Random Thoughts: On Writing, Politics, and Silence

Today, I am supposed to be writing a dinner scene among a family between whom there is no political agitation. Given the political agitation that is currently in the very air we breathe this is no easy task. The brain desperately wants to engage with that while the particular demands of the story I am writing now require that my brain engages with something else. The fictional family’s conflict that I am writing about has to do with combatting negative paranormal energies that they are, as humans on the living side of the equation, unaware of. This has nothing to do with politics, as far as the moment goes. Except that I remember in fiction, as in politics, conflict arises when character agendas diverge and come into opposition. So maybe I can use the present turmoil as a way in, as I write, even though the characters are fighting with ghosts rather than an oppressive regime. Maybe, if I can trick my brain into understanding that all conflict in story is still a mirror of conflict in general I can make it do what I want it to do. In a sense, this is sort of what writers do every day under any circumstance when we sit down to confront the blank page, the story that we are trying to write that has nothing to do with our real lives. Except that these aren’t normal circumstances, are they?

I don’t have any easy answers. We still have our work. We still have our voices whether we are writing escapist fiction or political allegories or essays or articles or engaging in rigorous journalism. But one of the thing artists of all stripes do is use everything around them in their work. Of course, we will use this too. This isn’t the only thing I think about of course. What we present online, on social media, or in fiction can never tell the full story of what is in our heads.

I’m thinking a lot lately about silence. There is power in silence at certain times. The silent protest, the vigil, the silence you employ in your personal life to protect others. The silence you choose in the workplace because you want to pick your battles wisely. The silence you choose because it is better in some cases to listen than to shout. Example: when someone speaks about marginalization that you yourself do not experience it is better to listen than to weigh in. Example: when you are in a classroom setting and are there to learn something that you previously did not know. Example: when you do not know if you can trust the person in front of you with personal information.

There may come a time very soon when some of us choose silence in order to use resources other than our voice in order to save others.

But when someone demands your silence you can bet your ass that something very shady is going on. Someone’s rights are about to be violated. Someone’s dignity is about to be forcibly stripped from them. Abuse is about to occur.

It is not comfortable for everyone to get loud. But now is the time to get very loud. It is past the time to get very loud.

In the past I often opted for silence on certain topics because by nature, I am a harmony seeker. I wish to understand before I speak.

One thing that I understand right now is that silence is no longer appropriate. Human rights are being attacked. The government currently is trying to push progress back. The arts are under attack, and yes, science is under attack. All of this will negatively impact human beings. It will negatively impact all of us, even those that support the Neon Narcissist because here’s the thing. Narcissists require approval. They are a sucking hole of need in this regard. When that man stops hearing accolades, or the accolades get repetitive enough that they begin to register as insincere his paranoia will grow stronger, and even those heaping accolades on that man will come under attack from him. He is already doing this with the press. You, in the Neon Narcissist’s line of sight, you might suffer last since you are playing along, but trust that you will suffer the worst. Do not be silent about his abuses when they happen. Get very fucking loud.

I know what happens when you remain silent in the face of an abuser who is like this. The behavior escalates, because when they can’t get accolades, they will seek a reaction, any reaction, even a negative one just to feel like they are in control. They are not in control, they are in chaos. This should frighten every single one of us. This should frighten those in the inner circle the most. This should give pause to those who are in support of the administration. Because the Neon Narcissist will not stop with attacking the enemies that he can see in front of him, he will go on to those he imagines are enemies. And eventually, those people who experience his wrath will be those who supported him.

Random Thoughts: Just Checkin’ In

Hey, everybody.

