Today I’m interviewing Dianne Fox and Anah Crow, writing partners, and I’m going to try and find out what makes them tick and how this successful partnership works. Here’s their bio –
“Anah Crow and Dianne Fox met briefly in an online roleplaying game and less-briefly in another shortly thereafter. They discovered that they were mutually compatible in terms of dorkiness and have been good friends and writing partners ever since. Though geography claims that there are more than two hundred miles between them, they are never far from each other’s thoughts.
For the past four years, Dianne and Anah have been writing together for publication and are proud to say that they’re much better at it than when they started. Writing as partners is twice as fun and half as easy as it looks. Together, they’ve produced novels, novellas, and serial short stories, and have plans for more. They consider themselves very lucky to have met in a time that allows them to do what they love and to do it together.”
Hello ladies and thank you for agreeing to be interviewed. Why don’t you start by telling us something about Anah and Dianne?
Dianne is the neurotic list-making organizer, and Anah is the proverbial herd of cats — all in one person.
How long have you been writing partners and how did it all begin?
We’ve been writing partners since summer of 2004, probably. It’s hard to track the dates, because we were writing together before that, but they weren’t really stories until then. We were playing in a LiveJournal RPG and had some ideas for our characters that didn’t quite fit within the plot of the game, so we started playing around in our own little sandbox in our free time. Those ‘sandbox stories’ grew further and further away from the game, and eventually we started talking about what kind of stories we wanted to write, the kind of craft and planning we wanted to put into them. From there, it wasn’t long before we left the games behind and started focusing on really writing together.
How does the partnership work? Does one of you get an idea and then both of you will run with it? How do you resolve challenges and which has been the biggest so far?
Our partnership runs on AIM, Campfire, email, and tea. Our #1 goal is to write things and get them done, which makes figuring out what to do a lot easier. We offer ideas up to the common pool (i.e., the massive list on Dianne’s OmniFocus library) as they occur to us, and decide whether we’re both interested in them. Usually, if it’s something that’s been presented as an idea for us to write together, we ARE both interested; we’re both pretty good at figuring out what’s an “us” story and what’s not.
Our biggest challenge is deciding what to do next. We have a huge, ever-growing list of story ideas, and we’re not always in agreement about what should come next in our to-do list. Just recently, we had to make our list of what we’d like to finish in the rest of 2009. There were a lot of options, and we had to talk through our priorities. Even then, we were left choosing between two things that needed doing, and we had to decide to let one go, even though we had both been looking forward to working on it.
Anah could you tell us something about Dianne that made you think “Wow, I would really like to write a book or two with her?”
ANAH: Definitely Dianne’s characterization was what drew me to write with her. She writes cleanly and in her writing are comments and observations about characters, and people in general, that I could never have made myself. When I found out that she was organized as well, I was sold.
Dianne, how did you two meet? Was it online? In person?
DIANNE: We met in 2003 in a LiveJournal RPG. We talked as much as we played in the game, and ended up in another RPG together later. And another, and another. Every game gave us more chances to fit our writing styles together, and to get to know each other better.
The first time we met in person was actually earlier this year. I finally had vacation time during a good time for Anah to have company, so I took off and went to visit her for a few days. LOTS of tea and coffee later, I now visit on a fairly regular basis.
Have you ever encountered a situation when one of you had a plot bunny but the other didn’t really want to write the story? If so, how did you resolve it?
We don’t really ever have that issue, because we have a good idea of what interests the other person, and if we’re off, we adjust things until we’re both on board. For us, writing together is more important than getting our own way about anything.
How do you decide when to write a story as a standalone author and when to write it as a partnership?
There’s very little deciding, really. We both have a pretty strong awareness of what kinds of stories should be “Anah & Dianne” stories, and when either of us comes up with an idea, we only bring it up for discussion as a story for us to write together if it’s not a story better suited to be written individually. I don’t think any of Anah’s or Dianne’s stories were ever suggested as “Anah & Dianne” stories, and the same goes for the reverse. The Renovations series was never envisioned as a story Dianne would write by herself, even though it was initially her idea. As soon as she came up with it, she told Anah, “We should…” and then we started to work on it. With Uneven and Slapshot, for example, there was never any suggestion that either of those stories should be written by both of us. They’re just not that kind of story.
To be totally honest, I don’t think either of us can articulate the specific criteria we use to separate the stories into “Anah”, “Dianne”, and “Anah & Dianne”. It just happens instinctively.
