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January 01, 2006

It's a Book

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

A few weeks before Christmas, a package arrived with a return address neither The Wife nor I recognized. We tore the box open ... and there they were: the "author's copies" (around 20) of the novel the two of us wrote together a year ago.

An Amazon page for the book had appeared a couple of months ago, so we knew publication-time was near. But we were still a little taken by surprise. The publisher (as is typical) hadn't exactly been in close touch. Still, there our words were, between OK covers, on pretty-nice paper, and presented in -- thank god -- a readable typeface. Phew!

Needless to say, I've been strutting around feeling smug for the last few weeks -- that's "Mr. Author" to you, peons! Or "Mr. Half-an-Author," anyway. The truth is, though, that our novel (the first one for both of us) isn't likely to be a candidate for next year's high-brow prizes. It's no piece of painful self-expression let alone any attempt at "literature," whatever that might be. Instead, it's a commercial piece of light entertainment -- a sexed-up potboiler.

The project didn't even originate with the two of us. It came as a commission. An agent asked The Wife -- who has written a lot of different kinds of fiction -- if she could produce a raunchy pop novel in two months; a publisher promoting a line of such books needed a new title in a hurry. The Wife eyeballed the contract and -- pro that she is -- said, "No problem." Then she came home and asked Lovin' Hubby if he was in the mood to co-write a novel with her. And we were off.

What a busy two months we had. For the sake of efficiency, we made a decision to pull the book together as though we were producing a movie -- to dream up situations, characters, story, and actions before moving on to the writing-writing phase. Many "real writers" make a point of discovering their novel in the course of writing it. They're proud of taking this tack; they think of it as The Artistic Way. Well, that certainly wasn't going to be our way! In other words, we first developed a blueprint rather like a treatment for a film, and only when our blueprint was in good shape did we turn to directing our movie -- er, to writing our novel.

It was a good policy choice, I think. In any case, it seemed to minimize misunderstandings and streamline the workflow. Once the blueprint was solid, we never had a moment when we didn't know what our characters needed to do or where our story needed to turn. And lemme tellya, writing a scene goes a lot faster when you don't have to blunder your way blindly through it.

When it came time to write-write, we were able to work on well-defined sections. We'd discuss what needed to happen in a given chapter, and we'd break the actions into yet smaller actions. With these lined up, The Wife would do the crucial first-walk-through all by herself. Among her many gifts is that she's a fearless and imaginative writer of first drafts. She really likes writing first drafts -- and of how many writers can that be said?

It's an amazing spectacle. At the beginning of the day there's nothing on the computer screen but a breakdown of the action. By the end of the day, characters are up and about. They're walking and talking; to all appearances, they're 3-dimensional, pulsing with blood and desire, and alive. How does she do that? After she'd performed the really courageous and creative work, I'd jump in and contribute what I could.

We proceeded in an organized fashion, attending first to the most-important scenes and saving the smaller scenes and transitional passages for later. I'd once read an interview with the British crime-fiction author P.D. James in which James revealed that this was how she approached her own writing. Since a writer always runs out of energy before finishing a novel, James said that she had learned to use her early-in-the-process energy for the scenes and moments that are meant to be most memorable. If you can deliver these passages juicily, she said, readers will forgive you if some of the less-important passages are flat. Struck us as wisdom worth heeding!

Even so, there was no way to avoid juggling multiple tasks -- which meant that writing the book was a mental/imaginative balancing act like no other I've taken part in. Sitting down to work on a passage, I was forever trying to find my way into the moment. Has our heroine broken up with that one guy yet? Is this happening before or after she bonked that other guy? And who's jealous of whom here, and for what reason?

Writing so much sex added additional Rubik's Cube-like complications to the job. The contract specified that we were to supply a dozen explicit erotic scenes. Yet, when you come right down to it, how many ways are there really for people to get it on? Forwards, backwards, upside-down, rightside-up, solo, group ... Once you've romped through the obvious, where to steer the action next? Plus, the contract also specified that our heroine was not to take part in certain specified sex acts.