So the political landscape right now I suspect has a lot of us fiction writers both distracted and energized, focused and scattered, angry and hopeful. All of these swirling and conflicting emotional states are tough to cope with. We are distracted from the work of writing fiction because the horror show of what is going on in American governance seems like dystopian fiction. It is hard to look away to focus on our work, it is hard to believe that our work is significant enough to merit stepping away from the news cycle and missing something crucial. But our lives and our work are crucial, too. Stories are important. Whenever you lose sight of that remember politics is also made of story. Want to change the stories that play out in real life? Write stories that nurture empathy in your audience. Reminder: All stories, whether escapist fiction or literary, nurture empathy in an audience.

So that’s the distracted part, here is the energized part. We are all seeing people come together to work against injustice and tyranny. Anger, when channeled into action can be a wonderful motivator. This is true of fiction writing also. There are some writers who do beautiful work that is fueled by anger. Anything that we experience as artists can be used as food or fuel for art. Use it for your work as you are using it for action. This, also merges with where we are focused. We know what is causing the anger and that cause points us in certain directions regarding our work and our civic duties.

But we are also scattered. It can be overwhelming to decide which call to action to heed. Which organization to volunteer for, whether to go out in the world and march or stay home and use your time to call your representatives. The American people are being attacked on so many different fronts right now it can be difficult to prioritize. And we have our personal limits. We have families and day jobs and obligations. We have things in our lives we must attend to because if we don’t no one else will, but the call to action right now is the same. If we don’t no one else will.

So pick something. Easier said than done, I know, but if we all choose at least one action, large or small, we can and will make a difference. Use your art, or not, but know that art itself can be an act of political defiance. When I wrote about the LGBT characters in Getting On With It, it did not feel like a political act. The manuscript was completed before November 8, 2016. It absolutely feels that way now. Like I said, any story asks for empathy for those who might be unlike you, whether that’s the author’s intention or not.

When I was in college, I remember having discussions about different political stances and movements and types of discourse and ways of approaching causes. There was a lot of judgment and blame bandied about in those discussions. (There still is.) This person isn’t doing enough, this group is too aggressive, this one is too quiet, this other one is too loud. At the end of those discussions it can feel as if there is nothing that you can do right even among your allies in a particular cause. This is difficult to confront, but we have to decide as individuals how we will approach things. We have to choose our own paths and stick to them. No one can do it for you, which seems lonely, but I guarantee you will find other people walking alongside you on the same path.

Whatever else you decide to do, though, keep writing.

 

It is almost here… NANOWRIMO

November is almost here. You know what that means. NANOWRIMO DESCENDS UPON US WITH THE FURY OF WORDS THAT MUST. LAND. ON. THE. PAGE.

National Novel Writing Month.

Most folks who have been considering participating in NanoWrimo have already decided, yay or nay? I can’t do it this year with six projects in various stages of draft. I’ve got things started that I am determined to finish and Nano requires a new first draft of a thing.

I have, however, participated in NanoWrimo in the past. For me, it was a lot of fun, but I also learned a few things about my own writing process. For a person who has ambition around writing fiction this is incredibly valuable. If you, nascent novelist, also have ambitions around writing fiction, I would like to provide a gentle nudge in the direction of participation.

One of the most important things around fiction writing is learning how to finish work that you start. This is a road toward a complete first draft. While the word count requirement to win NanoWrimo is not, strictly speaking, book length, it is enough word count to determine, at the end of it all, whether your story idea will work once you’ve polished it.

Whether or not you have something workable at the end of it, you will have learned whether the kamikaze approach to writing 1,700 words a day works for you. That’s not nothing. if you are a person who has already started and finished long work then maybe the challenge for you is producing content at a relatively blistering pace. Doing this can teach you how to work with deadlines and how you, as an individual writer, work under pressure.

Then there is the lesson that you learn when the race is over. At the end of the month, when you have your pile of words, will you remain motivated enough to complete the work and then edit? Because editing is where things become publishable. Editing is crazy important.

That said, for a lot of us who have been writing for a while NanoWrimo can be a way to force us to shut down the inner editor for a month and simply produce work. We can play on the page unfettered by an impulse toward perfectionism (or even legibility). We need, sometimes, to throw away the million and one restrictive lessons around grammar, narrative structure, expectations of genre, etc… in order to produce work. This is harder to do than it sounds. Nano can provide the jolt and support community it requires.