For those readers who don’t know about your very popular and highly regarded story Pandora Project: Runaway Star, can you tell us a little bit about the story?
Back when we were revising it, it was jokingly referred to as the space opera romance with a super-sekrit government conspiracy, a message-in-a-bottle written by aliens, and an asshole ex-lover. That doesn’t really describe the major plot of the novel, though.
The Pandora Project is a secret program developed by the Colonial Congress to discover the source of alien messages that have been filtering into human territory. Elios Campbell is a linguist with the project, and he has friends in high places. One of those friends gets him a ride in a Harpy, the newly-developed fighter jets that function both inside and outside atmosphere. Sender Kinnison is the pilot tasked with taking Elios up into the blue. They find more in common than just a mutual love of the sky, but just when everything seems like it’s going to work out for them, a tragedy strikes Sender’s family and he pulls away from his relationship with Elios.
I believe you’re writing a sequel – Pandora Project: Parallax. What, if anything, can you tell us about this new adventure? Is this a sequel and are Elios and Sendor protagonists in this book?
The Pandora Project is the backdrop for stories that touch on the lives of various characters, Elios and Sender are just two of them. Another story in the queue picks up the thread of their lives along with the continuing adventures of the Auriga and the Pandora, but Parallax is focused on the lives of three other characters thrown together by the project.
Riley Temple is the head engineer and developer of the Harpies, a notoriously ill-tempered and solitary man. Corentin Gael is one of the two lead archaeologists on the project, who hides his perceptive and persistent persona under a laid-back exterior. The two of them are as unlikely a couple as one could imagine, and when a baffled and infatuated young soldier is thrown in the mix, the resulting chemistry threatens to be explosive.
I reviewed Renovations 1: Framework and really liked the story. What can you tell us about the sequel?
Like Renovations I: Framework, Renovations II: Foundation is a collection of the novelettes that made up the second half of the Renovations series, with a bonus story that covers what happens after the end of Renovations 6: Coming Home, the final novelette in the Chaser series.
At the start of Renovations II: Foundation, Ven and Toby have moved in together and are about to celebrate their first holiday in the house they renovated together — with Toby’s daughters. More than a year after the divorce, the girls are still struggling with the idea that Toby isn’t coming home to their Mama’s house, and both Toby and Ven have to deal with the repercussions of that.
Where Renovations I: Framework focused on the development of Toby and Ven’s mutual attraction and relationship, Renovations II: Foundation focuses on the development of their family. It’s about the realities of making that relationship work, especially where Toby’s ex-wife and daughters are concerned.
I really admired the characterization of Ven’s mentally challenged brother Cake in Renovations 1: Framework.
What I liked best was that you made him independent. How difficult was it to get his character right?
ANAH: Cake is partly based on my childhood best friend, who also achieved independence with a little bit of appropriate support. As a teenager, I had the benefit of being involved with a program that assisted mentally-challenged parents who were living independently. Dianne and I like to present all kinds of characters in our work. Fortunately for us, the Renovations series provided a family and setting that let us include Cake in the story. We’ve received a lot of positive and appreciative feedback about Cake, specifically, which tells us that people like Cake are a very real and loved part of the lives of many readers.
You write stories about interracial relationships, a topic most writers avoid because it makes them uncomfortable. Why do you write stories about diverse protagonists and how do you “get” the characters?
For us, the grounds that it might be work to include interracial characters or fear that we might get our wrists slapped just aren’t reasons enough for us not to write them. As soon as we became aware that we were — individually and together — unconsciously whitewashing our characters, we began to attempt to turn the trend around in our writing. We pay attention to what we know, we try to stay conscious of harmful stereotypes, we research and read and listen, and we hope that we do a good job.
That said, we don’t deliberately write interracial relationships. Some relationships are interracial because we try to consider all the possibilities for the characters we develop, including race. Sometimes, as we’re developing characters, a particular character will work out to not be white. That’s just who they are, and we work with that.
DIANNE: Also, I’m biracial (Hispanic/Caucasian). That likely plays a role in my perception of things, though it didn’t give me immunity to the initial instinct to whitewash my characters. If you look at my earlier published stories — Gerbil Falls in Love, Angels Come to Visit, Ghost Notes — the characters are all white. And then, with Anah, I started paying more attention to what I was doing there, and I didn’t like it. Being biracial doesn’t give me a pass on whitewashing, nor does it give me a pass on ‘getting it right’ — I still have to do the work of making sure I’m writing about real people, just like everyone else.
