Lambert Nagle is the pen name of co-authors Alison Ripley Cubitt and Sean Cubitt. They write thrillers set in sunny climes. Sean’s day job is Professor of Film and Television, Goldsmiths, University of London. He has been published by leading academic publishers. Alison worked in TV and film production for companies including the BBC and Walt Disney, but her passion has always been for writing. She is an author, screenwriter and novelist. Serial expats, Lambert Nagle have lived in Malaysia, Canada, NZ, Australia and are now based in leafy Hampshire.
Here, they tell us a bit about their experiences working as a writing team.
Alex Garland, writing in The Observer, remarked that he had, at last, found his true creative home as a film-maker. Novel writing was lonely, he said, even though The Beach became the must-read book for every gap-year traveller on their way to Asia. The fame that went with writing a best-selling novel became too much and Garland retreated to the anonymous, but more collaborative world of writing screenplays.
While he was learning his craft, Garland had to relinquish any notion of authorship. In order to make our creative collaboration work, as co-writers of genre fiction, we too have had to give up the desire for single authorship. It did come up in an early discussion, when we realised that trying to write literary fiction as co-authors was never going to work. Advice on a draft of Revolution Earth from an Australian agent was to forgo the literary fiction end of the thriller genre, and aim for something more commercial.
One of the bonuses of a creative collaboration is that there are none of the feelings of solitude and isolation that Alex Garland experienced. There is someone there to share the joys and frustrations of a writing life.
… co-writing means talking through every aspect, from the plot and characters to the world of the story and the themes we want to bring to life.
If sitting and putting words one after another requires concentration, co-writing means talking through every aspect, from the plot and characters to the world of the story and the themes we want to bring to life. We have to build a coherent voice, so the reader isn’t jolted between two styles. We have to agree that different characters experience a place – Antarctica or an oil refinery – in their own particular ways. This discipline is matched by the pleasure of making all these decisions explicit.
People who have worked with the Coen Brothers (and there is a long history of filmic brothers going all the way back to the Lumieres) love hearing them thinking aloud in a way no solo director would. That’s the joy of collaboration with us too. Though obviously we aren’t brothers, we are inspired by other writing partnerships such as crime-writing duo Nicci French.
We often do our best thinking away from the writing desk.
Both of us enjoy walking, and whether it is in the bridleways of Hampshire or the back alleys of Rome, we are always making notes, sharing ideas, and developing new events, dialogue or story arcs.
Critiquing each other is integral to the collaboration. It isn’t a matter of having a thick skin, but of recognising that sharing the load means sacrificing your ego to the goal of making the best book we can, and getting the job completed. There’s little space for writers’ block when you work as a team.