As true as it is that editing is crazy important, it is also true that we get nowhere if we have produced no work to edit. Nano shows us one road toward producing that work. If you are not sure about your process, this is a good way to learn something about what works for you, and what doesn’t.

That’s my two cents.

 

 

 

Misadventures in the Writing Life: Random Updates and Writer-talk

So, I had a vacation from ye olde daye job recently during which I, of course, overbooked myself. I also had an awesome time and I have to admit it was really painful to go back to work after spending most of my week with other writer/book folk.

I went to my first writer’s retreat, an event organized and hosted by Penn Jersey Women Writers. It was, to use an overused word, awesome. I fear I may now be addicted to these sorts of events, but you know, time and money factor in and after some figuring, I realized I won’t be able to attend something like this again until spring. (Which maybe accounts for some of the difficulty in returning to ye olde daye job.)

One of the most important aspects of attending an event like this is hang time with other folks who are going through the same, or similar things, that you are as a writer. Most of the time I am sitting on my mountain working on stuff alone, and sometimes this is great, but other times it helps to be reminded that I’m not alone, that there are other folks struggling with the same things in regards to the art, or who have struggled with the same thing, came out the other side and who now have wisdom to impart. Perhaps that’s just a really long way of saying that attending events by and for writers reminds you (okay, me) that you are connected to something beyond yourself. Plus, there is always more to learn. Writer-brain likes learning.

The first speaker at the conference, Megan Hart, was really energetic at an early hour, which, for me was perfect after a long, early morning drive to the event. She spoke about productivity, which reminds me of this article that’s been floating around writerly internet this past week.

So, here’s the thing. I am committed to writing four books a year. Of course, when I say that, what it means is that I am writing four first drafts in a year, it does not mean that I am also publishing four books a year. It goes, first draft, let it sit while I work on the next thing, then I finish the next thing and circle back to the first thing for first round edits. Then the first thing goes out for feedback. Then I work on the third thing and circle back to the second thing and so on. That’s just how I do it. A publishing schedule is a totally separate animal from the actual act of writing. I think what pokes me the most about the article is that it appears to conflate the two things. Anything more I could say about this has already been said by Chuck Wendig’s post responding the article. I’m with him. There are so many different ways to approach this thing that we do, and no one person has the answers. While essays like that Huffo-po piece certainly provide food for thought, and stuff to consider, nothing anyone tells you about writing is gospel. Some advice will work well for you, some of it will be useless. Take what works and throw out the rest.

So, back to vacation. I got to visit my old stomping grounds and dropped off copies of Aliens in the Soda Machine and Other Strange Tales at Webster’s Bookstore in State College, PA and Café Lemont in Lemont. You know what that means, right? IT MEANS I DRANK ALL OF THE COFFEE IN THE LAND!

WHEEEEEEE!!!

Of course, here’s where what happened to my time also gets a little bit hazy…

MMMM CAFFEINE….

 

 

Misadventures in the Writing Life: In Which Kayne Milhomme Answers Some Q’s

Kayne Milhomme is a historical mystery author who is part of the same critique group that I occasionally yammer on about in this corner of the internet, though we’ve never met in person. His debut novel, Grace and Disgrace, promises intrigue and adventure in a hunt for the Templar Diamond. He’s graciously agreed to answer a bunch of questions about his journey here.

YAY!

Without further preamble, here’s the interview!

1) What draws you to the historical mystery genre?

I suppose there is a ‘double’ draw when it comes to the historical mystery genre, because both history and mystery are compelling genres for me.

