Thursday, 7 August 2008

Coffee Break: Multiple Authors

Novel Racers Coffee Break: A

Gather around and help yourself to a beverage of your choice: Whatever is appropriate for the time of day in your part of the world. The café and the bar are well-stocked. Personally, I'm going to opt for a large black coffee and maybe a sneaky biscuit on the side.

This is going to be a long coffee break - a whole week in fact - so there's no such thing a late-comer. In any case, there's no need to apologise. All comments will be welcome, no matter when they arrive.

So, what are we going to talk about? I thought a good subject might be that of books with multiple authors. This may have something to do with the fact that I'm currently working on a book with a co-author. We wrote a short story together back in August last year. If you're interested, it's on my web site and it's called Street Prejudice. We then thought of an idea for another short story, but after a mammoth brainstorming and storyboarding session, we ended up with enough plot for a whole book! A year later and we're close to finishing the first draft.

Novel Racers Coffee Break: B
Novel Racers Coffee Break: C

A lot of people have reacted to this with comments like: "Ooh, how unusual. How do you manage that?" and this led me to believe that books with more than one author are rare. Then I looked at my own bookshelves, and found that a surprisingly high proportion of the books I read have two or more authors. For example: Larry Niven / Jerry Pournelle, Arthur C Clarke / Gentry Lee, James Patterson / Maxine Paetro.

I wonder how many of the books you own, or have read, are by more than one author. Have you ever written books or stories with other authors? If so, how did you go about it? If not, would you consider such a project in the future? What do you think are the pros and cons of such ventures?


Anonymous said...

Comment purely for e-mail subscription.

liz fenwick said...

Interesting.....I know a few authors who do it and have done it. Those in the past tense gave up generally because one party had to move away.

I'm not sure how I would feel about it though as the characters live in my head continuously and I'm not sure how I would feel about letting them move out before their story have finished.......

Having said that I would love to have someone to brain storm with who understood the writing process a bit.....

It was interesting to read the he wrote /she wrote course when that was still on the net. Their discussion certainly shed some light how parnership work and think.

Caroline said...

I have no experience of this, but it is something that I'm currently considering. I don't think that I've read anything by multiple authors either so I'll be interested to read what people have to say.

Hope you're all enjoying your summer.


Zinnia Cyclamen said...

I've co-written a non-fiction book, and that worked well. I'm not sure how well it would work with fiction, but if I saw an opportunity that I thought had potential, I'd be willing to give it a go. Comedy writers work in pairs, don't they?

Leatherdykeuk said...

It's not something I'd actually pursue but if someone approached me I'd consider it.

I love pTerry and gNaiman's 'Good Omens' after all.

Graeme K Talboys said...

Two of my non-fiction books were written with someone else (who I didn't actually meet until after the second one was published although we were good friends). But non-fiction is a different matter. We were both well-versed in the sject and divided up chapters according to what we had most experience and expertise in. My co-author also trusted me with editorial control - i.e. putting all her typos right :-)

I have used characters created by another author (with his permission) and he was very complimentary about the result, and I have also set stories in a co-created reality.

I suppose there are varying degrees of this. Margery Allingham discussed all her work in fine detail with her husband, although she did all the writing. Some authors have detailed outlines they allow others to develop (for example, Moorcock/Constantine). Boris and Arkady Strugatsky wrote many books together, sometimes working in the same room (I have a vague recollection of one of them saying they sometimes did alternate chapters, but I may be wrong).

I can't get my head round the idea of writing a piece of fiction with someone else - unless it was a script and it was a team effort. Mind you, if someone like Mike Moorcock phoned me up to discuss a collaboration (well, I can dream) I doubt I would say, "No."

Lane said...

I don't think I have any fiction book by dual authors on my shelves.
It's not something I could imagine doing myself as fiction is so personal and there's the obvious loss of control, not to mention the halving of any profits. It seems to work for Nicci French though:-)

Helen Shearer said...

The last book I read that was wrotten by two authors was The Nanny Diaries by McLaughlin and Kraus and I laughed all the way through it. I was a nanny for nine long years and the details in the book rang so true. Many of the parents really are the bastards they're portrayed to be:)

I'm not sure how well I'd handle working with a co-author since I'm a bit of a control freak where writing is concerned but if I found the right person I'd certainly be willing to give it a whack. I think it might be difficult to keep the voice consistent. Maybe writing the same story from two perspectives would be interesting.

Calistro said...

I think the only multi-authored book I've read is a chick lit novel by Emlyn Rees and Josie Lloyd. They (husband and wife) write them (as far as I can remember) in a 'He said' 'She said' style.

I haven't collabored with anyone although I did meet a writer online last year who wanted to collaborate on a screenplay together. Not sure how we'd have gone about that. I've suggested to him we try some kind of he said, she said book but we're both so busy with our individual projects we haven't started anything yet (or even talked about what subject or theme we might explore).

