Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Collaboration in
by William Maltese

Having just seen the results of two collaborations, in which I’ve been involved with other authors, reach the book stands … and just before I begin another collaboration with our very own Jardonn Smith, on our period-piece "railroad" novel, GRIT … do let me tell any fellow authors, who may not yet have a clue, that collaborations aren’t the easiest way to go, even if they do seem to offer the advantage of two or more people, each of whom, in theory, only has to write part of a book.

There’s a decided difference, believe me, between joining in an anthology … which is merely you contributing a story to fit an over-all theme, along with other authors … and you teaming up with another author or authors to come together in agreement on characters, character traits, and a coherent single story-line. It is now my experience that writing, like cooking, can see a lot of difficulty arising around too many cooks/authors (and two can sometimes be too many) in the kitchen and/or at the computer keyboard.

In the case of THE GLUTEN-FREE WAY: MY WAY, written with my niece, I thought I had "it" made — no matter everything I had ever heard about the dangers of working with amateurs and relatives. I mean, she and her family had been living gluten-free for several years, and it was merely a case of her telling their story and our providing a few gluten-free recipes, and that was that … right?! The usual major problem of finding an interested publisher had been solved early-on by me, in that Borgo Press had gone to contract on just a proposal. Needless to say, it wasn’t easy at all, in that I ended up writing far more of the book than I originally intended (although, I’m sure the book is a better book because of it) — what with the strain of meeting a deadline placed upon a novice author, and my niece having to deal with an uncle who looked upon a missed deadline as just about the worst sin possible and had no qualms about saying so (which didn’t help the situation and probably, truth be told, acerbated it — sigh!).


TOTAL MELTDOWN, done with Raymond Gaynor (aka Gary Martine), was easier. My co-author on this one, after all, had published several previous books, knew all about deadlines, and he’d written over 300 pages of this one before I joined in. As with THE GLUTEN-FREE WAY, I persuaded Borgo Press to go to contract before this one was finished; so my main predicament turned out to be my having entered the writing process so late in the game that the characters, character traits, and plot were pretty much in place, all as complicated as any novel dealing with the complications of international politics and espionage and treason and finance. Admittedly, it took me a good deal of time just to figure out who was who, where was where, what was what. That we managed to achieve what we did was only because neither of us looked upon anything we wrote as engraved permanently in stone … which made me less fearful when I started chopping (three hundred pages to a final 155), and shifting character’s sexuality from bisexual to homosexual, from homosexual to heterosexual. Had Raymond put up major complaint, instead of merely commenting that I had "taken his blond-haired, blue-eyed innocent baby boy and converted him into a dark-haired, black-eyed terror", we might still be trying to hash things out, to this very day, instead of basking in the sheer pleasure of having the book now on the bookstands.


How will Jardonn and I fare in our about-to-begin collaboration on GRIT? Only time will tell, but I have high hopes. Our relationship goes back a ways. We’re professionals, each of us well aware of the writing process, each other’s sensibilities and the existent time-line. Wish us luck!

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