I’m an original kind of guy. One glance at the way I dress myself would tell you that. (Which isn’t to say I’m a fashion plate. It means I don’t play by the same rules as other people…because I can barely understand what the rules are. Most mornings I have to model what I’ve picked out for my wife and ask, “Do these things go together?” And most mornings the answer is “No.” If they made Garanimals for Men, my closet would be filled with it.)
Here’s a surprising thing I just realized about myself, though: In one way or another, I’ve never written a book on my own. My most recent novel, the “tarot mystery” Give the Devil His Due, was produced in partnership with tarot reader extraordinaire Lisa Falco. The books in my first series, the “Holmes on the Range” historical mysteries, are set in the same universe as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes tales. I wrote the official prequel and sequel to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which means I was working with characters and premises created by both Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith. My “Nick and Tesla” middle-grade books, which combine mysteries with do-it-yourself science projects for kids, were a collaboration with science educator “Science Bob” Pflugfelder. (And because I didn’t use the word “science” enough in that previous sentence, here it is again: SCIENCE!) And the “Secret Smithsonian” graphic novels I’ve worked on were a team effort with co-writer Chris Kientz and illustrator Lee Nielsen.
So I guess you could say I’m an expert on writing with a partner. Just call me “Collaboration Steve” Hockensmith! Or don’t, because that’s really clunky. Just call me “Collaboration.”
What has your old pal Collaboration learned about collaboration? Well, it’s funny you should ask, because I need a topic for a blog post. Looks like I’ve got one now. Thanks!
Collaboration Tip #1: Work with Dead People
Sir Arthur and Miss Austen have been great collaborators -- inspiring, enlightening and never critical. And not litigious, which helps, too. (The public domain is a beautiful thing.) What more could you ask for in a partner? Other than, you know, life?
Collaboration Tip #2: Work with Friends
If you absolutely, positively must work with a living partner, choose someone you get along with. Both Lisa Falco, my tarot mystery collaborator, and Chris Kientz, my “Secret Smithsonian” co-creator, were my pals before we started writing together. And because we had clear delineation of duties -- Lisa did the tarot stuff, I did the mystery stuff; Chris and I took turns writing scripts -- we never disagreed on anything enough to become non-pals.
Collaboration Tip #3: Work with People Who Don’t Give a $%&@
If you absolutely, positively must work with a partner who is alive and whom you don’t know well, make it someone who’s too distracted to meddle with your work. Seth Grahame-Smith, who did the first Pride and Prejudice and Zombies “mash-up” novel, is now a much sought-after screenwriter and producer, which means he’s too busy cashing checks to concern himself with anything I get up to. And though “Science Bob” did give a $%&@ about our “Nick and Tesla” books, he was running around teaching kids, doing media appearances and inventing time machines in his basement on the East Coast while I was writing out West. (I don’t know for sure that “Science Bob” was inventing time machines in his basement, but what else do you think someone named “Science Bob” is going to get up to on the weekends?)
Collaboration Tip #4: Be Efficient
Map things out with your partner so there’s no wasted effort. And split up duties whenever possible. Like, for instance, when updating your website. Only one of you needs to work on that (and maybe even less than one if you can find an old guest post to recycle). The best update would be short and to the point and end the second you run out of things to say.