But, although they can frustrate, limitations can also function as spurs to creativity, eh? This is one argument in favor of classical architecture, tonal music, genre fiction, and formal-rhyming poetry, anyway. The Wife and I wound up thinking it held true for the sex scenes in our potboiler too. The contractual restrictions -- and our creative desperation -- forced us not to fantasize further, but to emphasize situation and character. "What is this sex act about?" we'd ask each other. As a result, the sex our characters engage in reflects (in modest ways) the people they are and the conditions they're living through. A little atmosphere, some subtext, a touch of psychology, a few drives and needs -- and, voila, you've got yourself a not-too-dull sex scene. Radical!

Near the end of our allotted two months, we copied-and-pasted-together the sections we'd finished, exchanged a giddy look, and had our first read-through. Truth be told, we were apprehensive. Would the story flow? Would the characters arc the way they needed to? Would we discover any impossible-to-fix plot gaffes?

Thank heavens, most of what we had seemed to click into place. As we all know, if there's one great thing about deadlines and paychecks, it's that they knock you out of "Gotta show the world my genius" mode and into "Does this work? And is it good enough?" mode instead. You don't dawdle; you get things done as well as they need doing, and you move on to face the next challenge.

With that, and for the final week of our schedule, we transformed ourselves into editors and researchers. Some local color here, some job-lore there ... A little prose-and-dialogue polishing ... With a click, we emailed our book to our editor.

As I flipped through the printed-and-bound version of the novel the day the box arrived, I was surprised ... Well, I was surprised by how much of a book it seemed to be. I deliberately hadn't looked at the novel since we finished it last January; I wanted to be able to read it on publication with semi-objective eyes.

It's meant to be a raunchy (OK, pornographic) beach/airplane read. That's what we were commissioned to write, and that's what we delivered. We did what we could to create a likable and sexy protagonist for gal-readers to identify with; we put some blockbuster plot elements into play; and we whipped up our dozen mandated XXX sex scenes. That was the concept, and that's what we turned in: a hardcore, chicklitty, novel-version of a Skinemax movie.

Over the holiday break, I spent my reading-time going through our novel. And, hallelujah: The story flows! The suspense works! The protagonist is sweet and winning in a sexually-up-for-anything way! Er, make that "almost-anything" way.

As for the writin' ... Well, God knows our novel is nothing if not an action-and-dialogue-driven book. We weren't attempting anything linguistically refined; we were asked to sell plot, sex, and (to some extent) voice instead. Our book is meant to be a very fast read, and the writin' is meant to be at the service of story and character. Given its gaudy pink-and-turquoise bookcover, there's little chance that anyone who picks our novel up will be expecting thoughtful themes or poetic sentences. Still, the language is serviceable, the voice is pretty well done, and we even manage a nifty observation or joke on almost every page.

So -- and not that I'm an unbiased reader, of course -- my final verdict on our novel is "Better than it needed to be." Here's hoping that most of the people who buy and read the book agree.

Sorry to report that our novel-publishing experience hasn't led me to reach any Larger Conclusions about book-writin'. Since I know the publishing biz pretty well, having worked in close proximity to it for 15 years, little of what we encountered surprised me.

What did take me by surprise -- and what I've found myself mulling over, in a good way -- was how much The Wife and I enjoyed our collaboration. Over the years, we've spent a lot of time on each other's writing, playing muse and editor and more. But we'd never before flat-out, 50/50 collaborated.

So I've been thinking about fiction-writing ... and collaborations ...

First thought: Co-writing erotic fiction with your significant other can be a blast. Highly recommended. Given the conditions we wrote the book in -- we delivered an 80,000 word novel in 9 weeks -- I wouldn't exactly call the work we did an aphrodisiac. What energy we had was focused on moving the work forward, not on lingering physically on each other's whims and perversions. (And after we sent the novel in, we were so exhausted that we both collapsed for a month.) But we still had ourselves one saucy and low-down time. We laughed a lot -- and laughter is its own kind of sexiness. We moved inside each other's imaginations for a long stretch, and we enjoyed doing a lot of emotional/imaginative double-daring.

We also spent a lot of time looking at one another in flat-out amazement. "I've known you for almost 20 years," I'd say to The Wife on reading some sex scene she'd come up with, "and only now do I learn that you have this kind of thing on your mind? Hussy." "Dude," The Wife would say on reading a sex passage I'd written, "where'd that come from? Pervert." Then we'd crack up.