History: I believe that history holds all kinds of hidden gems when it comes to storytelling. They say truth is stranger than fiction, and that makes for some good content. Not only in terms of entertainment, but in terms of gaining a frame of reference and perspective for certain events and ways of life that existed before our time. To be immersed in the past can be a very meaningful experience for a reader, and the same is true for me as a writer. So in short, history is a great device for building a story from components that are not only entertaining, but relevant to the study of who we are, and how we became that.

Mystery: This is a more straightforward answer. I love to embed my stories with puzzles, riddles, misdirection—even when I am writing in other genres, I cannot help adding twists and turns into the story. When I write mystery, those are expected—which makes the challenge of writing them even more fun.

Putting the two together truly creates something that is greater than the sum of its parts—historical mysteries are alive with the elegance, the brutality, and enigmatic nature of the past, and that’s a perfect atmosphere to set a well-crafted mystery in.

2) You’ve spoken about having been an agented writer, and then choosing to self-publish. What kind of adjustments did you have to make in order to do so? What would you say to other authors in similar situations who are considering the same?

As a debut author, the main adjustment was accepting the fact that my novel would not be picked up by a major publisher without an agent. It was basically losing a credible connection to the traditional publishing world, and accepting the fact that I would be tackling the problem in a different way than I had originally planned. I also had to adjust my schedule to allow for time to market the novel, which shouldered its way into writing time. These were all challenging adjustments to make, especially for a debut (i.e. unknown) author.

But there are so many tools available to the self-publisher, and a wonderful indie community that is very supportive—the experience has been invaluable.

It’s hard to give advice on this topic, because each author-agent situation is different, and a decision to self-publish is based on many factors. Mine was based on the fact that my agent represented the first version of my novel, and that version was not picked up by the major publishing houses. When I completed my second version (which is much better, by the way!), my agent believed I would have a better chance getting the manuscript with a new agent rather than having her resend the manuscript around again. That was the point when I knew I was going to take matters into my own hands and really try to understand the industry, and get experience on the marketing and publishing side. But that choice was based on my circumstances, which is why the only advice I would give is for authors, whether agented or not, to get to know the industry. Yes, as writers we should be focused on writing—but I don’t think we should ignore the fact that it is not only an art, but also a business.

3) When did you first know you wanted to be a fiction writer?

Very early on—I’d say the first tangible proof was in the third grade when I wrote a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ type short story for a class assignment. This particular story had the reader navigating a sailboat on a mysterious scientific mission in the deep ocean when a massive gale strikes, and depending on the reader’s choices, ending in several unpleasant manners: under a crashing wave, in a fatal confrontation with a sea monster, or landing on a deserted island, to name a few. I loved writing the story, creating the scenes, introducing the tension and the danger. I read it over and over, even though it was only a dozen pages, imagining stories within the story. It was certainly my favorite assignment all year. And I continued from there, simply writing stories whenever I got the chance—and of course reading voraciously. Lots and lots of reading!

4) What do you think is the main role of a fiction writer?

That’s a great question, and one I have never truly pondered before. I can really only speak for myself, and use that as a representative answer that may hold some truth for other fiction writers. For me, the goal is to produce an entertaining and meaningful experience for the reader that stimulates both an emotional response and leads to critical thinking.

5) As a first time author/publisher what surprises you the most? What was harder or easier than you expected? What is the biggest challenge, or the greatest joy you’ve experienced so far?

The amount of work to market a book. Even though it should not have surprised me (I had been warned), it did.

To be fair, I had just completed writing, editing, revising, reviewing, revising, reviewing, editing, revising, editing, setting aside, revising, editing, and publishing the novel (maybe not in that exact order), and (justifiably so, Ibelieve) felt as if I had completed a herculean task. As such, I thought it was going to be downhill from there.

But it wasn’t. Marketing is an entirely different kind of challenge to writing (for me, at least), and to someone who is not versed in the intricacies of how to market, the amount of time and commitment necessary to get the novel exposure was certainly a surprise. It felt like completing a marathon, and then discovering that the marathon was just a warm up.

