Suzanne Hayes and Loretta Nyhan are close friends. They talk daily. They finish each others’ sentences. And they just completed their first novel together, I’ll Be Seeing You. (Appropriately it’s about two women who form an unexpected bond, through an exchange of letters, during World War II.) Oh, and, did we mention that they’ve never met? The pair talked to us about the joys of co-authorship, how they became besties, and whether they’re really just stand-ins for their heroines, Gloria and Rita.
PW: So you guys have never met, but you’re best friends and you just wrote a novel together. You have to tell me how this worked out.
SH: In 2008 I started to blog and, Loretta— I don’t think you started blogging until 2009, right?
LN: Yeah, it was later.
SH: Back then there was a huge community of writers that were blogging and sort of becoming friends with one another in the virtual world, and one of the blogs I followed, where I’d frequently comment, announced the fact that Loretta had started a blog. … As soon as her blog was announced I clicked over and, right away, just from her picture and the blog post--which I believe had something to do with the Beatles and organic gardening—I was like, I love her!
LN: That was me.
SH: So I commented on her post, and then, in the way blogosphere works, she then clicked on my link and went to my post.
LN: I loved it.
SH: She said that she loved it! And then we started commenting regularly on each other's blogs, and that's sort of how it went for about I'd say—I don't know—eight months or so.We just always were frequent commenters on each other's blogs, and then I had a manuscript that I was working on, that I really wanted some feedback on, and I e-mailed her and said, "would you be willing to read this manuscript?" And she read the manuscript, then e-mailed back and said: "Hey, we really should talk about this on the phone."
PW: And you guys have still never met?
LN: We haven’t even Skyped!
PW: The novel is set during World War II. How did you guys settle on that?
SH: My book The Witch of Little Italy, which was then on submission and which is now coming out next April, is partly set during WWII. Loretta helped me find some fascinating facts about the war, and we had both fallen in love with that era separately. So it was like, why don’t we just set [our novel] during WWII? .
PW: It’s interesting to hear that your process actually mimicked the form of the novel itself, since it’s epistolary and presented as letters between these two women, Gloria and Rita, who are in different parts of the country but who are sharing their lives with each other in much the same way you guys were doing.
SH: That first email I sent actually became the first letter in the book. I wrote, ‘Dear Rita, 1942,’ and then I waited patiently to see if she would write back. And she did. And the response I got opened, ‘Dear Gloria,’ and there we were.
PW: Aside from obvious differences, how much of the relationship between Rita and Gloria mimics your own friendship?
LN: Our friendship definitely filtered onto the page. But Rita and Gloria are much different from us. … Still, from the first letter she sent me, I recognized how special the project was. And I think [the friendship in the novel] does mirror our friendship to a degree.
SH: The funniest part is that I don’t think Loretta and I understood how much [the novel] was life imitating art until other people told us that’s what it was.
(Year: 2013 / Pub Month: June / Title: I'll Be Seeing You / Author: Suzanne Hayes & Loretta Nyhan / Format: Trade w/Flaps / ISBN: 978-0-7783-1495-0 / Price: $15.95 U.S. and $18.95 CAN.)