Our collaboration went much more smoothly than either of us had a right to expect it to. One reason was that neither of us had any ego invested in the project. The novel was just something that appealed to both of us to do, and god knows there's nothing "personal" in the arty sense about the results.

Another reason might be our basic chemistry. The energy we elicit from each other often seems to take on its own life, in the way that partner-dancing can sometimes become something more than just two-people-dancing-together. With our novel, we frequently had the impression that something Larger Than Us had taken over, and that we were just along for the ride. Then, of course, we'd collapse in exhaustion.

A good collaboration can be such a joy that I'm surprised that more novel-length on-the-page fiction isn't co-written. But perhaps creative partnerships as good as what The Wife and I had are rare, and perhaps many people get mulish where fiction-writing is concerned. They think of writing a novel because they want to have things 110% their own way. But you know me, I'm sly and suspicious. I have a small hunch that, despite the claims of egocentric authors, many novels are in practical fact the product of all kinds of collaboration, in fact if not in name -- with contributions coming from spouses, friends, workshop partners, teachers, and editors ...

On the most simple level, being able to share typing chores and editing chores is a big plus. Being able to discuss story, characters, and ideas with someone sympathetic and engaged is an immense help too. But what's maybe best about collaborating is psychological. The fact is that writing a novel is a big job. If you take it on all by yourself, it can be a lonely job too. (I like my own company fine. I just don't like it that much.) In other words: there's a strong tendency for writers to fall into depressions, to lose track of their goals and their visions, and to resort to pumping themselves up excessively just to get themselves to sit down at the keyboard.

Collaborators can help each other avoid these kinds of emotional temptations. They can keep each other focused, they can bolster each other's spirits up, and they can knock the pompous stuffing out of each other too. After all, why not laugh? It sure beats singing the blues. If the novel The Wife and I wrote suffers from the lack of an individual voice -- that lyrical, plaintive thing many readers do cherish -- at least it isn't a downer, and it isn't precious. It has energy, purpose, and whacking good humor -- and, of course, it wouldn't exist at all if it weren't for the partnership.

The Wife and I both pitched in with everything we could muster. Nonetheless, given our very different talent-sets, the responsibilities tended to take on certain semi-defined forms. Temperamentally, The Wife is half an actress and half a producer. Her producer-side has a gut instinct for snappy narrative hooks and a tremendous drive to give her projects concrete existence. Her actress-side has an awe-inspiring ability to move into -- to "inhabit," as theater people like to say -- situations and characters. The Wife is able to live out fictional situations as though they were real, and to get the results down on the page. Question: Why isn't Hollywood putting this much-too-rare talent of hers to well-paid use? Email bids happily entertained, as ever.

Me, although I'm very poor at what The Wife excels at, I have a couple of strengths of my own. One is invention. I seem to have a decent ability to generate lots of possibilities; I feel like my head is full of idea-Rolodexes that I can riffle through at will. My other strength is action-and-structure. I enjoy (and seem to have a little gift for) the craft of story-making -- the whole business of devising and arranging setups, payoffs, arcs, tonal shifts, points-of-view, and suspense. In any case, I get almost as absorbed in narrative problems as the Wife does in bringing characters to life.

Roughly: she comes up with a hook; I respond with a structure; she makes the characters live; I keep them moving towards a goal. In fact, of course, the process was much smudgier than that, as well as much more back-and-forth. Still: It's such a girl/guy way of sharing duties, isn't it? The Wife is all please-me/please-me gooiness and inspiration, flowing into and out of a variety of vessels. And then there's me, racing through possible solutions and knocking together a lot of ad hoc carpentry. She's feelings; I'm energy. She's dreams and decor; I'm the electricity and the plumbing. We're like an advertisement for evo-bio ways of thinking about the arts.

I've come out of our adventure vowing one thing: Where fiction-writing is concerned, I never want to do anything again but collaborate, and collaborate with The Wife specifically. Luckily, she seems to feel enthusiastic too. In the year since we wrote the novel we've been co-writing yet more fiction together. We're 15 linked short stories into one project, and we're midway into another novel too.

