Creativity in Tandem: The Husband and Wife Team

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.


Fractured: Revolution Earth Book 1

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.


In Conversation: Martina Bisaz

Born and raised in the beautiful canton of Grisons, Switzerland, Martina Bisaz moved to Zürich to study architecture, but shortly afterwards switched to the Zürcher Hochschule der Künste, where she completed a Bachelor’s degree in Scientific Visualization. Since then, she’s been freelancing, and working for the archaeology department of Zürich University as a scientific illustrator. Libby O’Loghlin asks her about her Instagram collaborations and how she fell into photography.

Martina and her Fiat

Martina and her Fiat. Image courtesy: Martina Bisaz.

What initially attracted you to study scientific illustration, and when did you start taking photographs?

Archaeological illustration by Martina Bisaz

Image courtesy Martina Bisaz

I always loved to draw, since I was a little kid. And at first I didn’t even know that this ‘subject’ existed. I found out at a diploma exhibition at school, and was fascinated by those drawings and paintings. That’s when I decided I want to study this, and nothing else. Photography was also a little part of my study. I think that’s when I started to be more and more interested in it. But the big change happened when I started to use Instagram.

You have a very recognisable little Fiat that features in many of your images on Instagram … tell us a bit about how the car became a feature … and how you ended up with nearly 130K followers on Instagram.


Image courtesy Martina Bisaz

I started to post pictures of my Fiat quite at the beginning of my Instagram career, and I realised people loved that little cutie. And one day, about a year later, Instagram contacted me and asked me if they could feature my account. And of course I said yes! That’s how my follower number went up to about 60K.

While photography is often a solitary pursuit, you seem to regularly travel with one or two other people. Who are your main travel companions, and do you end up in their posts too?

I don’t really have a main companion. Whenever there are friends from Instagram visiting Switzerland, I try to show them some beautiful spots and sometimes I happen to be in their photos as well. Or I could visit places or countries, sponsored by their tourism boards, where I meet old or new friends. That is always a lot of fun.

Can you explain a bit about what an Instagram ‘collab’ is, who your collaborators are, and how you connected? Have you ever met any of your collaborators in real life?

An Instagram collab can be, for example when you just swap pictures with someone else on Instagram and edit it and post it and mention the other person. It’s like a promotion for that person. Or, someone wants to make an edit with one of your photos, and then you also post what he edited. They mostly write a comment on your post and ask if they could do a collab with you. Then you continue by email. Yes, I have met some in real life, that’s the great part of it. You make so many friends, and some of them become your best friends also in real life.

It seems like you’re always on the move, capturing mountains and nature, rain, hail and shine … How often do you travel within Switzerland? And do you have some locations you like to return to?

Image courtesy Martina Bisaz

It seems like I am always on the move, but that’s not always the case. When I go somewhere, I take so many pictures, that I have photos for the next month to post! And on the weekend I am often at my parents’ house, which is in the most beautiful mountain village of Switzerland. So it looks like I’m always on holidays!

I want to return to the Matterhorn. Been there three times, but I have only seen it once. The other two times it was cloudy, which was really, really upsetting, especially after travelling like four hours through the whole of Switzerland.

Summer or winter: which do you prefer for taking pictures?

Image courtesy Martina Bisaz

Image courtesy Martina Bisaz

That’s a tough question. Winter can be amazing for pictures, but also difficult to get to places. Unless you take the ski lift or you do ski tours. That’s why I prefer summer, or autumn for better light, because I can actually go outdoors and hike wherever I want, to places and mountains I can’t reach in winter.

And The Woolf special question: What is one of your favourite works of fiction, and why?

What a question! I always remember Der Medicus [in English: The Physician]which I read when I was a teenager. The reason why I like it, hmmm … I think all the science and medical discoveries simply fascinated me and I actually finished the whole book!


Instagram: @kitkat_ch

Gallery: Tandem

Zürich-based Martina Bisaz is known for her Instagramming collaborations and landscapes that often include her little Fiat car.

Read the full interview with Martina.