Oh! I do have "Messages" which was Sarah Salway and Lynee Rees writing a flash, sending it to the other, then sending a flash back and so on. That worked wonderfully well IMO. I'd like to do something like that - something where you write in short bursts and it's organic.

B said...

Loving the all-week nature of this one. I always feel like I'm too late to bother by the time I get home from work. Damned work with no internet access!

My initial reaction was that I hadn't read anything written that way. Then I see Good Omens and think oh yeah, that was a fab book with two authors, and then Emlyn Rees and Josie Lloyd, I've read two of their books too (although I don't think they were married when they wrote the first one Cally). And now I have remembered that David and Leigh Eddings write all their books together. So there are more out there than I initially thought!

I'm sure that if you are married to the co-author that makes dealing with profits easier (although I can imagine that depends on your relationship!). But I can't imagine writing with my husband. I think that would just end very, very badly! Also, isn't there an Agatha Christie quote about if you co-author a book, each person thinking they get all the problems but only half the money?

I read something fairly recently in Writers' Forum or Writing Magazine about a pair of sisters, I think, who live a long way away from each other but take it in turns writing chapters and emailing them back to each other. I can imagine that it's very hard to keep consistency, but if it works would be fab.

Maybe I should convince one of my sisters to take up writing :)

B.E. Sanderson said...

After sitting and thinking about whether I'd read any multi-author books (other than anthologies), I remembered all the Dragonlance books I read by Weis and Hickman. Those were wonderful. Other than that, I'm drawing a blank.

My first novel endeavor when I was fourteen was a collaboration. The book was actually her idea, and we worked closely on it for quite a while. Then she lost interest and I took over. (Or maybe she lost interest because I took over.) So, with all that in mind, I don't think collaboration would be too good an idea for me. Plus, it would derail my process. I need to be alone in my head to write.

Flowerpot said...

I don't have a single one onmy shelves! Like liz I like the idea of brainstorming with someone else but fear it could lead to a lot ofproblems. Who would write which bits? How do you agree on characters? Do you write teh same characters or different ones? I'm not sure that it would work for me but I know it does for others.

Cathy said...

I can't see it would work for me, but I never say never...

Debs said...

This is interesting and made me think, but as far as I can remember the only books I've read by two authors were written by Emlyn Rees and Josie Lloyd and I did enjoy them. Can't remember the names though.

I can't imagine that I would work well with another writer as it's all in my head and I think I enjoy the solitude of writing too much to want to share it.

It must be helpful though to be able to brainstorm with someone and certainly helpful when it comes to ideas.

L-Plate Author said...

Captain, I've just thought of one that I've read called Goodbye Jimmy Choes, I think the author was called Annie Saunders but it was too women who wrote it. I enjoyed it at the time and I hadn't got a clue it was written by two people.

Sorry I can't join in with this topic, I'm too much of a control freak myself to let anyone help. And would anyone else be daft enough to work the hours we do...

Have a good week everyone. x

Paige said...

I would LOVE to give a joint project a go! I think bouncing ideas off one another would be such an experience. However, the arguements might spoil it somehow ;)

I've got two books on my shelf that are by two authors.

Book Lover by Jennifer Kaufmann and Karen Mack
Dedication by Nicola Kraus and Emma McLaughlin.

Not read them yet but hopefully soon!

I'm a little too busy with my own stuff to do anything right now but I would definitely consider a joint project at some stage.

Anonymous said...

I have two books on my shelves that are co-written, and it is no surprise that they are the same co-authors. It also surprises me that neither are mentioned above.

"The Talisman" by Stephen King and Peter Straub is a marvelous book ... an epic tale of a journey across America, some of which is in the america we know, and the rest in a fantasy, almost medieval, world.

"The Black House" was written many years later, a sequel of sorts. Not as successful, but still a good read.

Annieye said...

I'm currently discussing a co-authoring non-fiction project with a friend. I don't think it's that unusual.

wordtryst said...

Comment now winging its way in, after my three days out of time, on a beach, no computer, no Internet... And thanks to this week-long coffee break, I don't even feel guilty!

To answer the question, apart from multiple authors in anthologies, I can't seem to find joint venture books on my shelves. I have a book on writing authored by two women, and the voices alternate so I always know who's speaking. Fiction? Nada. I suspect this can work easily for nonfiction, although I've heard of successful fiction collaborations - Jennifer Crusie and some guy whose name I can't recall, a writer of thrillers, I believe.

I have no experience of it, and I don't think it's for me.

ChrisH said...

Coming in late to say 'Aldridge and Daley'. I'm glad writing in tandem has worked for you but I think I'm much too much of a control freak to want to share!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for all your comments everybody. A very wide variety, as I might have expected.