Like the girlie-porn novel that has just gone on sale, these new projects are all plenty raunchy. Unlike the first novel, these have all been projects we've cooked up for ourselves. We've taken advantage of this to push things a bit. Our commissioned novel, although X-rated, is a wholesome and square piece of EZ fiction. Emotionally straightfaced and tonally trustworthy, it's basically friendly raunch for mid-America. The fiction we have co-done since has been much more Downtown. It's filthy, yes, but it's also satirical and extreme; we think of it as "Short Cuts" meets "Candy." OK, we're flattering ourselves -- but why not? If artists weren't self-deluded, would there be any art at all?

Speaking of "Candy" and fiction-collaboration ... Another book I recently enjoyed reading was Niles Southern's "The Candy Men: The Rollicking Life and Times of the Notorious Novel Candy." For you youngsters out there: "Candy" was a wonderfully exuberant and irreverent comic-erotic novel written by Terry Southern and Mason Hoffenberg. Originally published in 1958 in Paris by Maurice Girodias' Olympia Press, "Candy" played a big role in the sex 'n' censorship battles of the 1950s and 1960s. Sales-wise, the novel was an international sensation that stayed on bestseller lists worldwide for months. Culturally, the book was a stick of dynamite whose explosion echoed for years; it's sometimes credited with helping create the '60s counterculture.

In his own book, Niles Southern -- Terry's son -- treats the novel "Candy" as though it were the subject of a biography. His book is the biography of the novel, basically; the story Niles Southern tells is about "Candy"'s birth, life, and fate. Terry Southern dreamed up "Candy" -- a bawdy, satirical, pop-America riff on Voltaire's "Candide." He sold the idea to Maurice Girodias for a few hundred bucks, then lured his friend and fellow exile-hipster Mason Hoffenberg into helping him get through the assignment.

When the book became a sensation, it hit very hard, becoming an instant source of controversy. Its sucess hit the three men hard too. A suave bandit, Girodias parlayed his notoriety into all kinds of schemes, each and every one of them a dodgy house of cards.

Terry Southern was a dedicated writer who yearned for success. When it came, he embraced it and kept right on writing, becoming one of the world's most highly-paid screenwriters. (His best-known screenplay was for Stanley Kubrick's "Dr. Strangelove.") Unfortunately, Terry Southern enjoyed celebrity a little too well, spending every penny of those lovely screenwriting earnings and passing his final years grateful to have a teaching position at Columbia.

A brilliant and self-destructive flake incapable of pulling together anything on his own -- "neurotic" doesn't begin to suggest his nature -- Mason Hoffenberg was devastated by the success of the novel. He wrote almost nothing after "Candy" (beyond letters, that is). He spent the rest of his life living on the legend of "Candy," hanging out with bigwig-hipster friends (Dylan, The Band), and alternately fighting and embracing a flamboyant drug habit.

As you might expect, what with the novel's worldwide success, ownership of "Candy" was contested, feuds between the friends erupted, multiple lawsuits were filed, and most of the money from the book's sales wound up in the pockets of lawyers. Niles Southern tells his outrageous and sad story very straight. His own book is an excellent chronicle of the "Candy" phenomenon, a perceptive look at friendship, success, and business, and a thorough introduction to a fascinating episode in publishing history.

So the collaboration between Mason Hoffenberg and Terry Southern didn't work out too well. It's no role model, damn it all to hell ... Well, no matter. The Wife and I -- both big fans of "Candy" -- plan to be much better, and much more long-lasting, writing partners than Terry Southern and Mason Hoffenberg were. Hats off to "Candy," though. It's a definite Blowhards Classic.

Here's the website of National Novel-Writing Month -- some people write novels even faster than The Wife and I did. Here's the official Terry Southern website. A "Candy Men" website is here. Here's a website devoted exclusively to photos of Ewa Aulin, the gorgeous Swedish creature who was miscast as the ever-eager, ever-credulous, and very American Candy in the lousy movie version of the novel. Here's a picture of Ewa I lifted from the site:

Ain't she cute? Hey, wouldn't the Heather Graham of ten or so years ago have made a terrific Candy?



