One of my main interests with Creative Connections is to share the wealth in regards to writers and creators you may not know that well, content creators that I think are worth your time, or authors whose dynamic is peculiar. So I’m really happy to be interviewing Sophie and Chris, a wedded writing duo known collectively as Maple Lion Fiction. Although I met them relatively recently, I’ve not only enjoyed their content, but find their dynamic as a creative team very interesting, and thought I’d have them over for tea and a chat. So without further ado, let’s get to know ‘em.
Hey there, guys! So nice to have you over on For Writing Out Loud for an interview. Although we’ll dive into both of your backgrounds a bit, why don’t you give us an intro telling readers who you are, how you met, and where you now call home?
Sophie: Thanks for inviting us JD. I will go ahead and introduce myself first then Chris can. My name is Sophie. I am originally from East Yorkshire in the UK though I’ve spent the past sixteen years living in Australia, around a decade or so of that has been in Melbourne. For much of that time, I have worked in healthcare, a sector which I think will always be dear to my heart though in the past few months I have left that role to pursue this writing venture full time. Exciting times ahead!
Chris: It is! Hi JD, thanks for having us over to chat. My name is Chris, I am from a really small town in Canada where it gets to -50c and I’ve always been interested in doing creative things. This led me to work my way into a job in video games, but I’ve also been a storyteller my whole life. At gatherings or when hanging out with friends, I love to entertain people with my stories.
My job led me to Melbourne and throughout my working life I developed a few stories on the side but never had the time or the patience to edit or release them, so they just remained in my google drive, for years.
Then one day, I met Sophie. We fell madly in love and got married pretty quickly. Throughout this time, I watched her write research papers and she really seemed to enjoy the writing, just not always the subject matter, so I asked her if she wanted to co-write with me and give fiction a try. Turns out she did!
Sophie: I felt really honored that Chris trusted me with his work. I think it’s really hard to hand over your first drafts to someone knowing they are going to put their own spin on it. Fortunately, our minds work so similarly that it’s not an issue. Oh, and we met through Bumble, the dating app a couple of years ago. We even chatted then about our love of storytelling. Neither of us had a traditional hobby and we decided that collecting stories was our hobby!
Three cheers to Bumble and that's such a great story. I'm sure that app had no idea it'd be key in helping some fun stories come to life in real life and written form. Speaking of the craft though, when it comes to your writing dynamic, Chris seems like the idea guy while Sophie is the one who is better at fleshing out the world and psychology. Can you speak a bit about that process and how you complement each other?
Chris: I do the first draft and vomit words onto the page which don’t make any sense to anyone but Sophie and I.
Sophie: Sometimes not even to us! I joke! Those first drafts are really exciting to read.
Sophie: It’s true, though it’s rare it’s straight up bad. I love reading those first drafts as I get to experience the writing as a reader and follow all the twists and turns that goes with that. I have a very clear vision of the characters and the world in my head after that and from there I write the second draft. I try to convey the characters personalities through their dialogue more than anything else. Neither of us are ones for heavy descriptions, we like the reader to be able to imagine their own version of the character.
As for psychology, we’re both very much into it actually so we both try to keep a character’s motive strong throughout and have it develop throughout the course of the story.
Being from Canada and the UK, I do wonder, Sophie: what’s something VERY Canadian that Chris does and Chris, what’s something that’s SUPER Brit about Sophie? Bonus question, what’s something very Australian you’ve picked in your years living there?
Sophie: I would have to say his love of Maple syrup and super sweet things. I mean, I love maple syrup, how can you not? but Chris, well let’s just say he stuffs so many tins of it in his suitcase on a visit to Canada that there’s no room for anything else!
Chris: Sophie has a lot of strange sayings that I don’t understand. Sometimes she’ll say it likes it’s a normal thing and I just nod and agree. One of them for example is you’re not as green as you’re cabbage looking.
Sophie: I don’t even know what it really means, my mum would just always say. I say it instead of you’re not as daft as you look… it’s an odd one, I’ll admit that.
Chris: What’s something Australian we both do? I say heaps.
Sophie: Yeah, I say no worries. My accent is half and half now, I’ve been here sixteen years, it was bound to happen.
You have decided to release Pirates of Nassau in serial form and currently have episodes 1 and 2 on offer. What was the strategy behind this approach, how does it influence your storytelling, and what’s been the response so far?
Chris: The strategy is to break up an entire book into manageable chunks otherwise we’d probably struggle to work on it for an entire eight months without anything coming out.
Sophie: We’re both pretty impatient, so this helps us feel like we’re progressing. Plus, we’re both fans of shorter reads. It fits in with our lifestyle so we thought it might fit in with our readers' lives too.
Chris: In terms of the storytelling, in each episode we try to focus on one character as the main character for that episode.
