When I asked Catt and Sean to guest blog I had no idea what they would write about. I thought they would just give us an excerpt from Dash and Dingo, their wonderful new adventure which was released earlier this week by Dreamspinner Press. And it really is an adventure! I just finished the book and … what a rush. It’s a return to the days of rollicking good fun and a quest for the impossible dream, something that mostly only two guys seem capable of (sorry ladies):)
When you read D & D you’ll understand what I mean! This is a short introduction to what I’m sure will become a great writing team capable of doing what most great writing teams do … read each other’s minds.
He felt his palm grow sweaty and his grip began to loosen a little. He didn’t dare look up at John’s face, afraid that he might read the inevitability of his fall into the chasm below. Instead he concentrated on the minute flexing of the sinews in John’s forearm, straining as their hands were locked around each other’s wrists. The wind caught his jacket like a sail, making him sway against the jagged rocks.
“Don’t you dare fucking let go,” John growled.
They hadn’t even had one night together, Robert reflected. He’d never dared to tell John how he felt and now he might never get a chance.
Desperately, Robert scrabbled at the rock cliff with his feet, searching one last time for a foothold as his fingers cramped and he started to slip.
“Okay, you take it!”
“Who, me? You left John flat on his stomach holding Robert dangling off the side of a cliff! How were you planning to get them out of there?”
“I don’t know. It’s your turn. Have fun, see you tomorrow!”
grumble “Dang, why does he always do that to me? How the hell am I supposed to save them? Serve him right if I just let Robert fall and die. Then John gets to go to the funeral. The End.”
That’s what writing in a collaboration is like, exciting, suspenseful, frustrating, adventurous and ultimately one of the most rewarding experiences I ever had.
Of course, it helped that I had another author like Sean Kennedy with whom to write Dash & Dingo: The Search for the Tasmanian Tiger.
We are great friends, although we have never met face to face. In this age of the interwebz, it’s possible to carry on the most intimate of relationships with a person on another continent. In fact, perhaps the very distance is partly what makes it possible to be so open and vulnerable with another person.
And you have to be able to strip your soul if you’re going to share sex scenes, romantic scenes and the innermost doubts of your characters.
We had a history of editing each other’s work before we started to write together, and we are very tough with each other. I have enormous respect for Sean as a person and a writer. There are times when I’m completely in awe of how he thinks and how he manages to get emotion down on a page in black and white. He is incredibly talented.
So when he said he would like to try writing with me, I was eager to jump at the chance. It just so happened that two men, Dash and Dingo, had come to call on my imagination and demand that I tell their story. I didn’t know much beyond their characters and that they went on an adventure together that changed them and bonded them for the rest of their lives. I told Sean their names, and just like that, he provided a setting and an improbable quest that appealed to me, and the first adventure was born.
And we really did toss the story back and forth like that; we took turns working the characters into a corner and the beauty of a collab is that then you get to say, oh well, maybe Sean’ll think of some way to get them out, so you just email it off with your best wishes. And an evil chuckle.
In the anonymous world of fanfic, when we met, I assumed that Sean was a woman, simply because of the overwhelming percentage of women who write gay male erotica. But something kept telling me that he was different. I kept saying to him, your men are so guy-like! Of course, then I found out that he is a man, which made it all the more thrilling for me.
But of course, the urge to write is more than that. I would love it if someday it turned out that I’d been writing great literature, but even more I just want to tell a good story, one where people keep reading to find out what is going to happen next.
Most of us read for a bit of escapism. Even exciting jobs and careers are balanced by the humdrum parts of daily life, cleaning, cooking, taking out the garbage, paying the bills. I’d always hoped not to be owned by my possessions, but life is just easier if you have someplace to live and store your stuff.
And sometimes, say if you happen to break both your feet at once, it’s not in the cards to go off on a great adventure, but that urge for something different, exciting and unexpected lives inside most of us. What better way to get a vicarious thrill than to write about it?