UPDATE: If anyone wants to give the book a try, why, I'd be tickled! Send me an email at Michaelblowhard at that Gmail place, and I'll send you a link to the book's Amazon page. No need to buy a copy as a charity gesture, though -- the publisher owns the novel outright, so we get no royalties. Still, if you're in the mood for a light, sexy, pop read ...

posted by Michael at January 1, 2006


Hey, I happened to notice that this posted at about midnight. What, no recognition of the first post of the year?

Also, c'mon! You're really not going to tell us where to find your book? How about a hint?

Happy New Years Blowhardians,


Posted by: The Holzbachian on January 1, 2006 10:55 AM

Happy New Year and a Good first 2006 Morning to you all!

[one of the advantages of the old age: no more error of mixing the drinks, like vodka+beer; result - clear-ish head, almost capable to follow Michael's turns of thought]

Artistic collaborations has always been an unimaginable mystery to me. Even after this extended explanation, the picture is still not entirely in focus.
Trying to place myself in the cituation, first that comes to mind: you must be a very disciplined writer, and a very consistent in your input, being able to contribute a reliable stream. Take blogging, for instance - look at any popular blog, even most regular and well-written, and you'll sense sinusoid of author(s) mood/inspiration/topic choosing/etc. Writing the book solo, I would imagine you could shaffle these uneven pieces back and forth, patching here, mending there, storing some unexpected turns for later use. Is it possible in duet writing? After all, your coauthor relies on your stable canvas for later embroidery(or vice-versa).

I got interested in the question ever since I've read How we write by Ilf and Petrov (who were mentioned on this blog in August '04):
...In 1927 Ilf and Petrov formed a literary partnership, publishing at
first under a variety of names, including some whimsical ones, like Fyodor
Tolstoyevsky. In their joint "autobiography" Ilf and Petrov wrote :
It is very difficult to write together. It was easier for the
Goncourts, we suppose. After all, they were brothers, while we are not even
related to each other. We are not even of the same age. And even of
different nationalities; while one is a Russian (the enigmatic Russian
soul), the other is a Jew (the enigmatic Jewish soul)

(Maurice Friedberg, introduction to 12 Chairs, Hunter College, 1960)

Another thing that comes to mind: while half of the blogosphere is raking their industrious brains on "how to profit from blogging" question, Michael came up with at least one answer: using the blog for research on topics/target audience reactions/readers' input etc. Bravo!

Posted by: Tatyana on January 1, 2006 1:18 PM

A Happy New Year to You. Perhaps due to liquid induced cobwebs still hanging about my eyes, in reading your entry I saw no mention of the title of the book you 1/2 authored. A quick search in the amazon land resulted in these two gems, probably NOT the book you and your wife unleashed on the public.

So, say I was to be bound to my seat for a flight from NYC to Pyongyang, where can I find this delectable novel that will surely have me sitting in stir for a spell when I arrive in the Great Leader's land?

Posted by: DarkoV on January 1, 2006 1:31 PM

I loved reading this blog with all its enthusiasm and look forward to the book, if it doesn't burn its cover off in the mail. No chance of buying it in Montana. Although -- last time I was in Barnes & Noble in Great Falls they had on their shelves "Erotica for Black Men." (The explanation is Malmstrom Air Force Base there.)

Out here we've been following the fate of "An Unfinished Life" which was a more or less team written book by Mark and Virginia Spragg, though the book vendors assign the book to Mark, partly because he got much praise for previous books.

They took 6 years on their project, talking it out in the car while they drove the prairies. Virginia is a therapist, so they did it like a case-history: invented a patient and then talked out a way to cure him. The movie gets mixed reviews. So does the book. Most complain that it's too much like therapy -- those who love therapy (well, it's a kind of intimacy), love the story. Mark & Virginia don't seem to have had all that much fun, but they are "serious" people and were fronting this as a "serious" book. Otherwise people would label it a genre Western.

I think it's really tough to just launch out into "a book" without some kind of scaffold or premise. My first was a bio. The problem was too MUCH material. My second, just finished, is a set of 12 linked stories about Blackfeet that wouldn't "go" until I set up gimmicks and contradictions to rock me out of the stereotypes. It ain't great art, but it's useful, since one of the motivations was to show Blackfeet over time rather than the same old tipi tripe.

