Dynamic duo Laura Burns and Melinda Metz teamed up to write Sanctuary Bay, a novel fans of “Roswell” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” will surely enjoy.
Sanctuary Bay Academy, nestled on the tranquil island of the same name, should be a much needed reprieve for Sarah Merson, who’s spent her time bouncing between foster homes. But even in the world of the privileged and elite, things aren’t what they seem and Sarah’s chance for a more stable life gets off to a sinister start when her roommate suddenly goes missing.
You’ve been writing together for years. What was it about each other that decided you to be a writing team?
We were editors at the same company and part of our job involved developing concepts for middle-grade and YA books, and writing outlines and back cover copy for books. We realized it was easier to get the job done working together. In fact, even when we weren’t assigned to work together, we’d end up both working on whatever projects we’d individually been assigned. It’s way more fun to work by talking through ideas than to sit by yourself in an office thinking about ideas.
What was the inspiration for Sanctuary Bay? What was the process like taking the original inspiration and morphing it into a novel?
We really just wanted to take the elements we both love in stories—lots of twists and turns, some mystery, some horror, a hint of paranormal, a prep school, some romance, a bad boy, a complex main character—and then switch up reader expectations. It got a little hard at times (like want-to-pull-all-your-hair-out hard) balancing all the elements we wanted to include.
What was your writing process like for Sanctuary Bay?
We live in different states at this point in our lives, so we get on the phone and talk for tons of hours about the story and characters until we have a chapter-by-chapter and sometimes scene-by-scene outline. Then we split the book in half and each start writing. When we’re done, we both read the whole book and talk about what’s working and what’s not and make a plan for revising the manuscript. We edit each other (and ourselves) until we can’t remember who wrote what.
You’ve both had a hand in some of the most iconic supernatural phenomena aimed at teens. What were those opportunities like for you? What was the most rewarding thing about being part of those projects?
There were times working on the Roswell High/Roswell project that felt almost surreal. The TV rights to the books sold very quickly, before the first book had even been published, and suddenly we were watching the pilot. Seeing things we’d come up with together on screen was such a thrill! Working on the books opened the door to writing for TV, which had always been a big ambition of ours. But maybe the most rewarding thing was seeing the fan reaction. For starters, the Roswell fans were and are awesome. They raised money for the Starlight Foundation, Doctors Without Borders, the Pediatric Cancer Fund, and most especially for FSMA research, which was something very personal for the Roswell writing staff. Seeing their love of something we helped create was overwhelming.
We also had the opportunity to write two Buffy books and a short story for a Buffy anthology. We’re both huge Buffy fans, and getting to play in the Buffyverse was awesome. (Fun fact: the very first sample script we ever wrote for television was a Buffy episode, and we later turned that into our Buffy novel Apocalypse Memories.)
We wrote the story for an episode of “The Dead Zone” TV show, and for Melinda especially (who is a Stephen King fangirl, even going to “Carrie: The Musical”), getting to have a brush with a King project was a dream fulfilled.
What challenges do you think are unique to working together on a novel? What about the perks of working together?
One of us writes the first half of the book, while the other is simultaneously writing the second, which is a little tricky. But we are constantly emailing or calling to clarify any minor points. We have great trust in our ability to hit the same tone and the same writing style, which is definitely not something all partners can do. That part is difficult to explain, even to other writers, and we’re not going to try to explain it even to ourselves because we don’t want to jinx it!
The biggest perk is that we entertain each other. Plotting always gets frustrating at some point. We plot ourselves into dead ends or realize we have a big logic hole. It’s great having another person to help figure out what to do. Also, we’ve been friends forever, years before we started writing together, and it’s fun to write a book as a team. We have an excuse to talk about random stuff for hours and call it work.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers?
You’re all so smart and pretty.