Scheming and Plotting: A Collaborative Adventure

By Patrick L. Lohier

False Idols

Patrick Lohier, Lisa Klink and Diana Renn

Serial Box Publications

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Most writers work alone, in solitude and usually in obscurity. That solitude can take a toll, turning us into mumbling, awkward creatures, or raging alcoholics, or slightly off-kilter eccentrics. (But ask any writer and they will also admit that solitude has its pleasures and is often essential to crafting and molding words into unique visions of the world and our emotional landscapes.)

As a writer I've long grown accustomed to the lonelier aspects of the calling. But in spring 2016, I was invited to participate in a collaborative writing project that opened my eyes to some of the singular pleasures of collaborative writing.

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That spring, a friend in L.A. contacted me and asked me if I would want to be part of the writing team on the new project by Serial Box.

New York-Based Serial Box develops and releases fiction serials over the course of 10-16 week seasons. The serials are created by writing teams who collaborate over months to plot, draft and finalize chapters of books that are then released as serialized digital (i.e., Kindle or Serial Box app) files and audiobooks.

I hopped onboard -- literally. In autumn 2016 I flew from Toronto to LA for a three-day writing room. There I met Lisa Klink, Diana Renn, and members of the Serial Box team, as well as from the team of Adaptive Studios, an LA-based firm that develops and produces original stories for traditional and digital distribution.

We worked intensely on whiteboards to outline the the book, and we were able to consult with Bob Wittman, a retired FBI agent and author renowned as the Bureau’s top art theft and art fraud investigator. Then we each returned to our respective homes. Lisa lives in L.A. Diana lives outside of Boston, and I live in Toronto.

Between January and October 2017, we worked with each other and the amazing team at Serial Box via email, Dropbox, Google Docs and video and conference calls to write each episode of this 11-episode adrenaline-fueled international thriller.

False Idols is about FBI Linguist Layla el-Deeb. When we first meet her, Layla is deep undercover posing as an heiress in the Middle East. She must infiltrate the highest echelons of society in order to trace priceless relics from their millionaire owners back to illegal digs and the terrorist groups profiting from their sale.

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But Layla’s troubled past and growing feelings for an art dealer’s son begin to complicate her judgment, and when she uncovers a terrorist plot that threatens American and Egyptian lives she must decide where her loyalties truly lie.

Working on False Idols was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Every stage of the process had a kind of mesmerizing new-ness to it. The brainstorming meetings were the best. We were essentially scheming and plotting how to do all kinds of outlandish and cloak-and-dagger stuff: taking on an alias and going undercover, carrying various burner phones, maintaining the security of a  safe house, weaseling into peoples lives in order to observe them and gather possible evidence against them . . . attacking and defending an embassy. It was fantastic!

The icing on the cake is that everyone was awesome and fun to work with.

False Idols' 11 episodes are being published weekly as Kindle Editions starting January 31. The final installment will appear April 11. Then the book will be released sometime in April as a paperback published by L.A.-based Adaptive Studios. I hope you’ll check it out.

Pre-order from Amazon or get episodes via Serial Box on a subscription basis.


Patrick Lohier's novel Radiant Night is forthcoming from Adaptive Books in September 2018. He is currently working on a memoir about his family's experiences of emigration. You can find him online @patricklohier.