In truth, the entire process, from the solitary parts where you are isolated and doing the work, to submitting the ms. and hoping the publisher will accept it, to dreading the reviews is a rollercoaster.
I hope that what I write looks easy, and sometimes it is, but often it’s challenging and just plain hard work to get a conversation to flow right. Working with Sean made that both easier and more challenging. We had to work to blend our styles, and to get both our ideas to work together in a cohesive whole.
With the exception of a few sections, I truly don’t remember which parts are mine and which are his. And don’t let him fool you; he’s just saying I wrote all the sex because he’s afraid that his mother will read it. In fact, he pulled his weight and wrote one of the most ethereally beautiful love scenes in the book.
Would I do it again? In a heartbeat. In fact, we’ve already started D&D2, as well as other projects of our own.
Catt has provided a lovely look at the collaborative process, so I might digress a little bit. But first, just let me say that every nice thing she has said about me goes double for her. To find someone who shares the same humour, a relatively similar mindset and a love of research is damn lucky. The excitement that comes with creating something together, of producing something new, whether it’s just a little tidbit you’ve found in researching something on the net that fits in perfectly with your story, or just one line coming from the other person that is so well done and does everything you’ve been trying to do without success in a whole page… it takes writing from a solitary experience to a shared one that can be so much richer. And if you are Googling me, Mum, and you come across this, ALL OF THE SEX IS CATT’S DOING.
One last thing about collaborating – the product that results from it is so much better than what you could have come up with on your own. I know that had I written Dash and Dingo on my own, it would have been a very different beast. Both authors bring different ingredients to the table, and you think they might clash but they end up tasting wonderful together. This leads to you challenging and pushing each other, and by the close of the tale the rewards are greater and your story is better for it. Catt is so good at bringing in extra layers to character backgrounds and expanding the cast so that we have a wealth of people to play with, and who will certainly be making extra appearances as the series continues. She can see the bigger picture, whereas I’m far more linear and dealing with the ‘now’ of the story.
Strangely as I sit down to write this, I find that I am struggling with finding anything to say. For anybody who knows me, this is laughable. But I am in a bit of a block at the moment, writing-wise. This is always a major stress factor, even if you’ve only been ‘known’ as a writer for little over a year. In this genre, it seems like other authors are releasing a new book every two to three months. They must have far more stamina and are less easily distracted than me. But it feels weird, that with the release of a new book, I can’t relax and let myself enjoy it. There’s a feeling of, oh, got to get the next one out or else people will forget who I am! In an age where technology has sped up the publishing process so much, people seem to expect more product, and faster.
But that blinking cursor… take away a couple of letters and you have ‘curse’, which is what it is when your mind has gone on holiday. Maybe it’s lurking with Dash and Dingo in the forests of Tasmania. If so, I hope it’s taking notes. Because we want there to be more adventures involving this couple. It’s been a lot of fun to play with the tropes of pulp fiction, and escaping into their adventures. It’s an exciting thing to be at the beginning of a possible series, and know that you can follow these characters for years to come. Setting it in the past presents its own problems as well – how can you realistically set up a couple in a period where homosexuality was frowned upon even more than it is now? We’re writing adventurous romances – we want happy endings but we don’t want it to be a false gay utopia either.
In the end, an author writes the story they want to read themselves, while also letting the characters take over from time to time and dictate what they want. Hopefully the audience will respond to the story favourably as well. We hope you love Dash and Dingo as much as we do. If not, beware the tigers next time you accidentally stray off the marked path.
Having read this post, now I understand how the authors’ “voices” blended so seamlessly and effortlessly – I really could not tell who wrote what parts of the book, although I suspected who wrote which character. I’ll ask them but I’m probably wrong.:) One last thing – are they both in hiding or in the Witness Protection Program? Those photos could be of anyone. I much prefer Sean in his blue mesh costume.