All of that said, it has been an amazing experience. It is a tremendous feeling to get responses from readers (whether in person, email, or in a review on Amazon) about my writing, which makes it worth it and more.

Connecting with readers is a unique and very special experience, and is what it is all about for me. The fact that my writing has reached readers and that they have responded the way they have has been by far my greatest joy.

6) Would you describe yourself as a plot-driven writer or a character-driven writer?

The characters are what speak to me, and in essence, truly write the book. As soon as I become intimate with them, I feel as if it is no longer ‘me’ writing the book, but the characters sharing their experiences through me and my typewriter (ok, laptop—that just didn’t sound as elegant). In that way, it is almost as if I am the first reader of the novel, rather than the writer. However, even with that rich character-driven experience, the plot is a critical element. Without it, I can have a grand old time with the characters as they write their experiences through me, but at the end of the day, all I’ve done is captured ‘a day in the life’ without any true purpose. The conflict, the suspense, the tension, the mystery, the big reveals—all of those elements require plotting for me to get it just right. Therefore, I create the setting and the important plot points ahead of time, and then allow the characters to take me along the journey. I would liken it to a hike through the hillside without a path, but with certain necessary waypoints along the way—perhaps the winding river in the valley below, and then onto the thicket in the distance. The characters choose how to get there and therefore create the experience of the journey, but there are preordained destination points along the way that act as their beacons, assuring they stay on track.

7) When in various stages of draft how important is peer to peer feedback to your process? What advice would you give to anyone thinking about joining a critique group for the first time?

Peer to peer feedback is absolutely essential. I cannot stress how important it is to collect comments during the writing process. I may be somewhat unique in the fact that I seek out feedback both during the ‘live’ creation of the novel—each chapter gets an external review as I write—and then the completed manuscript  (and revisions thereof) gets reviewed in turn.

My advice regarding critique groups would be foremost—join one! Second, find a group that is passionate about participating in the craft (and not getting together just to chat about the craft), and who can give objective, truthful feedback in a constructive manner. Pats on the back may be nice for a boost once and while, but if it’s not a true reflection of the writing, the critique is not worthwhile. Also, when being critiqued, I recommend refraining from responding with justifications or explanations to constructive criticism—you won’t have a chance to do that with your readers, so why do it with your reviewers? That said, open discussion and probing about a reader’s comments for a fuller understanding is fine—just don’t be defensive about it. Also, when you are acting in the role of reviewer, be honest and respectful to the author.

8) Once you’ve started writing a project, what keeps you motivated to finish?

The story itself. Once a story has formed in the early chapters and taken a life of its own, I become captivated by it—even if it’s no good. At a fundamental level, I need to know what’s going to happen next—I literally need to answer the questions posed by my own imagination. Yes, as the author I have (or should have) a roadmap of where the story is headed ahead of time (the outline of the plot), but in actuality I can’t be sure that the roadmap is exactly how everything will ultimately go; and even if the roadmap is followed, the journey is a complete mystery until I experience it. That mystery, and the excitement of experiencing how it is revealed, is what keeps me motivated. And to heighten the focus every so slightly, it is truly the characters themselves that I get attached to, so when I say that I become captivated by the story once it has taken on a life of its own, I mean their story—the characters themselves.

9) When writing Grace and Disgrace what was the most fun you had writing a scene? What was the hardest part to get right?

It’s hard to choose just one scene! In general, my favorite scenes to write were the character-driven scenes, which are the ones that explore the multiple layers and dimensions of the characters, as opposed to those that move the plot forward. That said, there were scenes focused on certain plot points that were also very enjoyable to write, especially those where certain clues or events critical to the mystery were introduced or solved. But to choose one scene that was truly the most fun to write—I’ll have to say it was the scene where Tuohay got his first experience riding in a new contraption known as an “automobile”. You’ll have to read it the novel to find out why!

10) Do you believe in writer’s block? If so, how do you handle it? If not, why not?

