For our November Ask A Wench post, we've chosen a question from Wendy MacNeil:
"If you could co-author a book with anyone, alive or not, would you — and if so, who would it be?"
The Wenches respond:
Mary Jo Putney
Let me see–I think my coauthor would have to be the devil, since it will be a cold day in hell when I would coauthor a book with anyone! People who write plays tend to love the collaborative process. Novelists are more likely to be cranky introverts who are possessive of their work as wolverines. Of course there are some very successful collaborations, but they are very much a minority. I'm happy to brainstorm with my 'storming buddies, I welcome the astute comments of my critique partner, and I listen to the editors who buy my books, and often have good insights into improving the work. But ultimately, that book is mine, Mine, MINE! Ahem. Not that I have strong opinions on the topic or anything. *G*
Cara Elliott/Andrea Pickens:
Co-author a book? For me, that sort of destroys the whole joy of the creative process. Now, maybe I'm being selfish but it's MY story, and I want to give it my voice and my vision. There's so much else in life we compromise on, or decide by consensus, so I jealously guard the crafting of a book as something uniquely my own. Sure, there are lots of other authors I adore and admire. But I want to read their stories, not let them mess around with mine. LOL. That said, if you twisted my arm to pick one collaborator, it would be Jane Austen . . . simply so I could enjoy her sarcastic wit and barbed comments about the experience. I can't imagine her enjoying it any more than I would!
If you could co-author with anyone, alive or not, would you, and if so, who > would it be? Like Mary Jo, I find it difficult to imagine working with another writer, though I do enjoy brainstorming and critique groups. An equal team, however…. Yikes! I suppose it's because as authors, we're goddesses, controlling our worlds. Hard to give that up. However, I could maybe collaborate on a short story. In that case, it would have been fascinating to work with Dorothy Dunnett, and I'd love to partner with Neil Gaiman because his storytelling mind is so very interesting.
Probably not! That would be for the sake of their sanity as well as mine, I hasten to add. I like to write, re-write, revise, move things around, think about them, scrap them and start all over again, so I would probably drive a co-author completely mad in short order. I have collaborated with other authors on linked books and I have enjoyed the experience a lot, and learned from it, but anything closer than that would probably be a disaster. That said, if I were to co-author with anyone I would choose Horatio Nelson. Not only would that mean I could get to know personally one of the most charismatic men of his era, and I think that would be fascinating, but I could also work with him on a new edition of his bestseller: "A Patent Bridge for Boarding Enemy Vessels." I hear the first edition was a bit dry. Perhaps I could inject some romance into a new version.
I want to collaborate with H.P. Lovecraft. I'd let him do the first draft. He'd come up with something like: The aperture was black with a darkness almost material. That tenebrousness was indeed a positive quality; for it obscured such parts of the inner walls as ought to have been revealed, and actually burst forth like smoke from its aeon-long imprisonment, visibly darkening the sun as it slunk away into the shrunken and gibbous sky on flapping membraneous wings.
I'd receive his e-mail and edit that down a bit. I'd send him back: The cave opening was black, a darkness that took form and escaped, flapping, into the open sky.
About the second week of our association he'd track me down and sling me over an altar and sacrifice my still-beating heart to Cthulhu.
Mary Jo has pretty much answered this for me. I think I'd find it very difficult to write with someone else — and more to the point they'd probably find it very difficult writing with me.
My process is pretty idiosyncratic and messy. It usually takes me ages into the book to decide what it's really about, so I go back and rewrite the start several times. I also find it very hard to make decisions about where the book should go, and often decide on one thing, write it and decide it's wrong, so out goes that idea. This, I'm sure, would drive someone else batty.
Working in partnership, you need to be able to have a very similar vision for the story, and of the characters and their journey — and you'd need to have the same passion for it — because a passion to tell the story is what gets you through the "stuck" times. You'd need to plan the book out together, or at least plan a chapter or two ahead — and that's not me at all. And once you've decided on something, you'd need to stick to it for your partner's sake.
That said, I've several times thought of writing a book with someone else, because the whole idea of it interests me. But I think if ever I did something like that, it'd probably be a movie script, rather than a novel. Movies, by their very nature, are collaborative works, so I think my inner control freak would handle writing a script collaboratively better than a novel.
Writing is such a solitary creative process that I can’t imagine sharing the space on the page with another author. But if I did have the chance to time-hop and page-share, I’d be happy to edit Sir Walter Scott. Great plots, imaginative characters, a deep love and understanding of Scottish history… yet there are anachronisms, convoluted phrases and just way too many words per sentence. I’d clean all that up for him — and I wouldn’t mind seeing my name in the acknowledgments for Ivanhoe or Lady of the Lake! (and I could also spend gobs of time in his study and library…)
Wendy MacNeil, thanks for a fun question! You've won an autographed book, which I'll be happy to send to you – please contact me or our Wench Whipster, Sherrie Holmes, with your address.
What author, living or not, would YOU love to work with? Or would you take the course most of the Wenches chose, and decline the privilege?
Queen. Refugee. Saint.
Crown/December 7, 2010