For some people, simply communicating with their spouse can be difficult enough. Between conflicting opinions and gender-related discrepancies in perception, it can often seem like they’re speaking completely different languages. To those folks, the idea of writing a book with their significant other might seem as unthinkable as, say, flying to Jupiter together.
But if Missouri Heights couple Linda Lafferty and Andy Stone are to be believed, their collaborative experience writing separate parts of the book “Light in the Shadows” and weaving them together was a piece of cake.
“It went really pretty smoothly,” said Lafferty. “We both talked about it, and I don’t think we ever had any disagreements about it.”
So there was no marital strife involved?
“Not more than the usual,” quipped Stone.
Published in June, “Light in the Shadows” follows two storylines having to do with the brilliant but troubled Italian painter Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, better known by just his last name.
Lafferty, the author of five other historical fiction novels (“The Bloodletter’s Daughter,” “House of Bathory,” “The Girl Who Fought Napoleon” and the Colorado Book Award winners “The Drowning Guard” and “The Shepherdess of Siena”), wrote the story of Caravaggio himself, and Stone, author of “Song of the Kingdom” and “Aspen Drift,” penned a modern-day thriller about three people attempting to verify the authenticity of a painting that may or may not be a long-lost Caravaggio work while eluding the mafia.
As book subjects go, Caravaggio was a splendid choice, as the real details of his short life (he died at the age of 38 in 1610) are lurid enough – including killing another man in a duel – as to seem almost fictional to begin with.
“Caravaggio is such a delicious character,” said Lafferty, who taught school in Aspen and Carbondale for almost 20 years before retiring to become a full-time novelist. “He was art history’s resident thug.”
Lafferty found the artist intriguing enough to warrant a book, and she had the thought of doing two storylines – one historical and one contemporary – much as she did with “House of Bathory” (about a real-life Slovakian countess from the 1600s). When she told Stone about her idea, the former editor of The Aspen Times volunteered to write the modern-day portion and came up with a storyline that sent his protagonists on a journey from Rome to Malta and back following the same path Caravaggio took centuries earlier.
“It’s three people who are on the trail of what may be a lost Caravaggio painting, and the mafia is looking over their shoulders,” said Stone. “It’s a painting that was lost for a long time and then perhaps rediscovered, and this one character thinks he is certain that the painting he has found is a Caravaggio. So the story sort of unspools from there, as they’re trying to track down whether it really is.”
(Coincidentally enough, an actual long-lost Caravaggio work was discovered in a French attic in 2014 and just went up for auction in June, selling for between $100–150 million.)
Lafferty and Stone may have had an easy time combining their two stories, but it wasn’t a result of their writing styles being alike. Stone confessed to being far more methodical in his approach, while Lafferty was speedy enough that she had enough time during the process to basically finish her next solo book, about Italian painter Artemisia Gentileschi. That novel will be published in May 2020.
As for the dynamic duo, they already have another collaborative novel in the works. Based on the real-life MacBeth, who was apparently nothing like the Shakespearean character of the same name, the novel will once again include historical fiction by Lafferty and a thriller by Stone. Lafferty said she has about 160 pages of her part written, and Stone … well, not so much.
“I’m way behind once again,” he laughed.
Having each penned books on their own and together, it’s fair to wonder if Lafferty and Stone ever get competitive when it comes to writing, but they both downplayed that notion.
“That’s almost the only area where we don’t compete,” said Stone. “We compete on who has the lowest blood pressure.”
“And who can get up the hill fastest on a bicycle, and who’s going up the hill fastest on cross-country skis,” said Lafferty, finishing the thought of the man she’s been married to for 32 years.
“But when it comes to writing, nah,” said Stone.
They found a way to write together (and apart) without getting competitive, and they did it without having anyone to show them the way, making their collaboration all the more impressive.
“It’s kind of like marriage, you know?” said Lafferty. “It’s a big leap of faith. Like, ‘Sure, let’s go ahead and do this.’ ”