Again, on the subject of diversity (because I don’t feel that there’s enough of it in M/M romances), I believe you have a new book coming out in the fall – Becoming Us – where one of the protagonists is biracial. What can you tell us about the story?
Becoming Us focuses on college athletes, best friends, whose lives threaten to part ways for good in fourth year when one of them comes out and surprises the other with it. Zac, the biracial character, is also bisexual and has spent a year getting comfortable with that. His best friend, Bryce, has been tormented about being ‘queer’ by his older brothers for as long as he can remember, even though he’s been so careful not to do anything that would make someone think that way about him. The story is about the way they try to stay friends through not only the rift between them and the external pressure from Bryce’s family but also the growing attraction between them.
Now that you have been writing for a while, what turns you on about the writing business? What turns you off?
ANAH: The editing experience is usually still the best part of the business. In general, I’ve been fortunate in the editors I’ve been assigned and the flaws in my writing can be hunted down, speared, skinned, and hung on the wall as a warning to others. What I don’t like about the writing business is … well, I’m not very good at promo. I’d rather be writing. It doesn’t help that outside of writing, I have the attention span of a gnat. Dianne is the organized one around here.
DIANNE: The readers are definitely the best part for me. Every now and then, I’ll get a letter from a reader, and I’m always thrilled to hear that I’ve connected to someone with my work. The worst part? That time-gap between submitting a story and hearing back about an acceptance or rejection. I’m so impatient, but I try to make sure Anah is the only one who has to listen to me whine about it.
What would you both say is your most important achievement as writers?
Not being facetious at all: FINISHING STORIES. Seriously. Before we started writing for publication, we were both terrible about starting stories and not finishing them. So it’s still a huge thrill for us, a big accomplishment, and our major goal to actually FINISH every story we start writing.
Outside of that, still being friends is pretty high up there. So is creating stories that inspire people to write to us because it’s such a big deal for them to see part of their lives reflected in fiction. But… none of that would happen if we didn’t FINISH.
Which is your most successful book in terms of sales? Critical acclaim?
In terms of sales, the Renovations series as a whole has been our most successful work. Pandora Project: Runaway Star has definitely topped that in terms of critical acclaim, though. We’ve been thrilled at how well Runaway Star has been received, especially since science fiction romance is supposed to be one of the less popular genres.
Do you have fun as a writing partnership? What’s the most fun you ever had that you can talk about? *g*
Of course we have fun! We likely wouldn’t still be doing it if we weren’t having a good time. Not everyone thinks working their butts off is fun, but apparently we do. 😉
I’m not sure there’s anything we’ve done that we can’t talk about, but the most fun we’ve had… Staying up all night, plotting out the nuances of a story we’ll be revising before the end of the year, until we both nearly fell asleep in our tea and had to shuffle off to bed. There were obscene hand gestures, detailed descriptions of blowjobs, and the sudden realization that there were other people in the house to overhear us. Oops!
What one thing does your writing partner do that bugs the hell out of you (if you can talk about it without killing each other)?
DIANNE: Hmm… Probably when she criticizes her own writing. Anah is incredibly bad about being her own worst critic, and since I love her work so much, it’s hard for me to listen to her complain about it.
ANAH: Dianne never forgets anything. I mean ANYTHING. …anything. Of course, if it weren’t for Dianne remembering things, I would never get most things done, and we sure wouldn’t be published.
What new releases, do you have coming out over the next 6 months.
We have the print collection Renovations II: Foundation, and Becoming Us — which will be out in both ebook and print formats — coming out in mid-October. We’ve also got a Halloween short story, A Trick of the Senses, coming out at the end of October. Slow Bloom, a novel that’s been running on Torquere’s Turn of the Screw, will be coming out in ebook in February or March. Anah has a novelette based on the 9 of Pentacles tarot card coming out from Torquere’s Arcana line in March. That’s all we have confirmed for right now, because we’ve been focusing on revising and editing several of our novels, but we’re hoping to be able to make more announcements very soon!
Thank you Anah and Dianne.
Dianne Fox & Anah Crow Contact Information
www.anahcrow.com (Anah’s website)
www.pandorastories.com (Pandora Project website)