Writing with a co-writer is a different experience than writing alone. We bring our individual life experiences to the table, which means we go about building the story in different ways. We started writing together because we wanted to write the type of stories we’d like to read. We set up a series of questions and answered them back and forth over email. This is the result.
What kinds of stories do you enjoy reading for fun?
J: I really enjoy stories with action, adventure, big world stakes or big problems to solve. I like escapism, a supernatural or occult flavor and a consistent world.
K: Action, adventures, heroic deeds. (I first wrote that as heroic deads. Okay, I’d read that.) Protagonists who struggle to do right where no choice is a good choice and all they can do is the best they can in the hopes of a decent resolution and a victory or two. They don’t have to win all the battles but they do have to be forged or changed as a result.
Does this affect the kinds of stories you want to write?
J: Naturally, yes. I’m going to be spending a lot of time eyeball deep in a project, listening to the characters argue for attention, and trying to figure out how to make it exciting and readable so I’d better enjoy the process or else I should go start an alpaca farm. They’re adorable and their wool makes nice sweaters.
How do you go about pinning down a story idea?
J: K and I have never had a problem coming up with story ideas—characters, plots, problems, neat-o world things. Our challenge is settling on one and sticking with it. Since I’m usually the bus driver, I try and keep us on the chosen route, mostly after many many sessions of hammering out the ending and middle. But I admit I’m the one with the Google map, and sometimes I realize I’ve actually been giving K the older map that sends her into the river instead of down the off-ramp. Oops, my bad.
K: No, you actually do a pretty good job… the problem is I keep turning the map upside-down. Really, if people could see us mugged by all the cool, shiny ideas that pop along every two minutes, they’d marvel at how we actually managed to finish any books at all.
What types of characters argue the loudest (or want the most attention)?
J: The side characters. It’s always the characters that had a funny line or an attitude who think they’re the new diva. The main characters are the ones who keep mum. Stupid characters.
K: Oh wow, yes. How come they always have all the snappy dialogue? They know exactly who they are while the protagonist is all lumpy and stingy with the information.
What inspires you to make a dastardly villain or are they just misunderstood?
J: The villains I like best are the ones who don’t think what they’re doing is technically wrong; wanting to rob the world bank is nice, but logistically difficult, and who wants to rule the world—so much bureaucracy and red tape! The scary villains are the ones who think what they’re doing is the “right” thing or the “best” thing to fix a problem–their world view is different than those around them, and they have the charm or money or influence to make it happen. Those villains are more nuanced and more fun to read than the mustache twirling bad guy who can’t seem to stop telling the main character his plan for world domination.
K: Dastardly villains feel too one-dimensional for me. I like a complex villain who, just like the hero, believes he’s doing the best thing, even if it’s to gain all the power and take it away from the other “bad” guys. He or she should have items or people they care about or want to protect as well. The challenge is writing the kind of villain that one can simultaneously hate and feel sorry for at the same time. I’d love to write a villain like that.
Guess in some ways, we’re not so different after all. We have to get back to writing now. What kind of stories interest you?