How Two Best Friends Became Purpose-Driven Co-Authors



There’s one truth about the new generation of business leaders, they lead with purpose. But more, demonstrate it with actions not merely words. In this case two burgeoning authors came together to save a brick and mortar bookstore called Brome Lake Books.  

Six years ago, at the peak of their coming-of-age, lifelong best friends Haley Crawford and Tamara Southward drafted a first outline for The Wasp’s Nest, their novel that follows two girls on the brink of new adulthood over the course of a summer. Now young professionals working in New York and London respectively, the two attribute the fruition of their project to maintaining an unwavering commitment to their vision and purpose.

Thanks to their parents’ close friendships, Haley and Tamara were born best friends. “Our mothers were pregnant at the same time!” Haley says. “The day I was born, Tamara’s mom impatiently phoned mine, asking for every detail just weeks before her own daughter was due.” At the age of six, Tamara’s family moved to Europe while Haley’s remained in Canada, marking the beginning of a cross-continental sisterhood. From that moment, the pair would write novels and short stories, sharing them with one another on the shores of a lake where they reunited each summer.

Despite being based in different cities for most of their lives, the two experienced many turning points of adolescence together – though it is perhaps the moments which they experienced apart that made them realize the similarity of their storytelling abilities. “When we’re not together, we want to paint the brightest possible picture of the story we are
sharing with the other,” Tamara says. “So we have learned to become highly descriptive and apply this to our writing.” Haley adds, “Writing a novel that encapsulated the hopes and fears that we shared in our late teens prompted us to share what we were feeling with the world the way we know best – through writing.”

In 2015, weeks before Haley was heading off to a year in Italy and Tamara to South Africa, the pair committed to bringing a story to life based not only on things they’d observed, but on things they’d felt, which is where their purpose comes into place. Tamara says, “When you’re a teenager, feeling that every move is life-defining, that no one understands you, and in the case of our characters, balancing the combined fears of living within a bubble and leaving it – we wanted to capture that seemingly ceaseless uncertainty that comes with new adulthood.”

Initially, The Wasp’s Nest was loosely based on the girls’ own summers. But over time, the
co-authors realized the greater potential of a work of fiction, shifting more autobiographical chapters to their archives and focusing on imagining new experiences for their two main characters, Rose Harleston and Avery Breckenridge. Rather than being reflections of themselves, the co-authors describe these characters as their fictional best friends. They wanted to create something that made readers remember what it was like to be a teenager, and to help those still navigating their adolescent years feel understood.

Aside from their busy schedules and being at a point in their lives dominated by university exams and job applications, the two acknowledge the length of time it took to write the book as due to the evolution of their writing styles. “We started writing the book when we were at the same stage in life as our characters, so our observations and interpretations of the topics in our story changed as we moved from experiencing them to looking back at them,” Haley says. Over years, friends and family would read drafts, and recurring feedback that the co-authors would receive was – much to their relief – with regard to the maturity of their writing evolving.

After countless rewritten chapters and final edits, the pair finally felt ready to share their novel with the world outside of their immediate circle. They wanted to bring their story to audiences across the globe, but as they explored publication options, it became clear to them that supporting the literary community closest to home was central to their purpose. As an homage to the region that was the backdrop to their own teenage summers, and as a means of showing their support for small booksellers as the world emerged from a year of lockdowns, the authors committed to donating 25% of proceeds from their global online book sales to Brome Lake Books, their local independent bookstore.

So far, the book has found itself in the hands of many readers experiencing their own coming-of- age. And despite being classified as a young adult novel, Haley and Tamara emphasize the importance of the story to older readers – not only to evoke nostalgia, but to emphasize the importance of friendship.

“Something that Haley and I feel strongly about is keeping the essence of our best friendship alive regardless of our age. We recently rewatched Stand By Me, which ends with a grown-up version of the teenage narrator stating: I never had friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone? Haley and I practically looked at each other with our hands raised. We have never underestimated the power of friendship, and that is why this book exists in the first place.”

“Our purpose has been to share our story of friendship with the world,” says Haley. “With young people heading off to university, with anyone forging a new and unknown path, with people rekindling old friendships and with those fostering new ones.”

The Wasp’s Nest is available in select bookstores, on paperback on Amazon, and on Kindle.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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