Friday, May 4, 2012

Piper Vaughn and M.J. O’Shea on Writing Separate Characters – One Small Thing

Piper Vaughn and M.J. O'Shea are here at the Place today talking about their new book One Small Thing. Aaaaaand, they're giving away a paperback copy to one lucky commented here on the blog.

That rocks.

So sit back, check it all out, and leave them a comment. :D

Welcome to the Place Piper and M.J.!

Writing Separate Characters – One Small Thing


As some of you may know, One Small Thing will be the third collaborative release for me and M.J. O’Shea. But what most of you don’t know is that One Small Thing actually started off as a solo project. The idea for the story came along when I spotted a Father’s Day submission call from Silver Publishing. Unfortunately, I was working on something different at the time, and not being the fastest writer in the world, the deadline went whooshing on by. I already had the general idea, character names, etc., so I decided I’d write the story anyway. I went to work trying to write it in third person…and made it about a chapter in before I felt that something just wasn’t right. I mulled it over for a while, and eventually I reached the conclusion that the story wasn’t vibing for me because it was meant to be in first. But the problem with that idea was I didn’t want to limit it to one character’s POV. I wanted both. At that point I started to worry—I’d never written a book in alternating first before. What if the characters weren’t distinct enough? I hated the idea that it might seem like the same voice for them both. During this time, M.J. had been there, dealing with my bitching as I struggled to write. We’d finished our first joint project, Moonlight Becomes You, not long before, so I thought, Hey, what if instead of writing it alone, M.J. comes in and we each write a character? I asked her if she had any interest in doing that, she said yes, and so our second collaborative project began.

Once we discussed the plot I had come up with and made changes and compromises based on M.J.’s ideas and suggestions, we had to make the decision of who wrote what—or rather, who. I asked M.J. if she would write the character of Rue because, well, he seemed very much like her—sparkly and fun with a bit of an edge. Erik, on the other hand, was decidedly like me—social awkward, geeky, reclusive, shy. So we each took the character that matched us best and went to it, working on our on sections, and occasionally giving input on each other’s sections (e.g., what we thought our character might not do or say, what we thought should maybe be changed, that kind of thing). This was different from MBY, our previous project, because instead of writing our assigned chapters (in third person), we were writing our individual parts of each chapter and trying to keep everything cohesive and non-repetitive at the same time. I’d say out of the two different styles of working together, this was the more difficult one. At least it was for me. I’ll have to see if M.J. agrees. :)

But, anyway, onto the subject of writing Erik. It was an adventure for sure. We have a lot of personality similarities, him and me, but at the end of the day, I’m not him, and he’s not me. Erik has a multitude of anxiety issues that led to his social awkwardness growing up, his discomfort around strangers, his fear of being touched, along with a host of other things. He has a stutter that he’s never been able to get rid of, despite years of speech therapy, which sometimes makes him slow to respond as he searches his head for the words that are easiest to roll off his tongue. Over the years that slowness has led to people unfairly dismissing him as being stupid or thick-headed. But underneath all that, he’s kind and good and brave, and really very innocent. Worldly is not a word that could ever be applied to him.

I can say with total honesty that, for me, Erik was a joy to write, and he holds a special place…but at the same time he was the single most challenging character I’ve ever written. While I related to Erik and understood Erik, he wasn’t easy. Still, along with Nicky from our Lucky Moon series, I don’t think I’ve ever felt more gratified to give a character what I felt was a much-deserved and hard-won HEA. Both Erik and Nicky were difficult to write for very different reasons, but right now those two characters are probably my favorites. I admit, it might be a little hard for me to send Erik off into the world, like we did with Nicky in March. It feels a bit like dropping your child off at daycare for the first time. You want to stand there waving and watching, or maybe you even want to snatch your kid up and take him back home, but you know you have to turn around and go about your day. On the 4th I’ll be sending Erik off with happy thoughts. This one most of all: May the Force be with you, Erik. And Rue too. It was fun. 