I've been dipping my toe in some of this erotica you speak of, and am impressed that what I've read so far doesn't depend upon nasty talk or degraded characters. Proper names for the right parts and more emphasis on the fiction than the friction.

So what's the name of the book?

Posted by: Mary Scriver on January 1, 2006 1:55 PM

Man what I would give for such an effective partner in computer programming.

Posted by: Jonathan on January 1, 2006 2:41 PM

While I find it hard to believe you two did not have to take frequent breaks during the writing of such a novel, I mainly find it fun to hear about other people's collaborative process. Surprise, surprise: novels can be co-written--and for the better--just like screenplays.

You do have a mighty lively and literate audience here at 2BH; maybe we should all collaborate on an epic poem? We could pass it along like Mac Premo and his sketchbook pals.

Oh--and a happy 2006 to all Blowhards, big and small.

Posted by: communicatrix on January 1, 2006 2:50 PM

I see a sort of tie-in between this entry and the recent one about images vs. words. Soft-core smut aimed at women takes the form of a novel. Men in seek of such titillation would seldom care for a novel, choosing pictures instead. Does this mean that women are verbal while men are visual?

Posted by: Peter on January 1, 2006 3:18 PM

We can't very well ask the name of the book, people; it'd blow our host's cover, and you all know how boring the Valerie Plame case has been. You don't want to sit through that kind of thing again, do you?

Congrats on the book, Michael, whatever it is!

Posted by: Brian on January 1, 2006 6:06 PM

Congratulations, old boy. And young lady.

Posted by: Brent Anderson on January 1, 2006 6:23 PM

Very good marketing! :)
He won't tell us the name of the book or where to buy it etc etc; and so soon it will be the only thing of which the blogosphere is talking!
Well done, Michael!

Posted by: David Sucher on January 1, 2006 8:44 PM

Congratulations. Writing a book is hard, isn't it? I wrote a book of collective biographies with two other people. Of course we had to do research, but that's the fun part--i'm a librarian.

My first draft was always so howlingly bad that I wanted to go and live in the deep woods under the name of Sanders. When I next looked at it, I found it salvageable. I met some interesting people (some of the biographees are still living). But revisions were awfully hard. I don't see how anyone can do it for a living.

Posted by: miriam on January 1, 2006 9:05 PM

I'm thinking about other collaborations. In the Nat Lit world we all admired Louise Erdrich and Michael Dorris who collaborated, some times more successfully than others. It seemed one of the more admirable and strength-giving aspects of their marriage. But a flipped switch in Dorris somehow led to tragedy and Erdrich has paid a high price. However, it appears -- now that the team is halved and in looking at some of the books they wrote independently -- that is was Louise who had the characters, the emotion, the dynamics of fate -- while Dorris carried the structure, the accountability, the plot points. So there you go in terms of gender stereotype.

And I'm thinking about "Eyes Wide Shut" and what the intense collaboration between married couple and director did to the actors' marriage -- probably to their capacity to be intimate as well. Think too much, reflect too much, use too many mirrors, and there's the caterpillar on the bed with ALL feet in the air -- none on the ground anymore.

Also, I've been thinking about the list of "sexy" things forbidden by the editors, trying to think what they might be. I remember talking to a bunch of kids once about tattoos and piercing -- which are almost boring now -- what they wanted to talk about was amputations ("Oh, only fingers," they said.) and blood-letting. (You wear it in a vial around your neck like certain famous actors, both with others now.) "Something that will really change you, that will be irreversible and unique," they said. I presume the editors didn't want c*pr*philia or asphyxia. At least I hope so. (Sorry to have to misspell things to avoid spam.)

Prairie Mary

Posted by: Mary Scriver on January 1, 2006 11:26 PM

I don't get the secrecy, myself. I've looked the book up on Amazon and on the publisher's website, and there's no hint of the identity of the authors -- in fact, there's no hint that the book is ghostwritten at all, despite the fact that the nominal author is, shall we say, not the kind of person one would expect to be writing 80,000-word novels in her spare time. So my guess is that Michael's coyness is nothing to do with fear of outing himself, but much more to do with some kind of contractual obligation not to reveal that the book is ghostwritten in the first place.