Not really. That doesn’t mean that I don’t experience the writing doldrums, though. But my interpretation of those experiences is more akin to what a runner may endure on a day-to-day basis while training for a marathon: some training days are better than others, and the reason behind that is sometimes clear, and other times a mystery. But the bottom line is that practice makes perfect, and in a craft such as writing, no matter how accomplished a writer may be, writing is always practice—even the finished product. So I simply keep at it.

Misadventures in the Writing Life: In Which Rune Skelley Answers some Q’s!

Rune Skelley is the name of co-authors and marriage partners Jen and Kent. They write amazing genre fiction together and run a critique group that has been instrumental in my own growth as a writer. They are experts in the fine art of collaboration, which they go into in detail over at the Skelleyverse. But they’ve also graciously agreed to answer questions here.

Enjoy!

1) As collaborative authors, what would you say is the key ingredient to a productive creative collaboration?

Kent: Trust. If you don’t have that, nothing works. Your own ideas won’t get voiced if you don’t trust your partner not to dismiss or attack them, and you won’t be able to compromise, to surrender a share of control, to a partner you don’t trust. (There are lots of other things you need, too. We did a couple of posts about some of them, way back when we started our blog.)

Jen: Trust is big, but I think that even bigger is the desire to work together. Writing together entails a lot of compromise, and compromise isn’t always an easy thing. A fruitful collaboration requires both partners to be fully invested in the process, not just the outcome.

2) When did you each first know that you wanted to write? When did you first decide to write together?

Kent: I can’t remember a time that I wasn’t writing. I had teachers early on who encouraged me and built up my confidence, and teachers later on who pushed me and helped me check my ego (an ongoing project…). Role-playing games gave me a lot of training as a storyteller, too. Come to think of it, D&D is a form of collaboration — the DM and the other players are all making it up as they go. The game provides rules and structure, but it still all comes down to people being able to invent a fun narrative as a team.

As far as writing together, the way Kent remembers it: I would write shorts now and then, and I had a novel that I kept adding to, which was eventually going to require the entire known universe for hard-drive space. I thought of writing as “my” thing, because arrogance I suppose. Meanwhile Jen was part of the gaming group, and she wrote a story that I really liked and which she’d asked for my input on. So we had a good sense that we could cooperate well on creative projects. I remember she was the one who got inspired with the image that launched us into our first novel, which was the first writing project that I ever really took seriously.

Jen: I’ve always been a writer, too. I still have some stuff that I wrote in elementary school, like an odd little story about a lion who solves a mystery with his animal friends. Only this lion has 3 eyes. Not for any plot reasons. Apparently I just thought it would be cool.

How we started writing together, the Jen version: I enjoyed the RPG stuff, but always wanted to explore the non-combat parts more than a campaign would allow. So I basically shanghaied Kent into writing stories with me.

3) What comes first? Character or plot?

Kent: Both. (Heh.) Either one can serve as a seed crystal, and we talk about the possibilities and match up a plot and a character that resonate. From my perspective, I feel like I usually start with plot and Jen usually starts with character. We both feel it’s crucial that the end product be character-driven, so if the plot demands certain events that means we must compellingly set up our characters so they’ll do the things that cause those events. (Events which then impact the characters, and the wheel turns on.)

Jen: Around the writing cave, Kent is infamous for coming up with story “ideas” that are more like concepts or pretenses. It’s like, “Hey, babe, I just thought of a great story idea! It’s like the world is the same as this one, only all the molecules are rotated a quarter turn counterclockwise!” And my reply is, “So what happens?” And he rarely has an answer to that. So it’s sort of up to me to find a way into his concepts, and that way is through a character.

4) What, to you, is the most important role that fiction plays in modern life?