When Piper came to me with the idea to write One Small Thing, I knew Rue would be the character for me. It might have been more of an interesting challenge to write Erik, ’cause like I said in an interview, he's probably the character least like me that has ever been in a book with my name on it, but I bonded with Rue from the start. I like that he's at first glance shallow and silly and impulsive to a fault, but there's far more to him than meets the public eye. And when he realizes that he wants something more when he gets a chance to have first a daughter, and then a whole family he goes for it and grows up in a big way.
What I liked about writing him was turning him from an overgrown boy into a real man who thinks of his daughter before himself, his family as a whole. At the beginning, he's so unprepared for life in general, it seemed to me that it would be nearly impossible to turn him around before he was stuck in adolescence forever. I liked watching him learn intimacy for the first time, if not physical, then for sure emotional. It was gratifying (to use Piper's word) to turn him from a quipping, joking, surface kind of character into someone with real feelings.
I actually did like writing separate first person characters. Yeah, it was hard sometimes to make sure that things didn't repeat, and that the timeline made sense, but I actually hopped around and wrote all of Rue's sections while Piper was working on something else so I got to see his development, and then she came in later with Erik's reactions. It was really cool to then see the other side of the story that I had already finished, at least in a major plot sense of the word.
I do wish Rue, Erik, and baby Alice the best...and of course his best friend Dusty as well, although I believe we haven't seen the last of any of them. So, uh, live long and prosper Rue and Erik...and be excellent to each other. LOL.

Check out M.J. and Piper’s new release, One Small Thing, now available from Dreamspinner Press in both ebook and paperback formats.

The blurb: “Daddy” is not a title Rue Murray wanted, but he never thought he’d have sex with a woman either. Now he’s the unwitting father of a newborn named Alice. Between bartending and cosmetology school, Rue doesn’t have time for babies, but he can’t give her up. What Rue needs is a babysitter, and he’s running out of options. He’s on the verge of quitting school to watch Alice himself when he remembers his reclusive new neighbor, Erik. Erik Van Nuys is a sci-fi novelist with anxiety issues to spare. He doesn’t like people in general, and he likes babies even less. Still, with his royalties dwindling, he could use the extra cash. Reluctantly, he takes on the role of manny—and even more reluctantly, he finds himself falling for Alice and her flamboyant father. Rue and Erik are as different as two people can be, and Alice is the unlikeliest of babies, but Rue has never been happier than when Alice and Erik are by his side. At least, not until he receives an offer that puts all his dreams within reach and he’s forced to choose: the future he’s always wanted, or the family he thought he never did.


Piper Vaughn and M.J. O’Shea have been writing jointly since January 2011. Their first joint title, Moonlight Becomes You (released August 2011), was Piper’s publishing debut, while M.J. already had several published titles under her belt. Both authors have solo titles available in addition to their co-written projects. You can visit them at their joint blog, Babes in Boyland (, or their websites, and


The fine details...
  • Giveaway is for a print copy of One Small Thing
  • Contest closes 9:00PM PST, May 10, 2012
  • To enter, leave a comment on this post
  • Please include a valid email address or I won’t know where to contact you.
  • Winners will be selected at random using
  • If the chosen winners do not respond to my email within 48 hours, another winner will be selected.
  • Contest is open worldwide.  


  1. I want in this contest please please. I really want this book and to have it in paperback would be awesome. Thanks Sara (

  2. I'm liking the sound of erik the more i read your posts on this blog tour.
    Count me in the draw please.


  3. *sigh* I love stories about parents learning how to do it -- especially when it's unexpected, and especially when there's a romance brewing at the same time. :D

  4. LOVE the tiny pink hightops! I'm an absolute sucker for books with babies! Please count me in for the draw!

  5. I'd love to win this book, it sounds like an awesome story.

    mslasha @

  6. The more I read about this book the more I want it. Kim (

  7. I would love to win this book. I love both the authors and this book just sounds soooo sweet. Don (

  8. I really want this book. It sounds really good. Cheryl (

  9. This interview gave some good insights into how Piper and MJ combined their writing efforts to write this book. It gave the reader a little extra something about the characters and what the writer was thinking, and will add to the reading experience of the book. Sequel sounds possible too which is so nice. Please include me in this contest.
    strive4bst at yahoo dot com

  10. Thanks for the interview! I love books with kids and two men that are very different!

  11. I love the excerpt and books with kids are some of my favorites, so please count me in!


  12. I am a big fan of anything Piper and MJ write. I've really been looking forward to reading this one and the cover is so sweet. :)

    Thanks for the giveaway!


  13. After reading the excerpt available at DP, I cannot take out off my head Erik's description of Rue the first time he sees him and frankly, I just want to see him too. :)
    The story sounds amazing. I'm in.


    And thank you for this interview, it's always interesting to know how authors decide to divide a same story when they work together.

  14. I get more and more intrigued the more I read about it...


  15. Hi everyone! Thanks so much for coming by :D

  16. ~ Giveaway Closed ~

    Thanks for playing everyone!



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