A thrilling young adult novel that features two strong, independent
protagonists. Splinters mixes mystery, humor, and science fiction
in a way that will leave readers desperate for more.
Under ordinary circumstances, Ben and Mina would never have had
reason to speak to each other; he's an easy-going people person with a
healthy skepticism about the paranormal, and she's a dangerously
obsessive monster-hunter with a crippling fear of betrayal. But the small
town of Prospero, California, has no ordinary circumstances to offer. In
order to uncover a plot set by the seemingly innocent but definitely
shapeshifting monsters-that-look-like-friends-family-and-neighbors, the
two stark opposites must both find ways to put aside their differences
and learn to trust each other.
Everyone who finds out that my husband and I coauthor seems to want to know how this can possibly work, so I'll try to give an honest rundown of the process.
Usually, it starts when I say something offhand that gives Matt a brilliant idea. He's the brilliant idea guy. He's the one who daydreams up vivid, original worlds for fun. I usually don't start feeling a project until I get to work on the text itself. When we work separately, my worlds are sort of filled in as necessary to support the stories in them, and Matt does something closer to the opposite. I love the moments, he loves the big picture.
Matt's enthusiasm is contagious though, so we talk out the basics of the story, by which I mostly mean he crafts a mental opus out loud, while I point out ways to tighten and punch up and freshen the character dynamics and turn the emotional screws.
We work out a rough outline by taking inventory of important scenes that definitely have to happen (I mostly do that), and figuring out how to string them together in a way that makes sense (Matt rocks at that, thank god).
Then we decide how to divide up the first draft work. In the case of The Prospero Chronicles, that's easy. The perspective alternates between our two main characters, Ben and Mina. He writes Ben, I write Mina. This has the added advantage of giving the two characters authentically separate voices.
When we've got all that set up, every week, usually over evening walks or lunch on Saturday, we talk out the details of the next two chapters of the rough outline (sometimes one chapter if it's a long one with both characters). We then write our parts separately based on what we agreed (sometimes we get inspired and throw in a few surprises), and then we swap and read each other's to check for contradictions and to know what the jumping off point is for our own next chapter.
Co-author of Splinters
Once the first draft is done, we edit by both reading the whole thing, making notes for changes, comparing them, and deciding which change works better when they conflict. When there's a major pacing problem, sometimes one of us will have to write a new chapter to replace a bigger chunk of text, but mostly we tighten what's already there, cut out redundant concepts we both covered, and fix continuity errors. It usually takes us four or five times through before we send it to our agent.
...And that's how we do it. Not so difficult. I understand why people wonder. Like most novelists, I love the freedom and independence of my medium, and it frankly boggles my mind how scripts can be written by committees. I can't imagine doing this with someone without the freaky married level of synchronicity Matt and I have going.
So now the real questions everyone hints at when they ask how we do it.
Is it hard on our marriage?
Not at all! Sure, we'll occasionally disagree on how to write something or, more often, when to write something (him being the idea guy, he's always got a hundred things he wants to work on, while once I've gotten into a project, I don't want to think about anything else until it's done), but the plusses way outweigh the minuses. Talking about writing and fiction was one of the first things we bonded over. When it's our own writing and fiction, so much the better. Yes, we do other things together too. Sometimes when we're feeling burned out, we need to enforce strict no-shop-talk date days, but working out plots and worlds and characters together is one of our favorite things to do. It brings us closer.
And is it hard on us creatively compared with writing alone?
That's not to say we'll ever stop writing separately as well. We both like the freedom to pick subjects the other isn't as interested in or qualified for, to have the last word on all the details (at least until our agent and editor see them), and, let's be honest, to stamp our name on something all by itself. Hey, no matter how much we love each other, we've still got artist's egos.
But even when we're writing all our own text and calling our own shots, we're still each other's brainstorm partners, first readers and advisors. We're a team even when we're not.
When we do share projects, as you can tell from our method, our strengths and weaknesses complement each other, which makes the parts of the process that one or the other of us struggles with easier when we work together. Plus, keeping up with each other keeps us motivated, and writing two chapters at once lets us get a book done in four to six months while enthusiasm and momentum are at their highest, instead of taking nearly twice that.
Sorry if anyone was hoping for any crazy artistic-domestic hybrid drama, but we honestly are so well matched for this that writing together is generally the far easier of the two options. We got incredibly lucky that way.
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