Kent: Wow. Escape is important, even though there’s a pejorative connotation to “escapist entertainment.” Life’s hard, and we all need a vacation now and then. I also think fiction can educate, showing us the mistakes of others that we might learn from them in safety. Fiction encompasses filmic media, but written fiction, specifically, serves a vital role of preserving literacy. The ability to synthesize images and feelings that have been encoded as marks on a page or screen protects us from mental atrophy. So, it’s very important. (Plus, it gives our tribal consciousness something cohere to, a set of shared myths that provide a basis of common understanding among humanity.)

Jen: What he said, only less pompous.

5) When did your love of speculative fiction begin?

Kent: On the first page of the first Roger Zelazny book I held in my hand. I read Zelazny without first reading any “hard” SF or “high” fantasy, and so I internalized and fell in love with his seamless blending of tropes before I knew how post-modern-adjacent it all was.

Jen: When I was little I was really into reading about UFOs and other creepy topics, trying to figure out if I believed in any of it. That’s probably where it started for me.

6) Do you believe in writer’s block? If so, how do you deal with it? If not, why?

Kent: Um, yes, it’s real. I feel like I’m way out at the lean end of the bell curve for it, that I’ve been fortunate to seldom suffer it, but it’s certainly not a myth. As we’ve posted on our blog, our partnership and process both help to buffer us from blockages. I really like having my work cut out for me, in the original sense of that saying. I like when all the materials are prepped and stacked up within easy reach, when I know how many shoes I must make and what they’re supposed to look like. I guess it’s my belief that writer’s block is 90% lack of preparation, that it has almost nothing to do with whether or not you’re a creative or talented person.

Jen: I think every writer has experienced minor instances of it. I’m lucky enough to have never been bogged down for more than a day or two. I have experienced lack of motivation, which I don’t think is the same thing. Our projects are so complicated that there’s always something besides prose composition to work on. When the words won’t come there’s always editing or other tasks to turn to. That keeps me engaged with the project while my subconscious gets its shit together.

7) Out of the novels you have completed, are there any characters you would love to meet, or run away from?

Kent: I’d run away from most of them. Seriously, even the nice ones, because we give them so many reasons to hate us. (However, I have major crushes on most of the females and would probably make very foolish choices in their presence.) If I had pick someone from our books to travel cross-country with, it’d probably be either James or Bishop. We would find lots to talk about, I’m not confused by my feelings for them, and they seem the least inclined to vengeance. For just hanging out, I gotta say Vesuvius.

Jen: You’re name-dropping characters nobody knows yet!

There are plenty of characters I would avoid. There are some that I would enjoy having a conversation with. And there are one or two that I would chase after if I wasn’t married. And if they didn’t know that I was responsible for all the bad shit in their lives.

8) For someone new to collaborating, what would you say they should look for in a potential writing partner?

Kent: The magic word here is “sympatico.” It’s not going to be enough to be tolerant of one another’s tastes and interests; you have to feel passion for the same things. It’s not that you need a clone of yourself, just that the Venn diagram’s region of overlap must contain the stuff you will be writing about, mostly. You should both be immersed in the project, both kind of obsessed with building *that* world and animating *those* characters. The partnership is bigger than either one of you alone, though. Don’t throw away the stuff in the other parts of the diagram — use it! Teach each other. Trust each other.

Jen: Make sure it’s someone that you really, really enjoy talking to. You’re going to have a ton of conversations, so make sure your partner is someone you like to spend time with. And you have to respect each other.

9) What’s next in the creative life of Rune Skelley?

Kent: We’re about two-thirds of the way through our current first draft. So, working on that for the foreseeable future.

Jen: We are also talking about the next book, which will be a sequel to the Science Novel. Right now we have a ton of ideas, and most of them are incompatible.

Kent:  Those conversations are still in the big-bang stage, coming up with more and more possibilities, after which we’ll see what starts to coalesce. We take notes about these ideas, but I find that the natural filtering process of reviewing things from memory really helps. You don’t like the thought of losing anything, but what you really want is to be able to focus on the very best, which means you have to put aside the other stuff.