Posted by: Felix on January 2, 2006 3:45 AM

A sweet read. :) Congrats, you two, and many more. (Presently on my ninth or tenth with-hubby collab, though we're presently doing it more as screenplays than as books.)

Posted by: Diane Duane on January 2, 2006 7:12 AM

I'm not certain ghostwritten is the right word.

But some publishing houses essentially demand that you use a pen-name, which they own. That way, if you are tremendously successful, you can't just walk away to another publisher without starting from scratch. An interesting (if in my mind not entirely ethical) way of chaining authors to the house permanently while most of the power still resides with the publisher.

Posted by: Tom West on January 2, 2006 8:27 AM

Shucks, thanks to everyone for the sweet comments and happy new year's back atya. Yeah, I have to do what I can to keep my real-life i.d. quiet, so many thanks to any and all for discretion. If anyone's curious to check the novel out, drop me an email and I'll send you the Amazon link. No need to feel that you should show support, by the way: the publisher owns the book outright, so we get no royalties. Still, if you're in the mood for a very light, sweet and dirty read ...

Y'all have me thinking about something ... An axis that extends from, on the one end, the whole solitary-genius-in-the-garrett thing, to (on the other) arrangements like filmmaking, magazines, theater. I suppose there's no reason anyone has to pick any one spot they're most comfortable at -- why not pick and choose from project to project. Still ... I think many people tend towards one end or the other, don't you? I remember chatting with a filmmaker once. He told me that he simply doesn't spark off when he's working by himself. He needs the energy and company of other people -- that's when his own creative energies kick into play. And god knows many performers get off creatively on the crazy messiness of putting on shows (meanwhile fantasizing about how much they'd love solo creative control). Then there are those poets who burn white hot sitting there with no company but their muse in lonely apartments. I've found (a little to my surprise) that I like some company, myself. Getting a chance to meet and swap notes with visitors to this blog is a joy. Being able to piggyback on The Wife's humor and talents couldn't have been nicer -- it probably made me a more helpful person than I'd tend to be on my own.

Are y'all working in circumstances that suit you where the solo/collaborative question is concerned? I confess I have a bit of a tendency to fantasize about working alone and unimpeded. In fact when I try to do so I often wind up feeling blue and clogged-up. Jonathan in his comment hints that computer programming can be mighty lonely. But god knows other people can become a pain too.

It seems to me that one of the things we tend to imagine when we develop a skill or go into a field is having a life there. You don't just think about the hard work of putting-words-on-a-page, for instance; you also imagine what a groovy life that might bring -- smart friends, fun and intelligent colleagues, appreciation from fans, etc. Mornings exploding with creativity, evenings spent out over highballs with a charming crowd. And then, after all the effort it takes to make it into a field, the reality often turns out to be very different than what you'd hoped for .... So it can be doubly lovely to stumble into arrangements that are cheery-making.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on January 2, 2006 10:51 AM

Congrats on the bouncin' baby book!

And welcome to the published author's club.

Sorry to be late on this, but I crawled in last night from Honolulu via LA with four hours sleep under my belt after sipping drinks New Year's Eve at the Royal Hawaiian. (I suffer so that the rest of you don't have to.)

Anyway, co-writing sounds a lot more pleasant than grinding it out single-handed. I had to go solo on my book because it was vaguely scholarly and there wasn't any babe handy to share the load. But it was the predominant book in the field of local population forecasting for many years, possibly because it was the only book on the subject for those many years.

When you find your niche, expoit it!

Posted by: Donald Pittenger on January 2, 2006 7:02 PM

Congratulations, Michael!

I know you don't read sf, but the Usenet group rec.arts.sf.composition is a very disciplined bunch of folk who talk a lot about the mechanics of getting-a-novel-written-and-marketed, and they've had some good discussions on collaborations. Some fairly big names post there: Patricia Wrede, Pamela Dean, Charlie Stross, and Mary Gentle, ampng others.

Just for a data point, I'm one poet who can't write in a lonely garret. I have to talk to people about what I'm doing (but few people want to listen — that's why I blog!), I almost always have a prose "something to say" before I start versifying, and about half the time I even know the formal structure I want to use.

Posted by: Mike Snider on January 3, 2006 12:41 PM

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