Perdita and Honor Cargill: 'People think we're weird for writing together!'

Published on: 07 March 2017 Author: Anna McKerrow

For Mother's Day we asked mother and daughter writing team Perdita and Honor Cargill about writing the Waiting For Callback series for teens, reading together, and the importance of laughing...

Perdita and Honor CargillPhoto: Anna Sandul

What's it like writing with your mum or daughter? Do normal stresses creep in, or do you manage to keep it professional?

Perdita: The actual writing bit has been surprisingly easy. Neither of us minds criticism, even brutal criticism when it's about the writing. Outfits, messy rooms and so on are a different matter! But I don't think we'd still be doing it if it wasn't great fun.

I'm quite a shy and stressy person and I worry a lot - mostly pointlessly - about marketing and media and how the books are doing, and I do feel guilty about Hon having so much on her plate when she's just started uni.

Honor: When people hear that we write together they either think that we have a weirdly perfect mum/daughter relationship (nope) or that we're just weird full stop (hopefully not). We have so much fun writing these books. We do get them written to deadline and we don't come close to killing each other so can we count that as professional?

But I'm glad you asked about stresses. Being published isn't just some lucky dream. I want to encourage other young writers at every step but I try to be honest with them about what's involved. It's a lot of hard work. It should be and I'm one hundred percent up for that - I'm finding my own way to manage it all, realising what I can and can't do.

How do you write together - do you have a process? Do each of you have particular tasks?

Waiting For CallbackHonor: I'm not sure that how we work together deserves the word 'process' - that sounds way too organised for us. We didn't start out with any sort of agreed structure, probably because I was so young when we started, but it's fallen into some sort of pattern. We always gossip out the plot in big long sessions before we start writing and then throughout - we change direction quite a lot. When we start writing it tends to be quite episodic, so one of us will start to put one of our 'scenes' down and then we mail them to each other and start a long process of deleting and rewriting. I like writing dialogue or script sections best so I'll concentrate on those and leave lots of square brackets for other bits.

Perdita: I'll do the same in reverse, leaving square brackets for conversations, including text conversations - I'm not allowed near them! I'd say Hon does more of the writing but less of the structuring and editing.

Honor: I'm useless at the line and copy editing stage, not least because I'm dyslexic.

What's the best thing about writing together?

Honor: We have a very similar sense of humour, so laughing together!

Perdita, did you always read to Honor when she was a child, and how has that influenced you both as writers?

Honor Cargill as a babyPerdita: Yes! I started reading to her when she was very tiny and kept going at least the whole way through primary school. She was a slow reader because of the dyslexia but loved stories, and reading together became a lovely habit. It was always 'just one more chapter' at night and I was a complete pushover. Eva Ibbotson was a big favourite, the Montmorency books, Caroline Lawrence's Roman Mysteries... oh, and Enid Blyton school books read with shockingly bad Mam'zelle and twins accents!

And when Hon had grown out of wanting me sitting in her room every night reading we still 'read' together as a family because there was always an audiobook playing. That was how we 'read' the Harry Potters and there were hours of PG Wodehouse because that was a dad/daughter obsession.

Honor: It's been an influence, not just because it meant that I heard and learned from all those great writers but because we got used to talking about books and laughing about some bits and moaning about others. I still read out every word I write. If I think it's too slow, I cut it.

Do you still share books? What have been your favourites recently?

Honor: Yes. Mum reads more and faster than me but she'll give me books that she thinks or knows I'll like. She's just passed me All About Mia by Lisa Williamson and I'm loving it. I can't wait to read Freshers by Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison because Lobsters was another very successful Mum book push!

Perdita: Most of Hon's reading time at the moment is going on Herodotus and Tacitus. I'm not tempted by them, not at all!

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