Hounds of the Underworld- authors’ interview

Aren’t writers supposed to be solitary?

cover_Hounds of the Underworld
Cover designed by Daniele Serra

 

  • Dan Rabarts: That’s just a myth we like to maintain so we don’t have to invite anyone to our parties. Writers are actually about as social as spider monkeys, and we like to do many of the same things when we’re together: eat our bananas upside-down, groom each other for tasty insects, that sort of thing. But we keep this top secret because if everyone knew, everyone would want to be writers and come to our parties.
  • Lee Murray: It’s not exactly a party! There’s definitely a myth circulating that writing is a solitary occupation, and yet I don’t know any successful writer who works entirely in isolation, even those not writing in collaboration. Obviously, there are times when you have to glue your bottom to the chair, put your head down, and churn out the words, but most writers will contact experts to support their work, send early drafts out to a critique group or writing buddy, and then, when draft is completed, beta-readers and editors move in, all of whom contribute to the work in different ways. As far as I can tell, writing a novel is always a collaborative process.

How did you come to collaborate with each other?

  • Dan: A little book called Baby Teeth kicked it all off. I had a crazy idea and got some people on board and realised I’d bitten off more than I could chew, no pun intended. Lee stepped up to help pull it all together.
  • Lee: I think with Baby Teeth – a charity project ‒ the way the anthology came together was atypical, with stories coming in from both established and emerging writers, so from an editing perspective, it was always going to be a challenge. Professionally, Dan and I brought different skill sets to the table and we tried to make it fun and not too intimidating for the newbies. Ask any of the writers: it was like a comedy routine going on in the margins, the pair of us battling it out, trying to find the best way to polish the text. On the way we both learned some new techniques, which we carried over into our individual projects. By the time Baby Teeth went on to win the Australian Shadows and Sir Julius Vogel awards it was clear the partnership was something we should explore further. I threw it out there, and Dan said, why not? But ours is more than just a professional arrangement. On a personal level, we clicked from the get-go. We’re friends: I love Dan’s sense of humour, his can-do attitude, and his wonderfully weird and twisted way of thinking. And the great thing is, our families get on too ‒ we both have incredibly supportive long-suffering spouses ‒ so when we can, we get our kids together, crack open a few drinks, and fire up the BBQ. It’s not all work.

How did you split the collaboration process – decide who contributed what?

  • Lee: Hounds of the Underworld is a he-said she-said narrative, with me writing the science consultant Penny Yee, and Dan writing her ex-con brother, Matiu. So while we each contribute to the development of the other characters, it’s as if we have ownership of those particular story threads. In terms of process, the Dan and Lee approach is an odd mixture of planning and ‘pantsting’, with doses of affectionate squabbling. In fact, the sensible big sister and subversive little brother roles of Penny and Matiu apply to our writing process too, where I am the big sister who knows best and Dan has the crazy go-off-on-a-tangent ideas. Broadly speaking, we have an idea of where we want the story arc to go, but I never quite know what to expect when I open Dan’s latest section, exactly where he’ll have taken a scene. Down some dark alleyway, usually! Working with Dan definitely means taking the story to another dimension.
  • Dan: Yip, we manage to keep this balance of driving the narrative forward in our own ways: Lee with solid research and plausibility, and me with random unexplained explosions. But we frequently sit down during the process and make sure that, at least to some extent, we’re working towards the same goal. The push-pull dynamic that Penny and Matiu share to get their results isn’t that far removed from our collaborative process.

Tell us about the most {worrying / enjoyable} part of collaborating?

  • Dan: Worrying? There’s always the risk that one of us will be abducted by aliens or otherwise removed from the process, and the one that’s left will have to not only pretend to be the other writer, mimic their style, fall into their ideas, take ownership of plot points we’ve deliberately maintained some distance from, but also knowing we’d have to maintain the other person’s social media profiles until the aliens release them back into the wild. All those hashtags. So many hashtags.
  • Lee: {rolls her eyes} Lynne, please don’t get him started. I’m going to open up the next section of the sequel and find it has aliens in it now, aren’t I? The downside is that people assume we must be married! No, I think the biggest worry is that our lives keep getting in the way. Family. Work. We’ve learned to be flexible.
  • Dan But enjoyable? That’s the magic of it. It’s having an idea which is only half-formed, and bandying it around with someone excited and committed to the project, invested in the world and the characters. Lee will bring something new to that misshapen idea, an unexpected twist that gives it direction and completion, and you have this synergy going on that leads to cool things happening, taking form on the page. Whole is greater than the sum of the parts, sort of thing.
  • Lee: The thing I like is that I only have to write half the book. Actually, collaborating ends up being more work than writing on your own, but being a ponderously slow writer myself, sharing the work helps me with the word-count head games!

