Sparked by: Helena Echlin & Malena Watrous

Sparked by: Helena Echlin & Malena Watrous

by Helena Echlin & Malena Watrous
Genres: Children's Books, Young Adult


Author: Helena Echlin & Malena Watrous

Pub. Date: October 3, 2017

Publisher: Geek & Sundry

Pages: 310

Formats: Hardcover, eBook

Find it: AmazonB&NTBDGoodreads

Fifteen-year-old Laurel Goodwin wakes up to find her older sister Ivy missing from their Airstream trailer in the Oregon redwoods. A recurring nightmare convinces her that Ivy was abducted, but no one takes her dream seriously, including her mom. Laurel, a loner, has to learn to ask for help, and Jasper Blake, a mysterious new kid who shares her love of old books, quickly becomes her ally. Together they find their quiet town holds a deep secret and is the epicenter of a dark prophecy. 

Laurel soon learns that her worst enemies, mean girls Peyton Andersen and Mei Rosen, are developing powers that she needs to find and save Ivy. With time running out, Laurel realizes that power doesn’t always take the form that you expect. And once she learns to look beyond her snap judgments, she develops an unexpected gift of her own.

We’re Having a Novel!

When Helena and I first met at a mutual friend’s cocktail party, it was one of my first evenings away from my one-year-old son, and she was pregnant with her first child. She looked very glamorous in a long silvery dress, with a snake bracelet coiled around her upper arm. I bring up the fact that I was a new mothers and she was about to become one, because in the years that followed, we found that co-authoring a novel is a lot like having a baby.

Phase 1: Infatuation

We started talking at that party, realized we loved almost all of the same novels (it was uncanny), that we’d both written adult novels, and were itching to try writing YA. We’d both adored Roald Dahl as kids, and wanted to do something like that: write a novel with very real and memorable characters that also involved magic and mystery. We both felt a little isolated as freelancers, and thought it would be cool to try writing collaboratively. Why not together? So with butterflies flitting in our stomachs, we made a follow up date to talk plot…

Phase 2: Gestation

After I shared an idea I’d been mulling over for a YA novel, Helena almost immediately figured out where that story could go, and we were off. For the first 7 months, ideas poured out of both of us in a frenzy of inspiration. We’d meet every Monday at a coffee shop, making a list of scenes we needed to write, and divide them up, spending rest of the week separately drafting our “assignments.” Then we’d email each other the drafts to edit, sending them back and forth enough times that we lost track of who’d originally written what.

Phase 3: Labor

Months 7-9 required us to finish the first draft, which wasn’t quite as easy as starting it because our plot had gone a little berserk. There was a mystery, a supernatural story, a romance, and the subplots of our minor characters that needed resolution. It all had to form one coherent book with an ending that wrapped everything up. We powered through, and celebrated completing that draft with a dinner party that concluded with the same cake that our protagonist eats at her birthday party in one of the book’s final scenes, a carrot and beet cake with cream cheese frosting.

Phase 4: Bringing home the newborn

But the celebration was a tad premature. Bringing the baby home is when the real work begins. Suddenly we had this thing we’d created, 375 page (at that time) manuscript, and it was pretty far from fully formed, although it took us a while to recognize this as we were exhausted and wanted a break. A few writer friends read it. They offered a LOT of feedback. More than we wanted, but all of which was useful, once we started revising, which we did…

Phase 5: The baby and toddler years

Co-revising was harder than co-writing. We wrote this novel in a froth of inspiration, and fed off one another’s excitement. To revise effectively is a more sober process that requires making conscious decisions about what isn’t working and how to fix it. We didn’t always immediately agree on the problem or solution, which anyone who has tried to be a parent with someone else probably can relate to. (“Why do you get up every time he cries? You’re just teaching him not to sleep through the night!”) Revising the novel took twice as long as writing the first draft. But by the time we got to the end of the ultimate revision (and I won’t say how many revisions there were), we were both really happy.  

Phase 5: Starting over?

And now we have this book that is finished and about to go out into the world, already making its way into readers’ hands. We have a little work still to do, spreading the word, giving readings, but mostly the book is its own thing now, ours but separate from us. Sooo… what do you do after your baby grows up enough that you finally have some of your freedom back? You take a deep breath and decide to do it all over again. That’s where we are now. A sequel is brewing in our minds. The notebooks are out. We are starting up our Monday brainstorming sessions, getting ready to write a sequel from Laurel’s sister Ivy’s point of view. We want to know what it’s like to come back after having been chained up in that dungeon. We want to know if Druj will return in some form, and how. We have to write the book to find the answers.

We know that what we learned as a result of collaborating on the first book will help to inform the process of writing the sequel. But we also know that there are no real shortcuts to writing a novel. Collaborating is not really half the work, but it’s definitely twice the fun!


Read a sneak peak of SPARKED!

Hello! We are both novelists, but if you’ve ever tried to write anything, you know that writing can be a lonely, angst-filled business. So one night over a cocktail or two, we came up with a solution: write our next book together. Malena already had an idea: a girl’s sister is kidnapped and she has to rely on mean girls with superpowers to get her sister back. We couldn’t resist seeing where that story would take us – a wild ride that includes a loner girl who wants to be a writer and a gorgeous boy who can shoot fire from his eyes but also loves to talk about books. And an ancient Zoroastrian prophecy. And pie shakes. (OK, so maybe we got a little carried away.)

We’ve both published solo novels (check them out here and here) and had no idea how co-writing would work out, but we pounded out the first draft in a white-hot frenzy of inspiration we called “the Vortex.” One of us would write a scene and send it to the other with a note: “My apartment is a pigsty and I haven’t eaten all day. #inthevortex.” We wrote the book we wanted to read as teenagers: a supernatural thriller with healthy doses of horror and humor. Oh, and of course there’s romance. You have to wait a long time for the only kiss in the book, but isn’t that the case with all the best kisses in books?

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