how it happened
One evening in Maui, Jenny Crusie was watching the sun set over the Pacific when Bob Mayer sat down beside her and said, “What do you write?” Jenny said, “Well, basically, in my books, people have sex and get married.” Bob said, “In my books, people have sex and die.”Naturally they decided to collaborate.
Nine months later, Don't Look Down was done.
It was pretty simple, really. They decided that the Crusie heroine would, as usual, come from the normal world, and the Mayer hero would, as usual, come from the covert ops world, and that they'd meet because the Crusie heroine would be working for a normal-world boss who was really a Bad Guy that the Mayer hero would have to take out of the picture.
Jenny: “I want to write about a woman who runs a B&B or a woman who’s a film director.”
Bob: “How many people can I kill in a B&B?”
Jenny: “I’ll do the film director.”
They began with only one rule: they each had final say on their point of view characters, Jenny on Lucy and Bob on Wilder. Bob said, “I don’t do that Yucky Emotional Crap,” so they agreed that Jenny would do YEC, and Bob would be violent. They hammered out a rough plot line using different plotting styles: When the action lagged, Jenny would put in a turning point and Bob would shoot somebody.
Jenny: “You can’t keep killing characters. My readers get attached to them.”
Bob: “Then why do you keep giving them names?”
Although the entire story takes place over only four days, Jenny wrote a sex scene at the behest of her editor and agent. It was her first sex scene with a hero wearing body armor, a Glock, a garrote, and a calf knife. Then Bob killed the people having sex.
Jenny: “Bob, sometimes people live after having sex.”
Bob: “They haven’t in the books I’ve written.”
Eventually, Bob wrote a sex scene, too. Nobody died. When Bob began to write about shoes, he realized he’d been brain-washed into writing women’s fiction and began to drink heavily. Jenny added Wonder Woman to the book. Bob added High Noon. Many things blew up, many guns were fired, and Bob began to feel better. There were a few disputes along the way, most notably about Bob’s use of infodump and Jenny’s use of dialogue.
Jenny: “If you must kill people, can’t you find a kinder, gentler way of killing them instead of having them eaten by alligators?”
Bob: “Well, we could have Lucy TALK them to death.”
But in the end they had a great book about a film director and a Green Beret who risk life and limb on a bridge near Savannah to save a little girl named Pepper. There’s also a rapacious starlet, a deluded actor, a hotshot pilot, and a lovestruck make-up girl, plus the CIA, the Russian Mob, and an alligator named Moot. Jenny had the best time she’s ever had writing a book, and Bob has cheered up because Jenny has promised that he can kill more people in the next one.