This novel grew out of a long-distance friendship and summers in the Eastern Townships

Despite living thousands of kilometres apart for much of their lives, Tamara Southward and Haley Crawford wrote a novel together that mirrors their own coming of age stories.

Tamara Southward and Haley Crawford wrote a novel together that mirrors their own coming of age

Haley Crawford (left) and Tamara Southward (right) have been friends all their lives. Despite living apart, they've recently published a coming-of-age story called The Wasp's Nest. (Submitted by Tamara Southward and Haley Crawford)

Tamara Southward and Haley Crawford started writing The Wasp's Nest in 2015, just as they started university. 

At the time, they had a rough outline. And over the next few years, they would write chapters separately, send them back and forth, and edit each other's work. Eventually, their voices blended together, neither knowing who wrote what.

They did this while living thousands of kilometres apart. Crawford was in Italy for school, and Southward was in South Africa. 

While collaborating on a novel so far apart might seem like a daunting challenge, these lifelong friends were up to it. They've long shared a bond through storytelling, by sharing their lives with each other through their writing.

"It's always been something that held us together across continents," said Crawford on CBC Montreal's Let's Go.

Since they were children, they had to spend time apart due to their parents' travelling. When she was six years old, Southward moved to Switzerland, while Crawford stayed in Canada. The only time they would see each other was in Quebec's Eastern Townships during the summer.

"That was the best time of the year," said Crawford. "Absolutely a highlight for both of us."

As soon as they were old enough to send an email, they would write short stories to each other. So by the time they decided to write a novel together, they were used to the process. 

Southward and Crawford spent six years writing The Wasp's Nest. The plot is a coming-of-age story, mirroring their own experiences growing up and seeing the world in new ways. 

The story takes place in a fictional New England town, following two girls who are best friends as they navigate how to overcome predetermined expectations. And, much like in real life, the cottage was a central part of these protagonists' lives.

Every year, Southward and Crawford would be reunited in the Townships. Those visits would take on new meanings each summer. 

"Every summer was the same, but different," said Southward. 

As they wrote the novel, Southward and Crawford's writing would mature. Family members would comment on how much they improved throughout writing the book.

And yet, over the six years writing, conflicts stayed to a minimum. Aside from the occasional bickering, neither doubted they would complete the book.

"It was always a story we felt determined to share," said Crawford.

When they finished, they needed a moment of silence to appreciate what they just accomplished.

"It was surreal," said Southward. "We're really proud that we completed a work that will touch people one way or another."

The Wasp's Nest is available for purchase online, and at Brome Lake Books in the Eastern Townships.


Eric Dicaire

CBC editorial assistant

Eric Dicaire is a CBC Montreal editorial assistant working from home during the pandemic.

With files from CBC Montreal's Let's Go