how it works
How do you collaborate?
Bob: She writes the female POV scenes, I write the male POV scenes. Which means I have more work. But she does most of the rewriting so it evens up.
Jenny: I write the heroine's scenes, he writes the hero's. Then he always insists on having another male POV, so I let him. Then we rewrite each other's scenes to save our characters from the horrible things the other person has done, like making his hero chat or my heroine wimpy. Then we rewrite the whole book, over and over. Bob loves that part. It's really more of a partnership than a collaboration.
Why do you call it a partnership instead of a collaboration?
Bob: Because it's even. Hard to explain why it works, it just does. I think it's a very rare thing-- I don't know any other partnership in publishing working like we do.
Jenny: Because we do the same thing together. Since I do the female POV and he does the male, we're both writing the book at the same time. "Collaboration" usually means that one person does one kind of work and the other does a different kind. Or that one person lends a name and the other person does the heavy lifting. We're in there working on this simultaneously, each creating our character's story, from the beginning to the end. It's like reading a book while I'm writing a book, because I get complete scenes from Bob. It's my book, but I get to read new things because it's his book, too. It's great.
How do you work out your differences?
Bob: Fighting is easier in email at 600 miles. We compromise in favor of what is best for the book. Given that we're both experienced writers with over 40 previous novels between us, we're both a lot more willing to let go of something that isn't working.
Jenny: We're both stubborn and opinionated and power-mad, so we clash sometimes, but it's never really a fight because we each know the other is committed to making the book a good one. We never argue about who has the most words, or who did the most work, it's always about what makes the scene better. And it's good for us because we have to defend what we do, which makes us think things through very carefully. The partnership results in a much more balanced book than either of us could do on our own.
What argument did you lose? Are you glad or do you wish you'd won?
Bob: I wanted a much higher body count. And more people eaten by the alligator. But this book had a record low body count for me and only one, wait, two, people being eaten. I also had to write a sex scene. Enough said.
Jenny: I didn't want a lot of violence, and I really didn't want the gator eating anybody. I lost on that, but it made the book a lot edgier, a much better story.
Was there ever a time you thought, "I don't want to do this, it's too hard"?
Jenny: No. Sometimes I wanted to drive six hundred miles and beat him senseless with his keyboard, but I never wanted out. The work we were doing was too good and I was learning too much. Also, he's a really good writer, and I respect that so I put up with his craziness. He can be annoying as all hell, but he's a terrific storyteller and his action scenes rock.
What's different about this book from your previous books?
Bob: It is much more character oriented. And there's sex and people actually live afterward. Plus it took forever to rewrite.
Jenny: It's much more exciting, a lot more action oriented, which is really good. My characters tend to talk a lot, but character really resides in what people do, not what they say. It's making me a much better writer. Plus this one was finished in a year because Bob is a slave driver.
What's the same?
Bob: The action and, of course, the complex back-story. But I did get rid of the IRA being part of the back-story.
Jenny: I think Lucy is still the Crusie heroine, coping with what she's been handed, taking care of people, kicking butt and being snarky. I like her a lot. And I love the community they form.
How did you come up the idea for Don't Look Down ?
Bob: I actually don't know.
Jenny: Out of the nowhere into the here. We each pick a character and put them together and see what happens. He wanted to do a Green Beret and I wanted to do a movie director so we put them together and figured out a common antagonist and it just rolled from there.
Why did you write the character you did?
Bob: I wrote what I knew. Having been a Green Beret it wasn't much of a stretch to write about one. The hard parts were having him actually speak.
Jenny: I picked Lucy because I wanted a tough woman with a job where she controlled everything so that I could put her in a situation where she couldn't handle things alone, where she needed to work with somebody. Lucy directs everybody in her life, on and off the set, because she's strong and smart and competent and people turn to her; then she runs into the Russian mob and guys with guns and she needs help. I liked it that she was going to have to rely on J. T. even though she didn't want to. And I liked the way they struggled to work out their power issues.
Why is Don't Look Down set in Savannah?
Bob: I needed to have a feel for the terrain since I was writing most of the action scenes. So I could drive down there and look around. Plus there are alligators.
Jenny: Bob wanted a sniper in a swamp and Ohio is unfortunately devoid of swamps. Also, he thought my bridge up here was wimpy. Basically, I pick my battles, and the setting wasn't one I was willing to go to the mat for.
What scene was the biggest surprise when you got it from your partner?
Bob: Realizing we could write almost in the same voice, yet with enough difference for the point of view characters.
Jenny: The second scene he wrote, the scene in the motel room with Althea. I read it and was on the floor. I wrote him back and said, "You bastard. You're funnier than I am." And the really annoying thing is that a year later, that scene is virtually identical to his first draft. He just nailed it.
What's your favorite part of the Don't Look Down ?
Bob: The Wonderwear party scene is funny and emotional. Wonderwear. You have to read the book.
Jenny: There are so many. I think it might be when Wilder meets his best friend in the strip club and tries to explain why he needs help while all the blood drains from his pal's brain.It's such a Guy Scene, and it's so funny.
What's special about Don't Look Down ?
Bob: The male/female points of view being real. I know Jenny would not have written my character the way I wrote him (she wanted him to have a kitten named Bubbles) and I wouldn't have written her heroine the way she did (I would have given her body armor).
Jenny: It's the real deal in male/female characters. We spent a lot of hours saying, "He wouldn't do that" or "She wouldn't say that," and explaining why to each other. My men have always been English teacher types, and I love them, but I had to deal with something completely different in J. T. Wilder because he's such a Guy. I love J. T. Wilder.
Are you going to do a third book?
Bob: If the river don't rise and the cows don't moo and in the darkness there is death. A definite maybe.
Jenny: We’re talking about it. (And you can see by Bob’s answer how difficult that is sometimes.) So far we’ve got “He’s an all-action by-the-gun Green Beret, she’s an all-research by-the-book librarian. They’re stuck in Bermuda Triangle Theme Park (Bob’s name) The Unexplained Island Theme Park (Jenny’s name), fighting crime and possibly the supernatural. Whatever happens, we’ve got nothing but good times ahead.
Bob: We’re doomed.