possible.
Sarina Langer 28:30
Thank you so much for that. I think we should probably leave it on that very inspiring note. And thank you so much for stopping by and having a chat with me about this. Thank you so much.
Jessica Reis 28:41
Thank you for inviting me.
Sarina Langer 28:43
Jessica Reis 28:44
Sarina Langer 28:46
If you enjoyed today’s episode, maybe learn something along the way, hit the subscribe button. You can also connect with me on Twitter @sarina_langer, on Instagram and Facebook @sarinalangerwriter, and of course on my website at sarinalanger.com. Until next time! Bye!
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