Mari Carr And Jayne Rylon On Co-Writing Their Compass Brothers Series

We love a great steamy read as much as the next erotic romance fan, but what's better than a hot tale written by a talented author? A series of four sizzling stories written by two genre favorites. Mari Carr and Jayne Rylon are wrapping up their Compass Brothers series this month, which tells the stories of the cowboy Compton brothers and their adventures in finding true love. We asked the authors to share their experiences co-writing the series and if their plans to team up again in the future. 

When did you decide to co-write?

Mari: I met Jayne Rylon at Lori Foster’s Readers-Writers Get Together back in 2009. To say we hit it off instantly would be an understatement. I knew she was a talented writer and as the years have passed, she’s become a very good friend. One night, in the midst of a string of emails between us—this is sort of a nightly thing and for the most part, we talk about nothing—she said we should write a series together. I said, “What would we write?” And from there, the Compass Brothers series was born. Before we approached Samhain with our pitch, we outlined the series, wrote a synopsis for each of the four books, but most importantly, we discussed how we would do the actual writing. We knew each other well enough to know we’d kill each other if we tried to write side-by-side on every book, so we decided she would take the lead on Northern Exposure and Eastern Ambitions while I did the lion’s share of the writing on Southern Comfort and Western Ties.

Jayne: Well, I remember it a little differently but… okay. Actually, in my two Cougar Challenge books (Driven and Shifting Gears) I have two characters that are racecar drivers in Italy. They refer to themselves jokingly as Italian Stallions. Mari had just come off Wild Irish and was looking for a new project. We were emailing as usual when she said, “What if I do Italian Stallions?” I said, “Maribear, I already have a couple of those, unless you want them to visit, then you know we could tie them together somehow.” And from there they morphed into cowboys from Wyoming. No idea how we got so far away from the original silly concept, but I’m fairly sure Mari might have been drinking. No idea what my excuse is! Once the seed was planted in our brains, it kept growing. At the RT convention in Columbus in 2010 we talked through things in person and sort of accidentally pitched the series to an amazing editor we know and love in our enthusiasm. However, we weren’t really ready yet and I think we did a horrible job. So afterward we regrouped, got the ideas hammered out and on paper and submitted them to Samhain. The rest is history.

Where did the Compass Brothers come from?

Mari: Funny enough, our original plan was to write a family book called Italian Stallions and our idea was to set the series in Philly. Truthfully, I don’t have a clue how we got from that to four cowboys in Wyoming. Do you remember, Jayne?

Jayne: Ah, well this is the danger of not reading all the questions before continuing the discussion. Hmmm, it’s funny how we think alike sometimes and slightly out of order! I really have no idea how we made that jump (refer to alcohol’s likely involvement above). This is a great example though of how we work. We do usually come to the same conclusion on things but we get there different ways. Sometimes that is fun and sometimes it is frustrating. But in the end … it works for us, I think.

Who’s the panster and who’s the plotter?

Mari: I think I’m more of a pantser than Jayne. I’m a fast writer and I usually skip around, writing a scene here and a scene there. At the end, I go back and connect all the dots. Jayne’s way better at paying attention to the small details and keeping me consistent in terms of the characters and plot! Working with Jayne sort of “forced me” to plan ahead, plot-wise. The Compass books were set up in fairly detailed synopses before we ever started writing book one so that they connected. Unfortunately, my other stories never seem to come to me that way. Instead, a scene will appear and I have to write it down before I lose it. The hospital scene in Because of You was the very first scene I wrote in that book and it ended up right in the middle of the book. I just recently finished Fix You, book one in a series that will come out at Samhain late this year and again, the first scene I wrote turned out to be chapter five. Let’s just say 40 hit me hard. Jayne’s a young whippersnapper so she doesn’t have the faulty memory issue … yet.

Jayne: I would agree with that for the most part (especially the part about Mari being old, bwah ha ha). It drives me insane to write out of order and I HATE skipping time in a book. I like to live with those characters every minute of every day from the start of the book to the end. In Eastern Ambitions, because of the timeline we set, I was forced to skip weeks at a time to make Western Ties line up right. It just about killed me. In order to do that right (I hope it worked) and especially in a series, I think it’s important to have a lot of the twists and turns mapped out so I can set them up early in the stories. For example, in the first book, Sam comforts Silas when he reveals he’s going to pursue a ménage with Lucy and Colby. I already knew there would be a massive ménage scene in Sam’s book and so when we put the brothers in that web chat conversation scene, that just popped out. If I didn’t know those things about Sam at the very beginning, it would have been harder to tie it all together. Also, in this case we showed certain parts of the upcoming books from different brother’s point of view. It was important to get those right up front because there is no going back and making it work once the first book is in print! Again, those web chat scenes … in Northern Exposure, the brothers get a glimpse of Jody tied to Seth’s bed which doesn’t actually happen in real time and detail until the end of Southern Comfort. So the overlapping timelines and scenes really forced me to map things out. I think Mari is more likely to write it then make the books that follow fit what already exists, but I like to lay it out before I get there so I can throw some hints and teasers in the beginning books.

What do you see as the main differences in how you write?

Mari: Jayne and I actually discussed this one night. When we first decided to write together, I thought our writing styles were similar. Once we started, I realized there were some pretty distinct differences. While we both write erotic romance, I think I lean more toward the romantic side, while Jayne is the queen of eroticism. I write the mushy-gushy while her sex scenes are scorchers. I think by combining our styles we were able to create something a bit different from a Mari Carr book or a Jayne Rylon book. It was cool to see this “third voice” emerge.

Jayne: I admit, I never really believed our styles were similar. I admire Mari’s way of making her characters leap off the pages. They all seem like people I’d like to be friends with. And after meeting her real life friends, I’d say it’s because a lot of what she puts in her books is based off real life, people she knows and experiences she has recycled into a fictional depiction. It’s genius and funny. That’s another thing she really does well, humor. I think we approach things very differently from a technical perspective too. Things like repeated words don’t bother Mari as long as the story is flowing and the characters are happy (or miserable) moving toward their HEA. For me, I probably over think things a lot and use too many fancy pants adjectives or over complicate my writing. And yeah, I bring the dirty dirty. But I think more importantly then having similar styles, we have very complimentary styles. When you mix the highlights of our writing and have an experienced, critical eye to rein you in (which sometimes resulted in tense times!) when you fall too much to the extreme of your style, the end result is a really nice blend. At least I think so.

Do you two have plans to co-write again?

Mari: Well … the timing on this question is good. We said after the Compass Brothers, we’d take a break from the co-writing. That lasted about twenty-two minutes. I missed working with her! So … do you want to share our news, Jayne?

Jayne: I suppose I have to now … The ink isn’t dry on the deal yet so I tend not to spill the beans until then. However, I think it’s safe to say even if this fell through, the Compass family will reappear. We love them too much to stop writing about them now. Yes. We have very detailed plans for four more books set in Compass Pass involving the children of the original Compass Brothers. Hmm … what hints can we give people? How about these …First, we plan to tell the story of Vicky and JD’s romance throughout the four books (everyone wanted to know more about them!). Also, we’ll learn more about Jake through the eyes of a son he never knew he had. And, what better way to torture the four guys then to give them all daughters? We expect the first two books of the series to be released in 2013, but again, I don’t like to jinx things until it’s final! Stay tuned and thank you for reading.

You can pick up the duo's entire Compass Brothers series, available now for download. For more genre news and coverage be sure to visit our Everything Erotica Page