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Friday, 5 April 2013

Guest post: Strangers on a Train: The Origin Stories + Giveaway

You all know by now what a big Ruthie Knox fan I am, so it comes as no surprise that I have been impatiently counting back the days 'till April, to the release of the Strangers on a Train stories, a linked series of novellas written by Ruthie Knox, Serena Bell, Samantha Hunter, Meg Maguire and Donna Cummings all exploring the premise of a man and woman meeting on a train and how that chance encounter develops. Please give a huge welcome to Ruthie, Serena, Samantha, Meg and Donna and read on to hear how these stories came to be and for your chance to win ALL the books leave a comment and share your story! :-)

Strangers on a Train: The Origin Stories

Ruthie Knox: Hi, Ex Libris readers! Stella has generously offered us a chance to drop by and talk about our new release, a linked series of novellas called Strangers on a Train. This series was born on Twitter, of all places. One day I saw a link to a Tumblr called , which is exactly what it sounds like. I shared the link and got to talking with my writing pals Samantha Hunter, Serena Bell, Donna Cummings, and Meg Maguire about how many great story ideas the Tumblr was generating for us. There’s something so fertile about this idea of being attracted to a man on a train and secretly taking his picture. We decided that very day to put together a story collection – five shorts of about 20,000 words, which, taken together, would be as long as a full romance novel. A few months later, it was done!

Mandy doesn’t want romance, but monthly role-playing dates with her stranger on a train—each to a different time period—become the erotic escape she desperately needs. And a soul connection she never expected.

My own story, , was a joy to write. I think my initial idea had something to do with the woman with the camera getting caught by one of the men she was secretly photographing, but that story didn’t go anywhere in my head. Meanwhile, I had this hilarious brainstorm that I should set my story at the National Railroad Museum, which is here in Green Bay, Wisconsin, where I live. I was going there all the time with my son. But the more I thought about it, the less funny and the more awesome it sounded. A hero and heroine who met after hours at the train museum for role-playing dates – how cool is that? But they didn’t know each other’s real names or anything about each other because . . . reasons. I was off!

Samantha Hunter: Ruthie has covered how we came up with the idea on Twitter, and my initial story idea hit me right then, in that Twitter conversation (in fact, I think I was brainstorming a story idea based on the blog before we even talked about doing the series…then the conversation sort of took off). But those first ideas were extremely different than what ended up being, as often happens.

Reid isn’t happy about the mix-up that saddles him with a claustrophobic roommate on his New York train tour. Then his weekend with Brenna progresses to a weekend fling, and so much more.

My first thoughts were about danger and excitement, so my first notion was to write a short suspense, but my ideas quickly became too large and complicated for a short novella. Luckily, we all brainstormed and shared synopses. It was wonderful – a really generative creative experience. None of us overlapped at all, that I remember – we all had such different takes on the theme. And there was support through the writing process as well – motivation as well as editing, etc. All in all, one of the best writing experiences I’ve had.

Donna Cummings: My story actually started out quite differently, too. I think it was originally called Train of Thought. I'd written close to 2000 words involving a heroine trying to get a magazine interview with a reclusive ballplayer. It was even on a completely different train. While I liked the story, it wasn't chugging along. So naturally I turned to Twitter, to entertain myself — er, I mean to get inspired. I was chatting with Samantha, while trying to convince Ruthie I was going back to work very soon. Samantha said something about getting back on track, and I gasped, “That's my title!”

A wine tour isn’t enough to take Matt’s mind off his baseball slump—until sexy, funny Allie plops into the adjacent seat and tells him three things about herself. One of them, she says, is a lie. Then Allie lets slip one truth too many…
That changed the entire story, so I had to scrap what I had and start over, which is always painful to do. But it gave me what I needed, and I really like the story that resulted. Now I have two reasons to be indebted to Twitter!

Serena Bell: We all shared our ideas as we chose them to make sure that there was no overlap. The first thing we did was to pick a type of train and a geographic region to make sure we didn’t conflict, and then as our ideas developed into story concepts, we checked in periodically. We did offer each other suggestions and minor criticism, but we mostly decided for ourselves whether our ideas were working or not.

I loved having the framework to work within. I found it easier to brainstorm knowing the series imposed some constraints. I was pretty sure my story would have something to do with one character dogging the other on a train commute. I had some thoughts about what that would be like, the difficulty of being trapped in a moving vehicle train with someone who wanted to get to you emotionally, someone you were trying to keep at bay. I also had an idea that the story would involve a cross-country move, which was heavily on my mind as I prepared for my own. But despite having those ideas, I had to do a fair amount of brainstorming and massaging to get the story to fall in line.

Encountering her workaholic ex on her commuter train is the surprise of Amy’s life. Especially since Jeff seems hell-bent on winning her back.

As anyone who knows me will tell you, I'm not a rebel, but when we first decided to write a strangers on a train series, I had an overwhelming desire to write mine as a strangers-on-the-commuter-ferry story. Luckily I had these awesome collaborators who refused to let me do that foolish thing, because I love how unified the series feels. In the end I indulged my previously unexplored rebellious streak by making my “stranger” not the hero or heroine.

Meg Maguire: is basically the fluid-deprived romantic fantasy of my twentysomething self. I’ve been donating my platelet cells since I moved to Boston, and in those thirteen or so years, I’ve spent cumulative days of my life hazily daydreaming whilst camped in a recliner in the Red Cross donor center on the edge of Chinatown (and now the Theatre District.) I was single for big chunks of that time (perhaps because I’m the kind of girl who spends her precious days off from class or work bleeding in exchange for cookies?) and I composed many wistful daydreams about the random, cute humanitarians who’d wind up camped across the recliner-circle from me.

At the end of Caitlin’s commute, her extended flirtation with a handsome stranger finds them facing a frigid winter night locked in an unheated subway station.
This story's basically my young, single self’s idle fantasies, realized as fiction. Why I chose to trap my heroine in an unheated Orange Line subway station in January, I’m not entirely sure. I suppose because I’m as cruel as I am romantic.

Buy at Samhain -  - B&N - Goodreads

Ruthie Knox | website | | | Goodreads

Serena Bell | website | | | Goodreads

Samantha Hunter | website | | | Goodreads

Donna Cummings | website | | | Goodreads

Meg Maguire | website | | Goodreads


Have you ever had a random idea that turned into something bigger and cooler than you ever expected? Or have you ever developed a crush on someone on your commute?

Tell us your Stranger on a Train stories in the comments! One random commenter will win a set of all five Strangers on a Train stories in the digital format of your choice. (Ebooks only.)

Giveaway is open worldwide and ends on 19 April 2013!

Good luck!