Sophie: That way each character has their own arc, but it’s not done in such a way that it dominates the story.
Chris: We always try to end each episode on a cliffhanger which makes for an exciting story.
Sophie: We were concerned people might forget what happens episode to episode, so we are including a little recap page at the start of each book. Sort of like in a TV show when they do their ‘previously on’ intro segment. I would say the response has been overwhelmingly positive so far. I think once we’re onto episode four, we’ll have more of an idea if people enjoy this format.
This one’s for Chris: you also work on video games, which is a fascinating industry that definitely has a LOT that happens behind the scenes. Has anything you’ve seen on the job ever inspired some of the adventures you go on in your writing?
Chris: It’s certainly an interesting industry. The only thing that really inspires my writing from it are the different people that you meet whilst in the industry. When creating a new character, I often draw inspiration from people I’ve worked with or met throughout my life and my career.
And now one for Sophie: you took a long break in your studies, finished a degree in Psychological Sciences, and are now writing pirate stories. How was getting back to studying, how did it influence your writing, and what would you say to anyone who is thinking about getting back to study something new or complete studies they had left unfinished?
Sophie: Oh wow, it was really hard, I can’t pretend it wasn’t. I left school at sixteen and hadn’t been in a classroom since, but I think you get to a point in life were you’re ready for it, mine just happened to be in my thirties! And that’s okay. It wasn’t the right time for me before that. Honestly, I was blown away by all the incredible people I met and the opportunities it brought, so for anyone considering it as a mature student I would highly recommend. It has definitely influenced my writing. It sparked it really so without it I probably wouldn’t be doing this. One of the big things it taught me was to be concise. They hammer it home in any science, that you have to be concise and sometimes it feels near impossible, but it teaches you to self-edit, really well.
Chris: A long flight. A lot of learning of new terms. For example: we call drug stores pharmacies in Canada and when I first moved here it took me a long time to find one because they’re called chemists. Australians speak English but if feels very different to what I grew up with so that took a lot of getting used to.
Sophie: Yeah, I echo that sentiment. I came here with a very thick Yorkshire accent and no one could understand a word I said. I found using the colloquialisms and slang helped me get by, but I couldn’t find a red pepper for the longest time! (They’re called capsicums here) I should probably add, I came here pre-smart phones, pre-Skype. So, I could only contact my family using a payphone with an international calls card. That made for a pretty steep learning curve but I wouldn’t change it.
Wow that's quite the adventure but I'm sure it's been fascinating to see the transition of the world in another country. Anywho, here's a quirky pivot questions: EGADS! Your characters have escaped the book and have shown up on your doorstep looking for a hidden treasure in your home. What are they looking for and what are a couple of booby traps you have in place to make sure they can’t get to the treasure?
Sophie: We have a lot of characters in our book and they’re all terrifying so let’s roll with Isaac Carver. Isaac is a somewhat loveable wannabe pirate captain. We see him as our main character. How could we stop him? I think the booby trap would be to leave a vat of rum at the door. He loves a drink and probably wouldn’t make it much further if that was on offer.
Chris: We could add in a sleeping agent too. Molly Weaver one of our other characters dabbles in apothecary so we’d get her in on it.
You are tasked with preparing a family meal where you have something representative of Canada, the UK, and Australia. What’s on the menu?
Sophie: We could have an entrée of poutine, followed by fish and chips, with a lamington for dessert. That’s a lot of potato. Chris can you do any better?
Sophie: Maybe we could create a maple syrup drenched lamington with Cornish clotted cream. That ticks all the boxes! I love cooking and coming up with recipes, I’d say that’s my other creative pursuit.
You are a dynamic duo of superheroes. Although you each have your own special powers, you have a shared special power that you activate when the going gets tough. What’s the name of the move and what does it do?
Chris: That’s hard. Okay. If we could read peoples thoughts and know exactly what to say to get them to do what we want that would help us out in any situation.
Sophie: Yeah that’s a good one. Maybe each time we activate the power we lose something though. Otherwise we might do it all the time!
Lol I'm happy you guys have some control with that super power. This has been super fun so now all that is left is to take a map of the internet, and mark where people can find you?
Both: Awesome! Thanks so much for having us JD.
Anyone wanting to hear more from us can follow along on Instagram @maplelionfiction or check out our website.
We’re also on Twitter @maplelionwrites and Facebook @maplelionfiction though we’re not quite as active there.
This was super lovely so My thanks to Chris and Sophie for swinging by the blog for a chat. Feel free to give them a follow if you're looking for pirate stories OR if you need some advice with co-authoring. Lovely people and by all means, bring poutine and maple anything lol. Thanks for another creative connection and here's to the next one.
Peace, love, and maki rolls.