With which other writers would you / have you collaborate/d? Tell us about that…

  • Dan: We’ve both collaborated with other writers, and produced some fairly cool works as a result. I’m part of a writing band called Cerberus, which comprises myself, Grant Stone and Matthew Sanborn Smith, and one of our stories, Dada, has appeared in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine. We produce some extremely weird fiction. But my favourite collaboration outside of the Rabarts/Murray workload right now is a little story called “The People Machines”, which my ten-year-old son and I are writing at bedtime. It’s a story about two boys who get the power to turn into any machine they can imagine, just in time to protect the world from the evil, machine-eating Corlocks. Fart jokes and witty puns abound.
  • Lee: I have a collaborative YA novella, Mika, with YA specialist, Piper Mejia. We’d already worked together on a number of student anthologies, and when I moved to Wellington, the project gave us a reason to talk every week. With Mika, a Kiwi version of the Wizard of Oz, we wrote alternating chapters and then ‘smoothed’ the final text, so it reads like a single writer. I also have a couple of picture books out on submission, both collaborations with Eileen Mueller. But like I said earlier, all writing involves an element of collaboration.

 

 

Tell us what fun and games went into the cover design…

  • Lee: It’s gorgeous, isn’t it? It’s by Italian artist, Daniele Serra. In terms of fun and games, there weren’t any: we sent in some ideas, just concepts really, and it came back perfectly formed.

What’s your favourite way to meet your readers ‒ at book signings, conventions, or other events – and why?

  • Dan: Book launches, for sure. Because that means they might be buying a book. Yay! (Buy books, people. We love you when you buy books.) But otherwise, pretty much anywhere. Bars are good. Personally, I like those impromptu gatherings of a dozen people dropping in on an unsuspecting restaurant downtown somewhere to chinwag and press the flesh and talk books and writing and the deplorable state of American politics while comparing craft beers. Good times.
  • Lee: Any time you meet someone who likes your story. Online. At a launch. Conventions. Anywhere. There’s nothing more uplifting than to know you’ve inspired a reader. I walked into the supermarket once, and a woman came running over to me and said, “You’re that writer lady, aren’t you? You’re doing so well.” That was pretty special.

Red: Thanks, Dan and Lee for the distance interview

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Hound of the Underworld can be purchased at
publishers {click the logo to go and buy}

 

 

“A Talent For Murder”, by Andrew Wilson

WILSON-Adrew_a-talent-for-murder-Author Andrew Wilson has so well slipped in to merge with Agatha Christie the novel reads as grippingly as any of her works. Meticulously researched, he adopts Mrs Christie’s persona in this tale of her famed missing eleven days.

Anxiety and panic attacks fill Mrs Christie as she relates the events of what is readily plausible in that time and in her world of crime novels.

Wilson teases us with characters she meets; we want to keep reading to know them, to know more about them. We are in suspense as we read on and learn more. How each character involves with and revolves around each other, and the plot, is breath-holding – in the sense of building our feelings of foreboding, and character empathy.

So well written I devoted two evenings to completing it. Christie, as character, reads people, actions and settings, and records them in such detail that it is easy to believe this story is truth. She shares her emotions – bereavement, stress, loss, anger, desperation – in reasoned detail. Her voice builds reader empathy

Wilson’s re-creation of Christie’s work is exceptional; and, what good news – he is working on the next Agatha Christie Adventure, A Different Kind of Evil.

Published by Simon and Schuster, UK Ltd, 2017

ISBNs:
Hardback: 978-1-4711-4821-7
Paperback: 978-1-4711-4822-4
eBook: 978-1-4711-4823-1

A Talent For Murder also includes

  • an Editor’s Note, written by John Davison
  • Acknowledgements of the research resources used
  • an Exclusive Extract from A Different Kind of Evil

Teaser video
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Andrew Wilson’s website is behind his portraitWILSON_Andrew

Find him also at Simon n Schuster UK
Tweet him … Twitter @andrewwilsonaw

Released  in NZ in July, via Booksellers NZ Distributors
http://booksellers.co.nz/directory

 

Rules of Backyard Cricket by Jock Serong

rules-backyard-cricketDon’t be deceived by the title…this is not a guide to playing cricket.

To quote Serong (from an interview with crime writer Sandi Wallace) http://bit.ly/2dh0gJp“It’s a story told in the first person by a guy locked in a car boot, and headed for his own execution.”

From the first passage on the first page, I was drawn into this narrative as into no other. I love a good crime story, yet the structure of this is unusual for the genre. It is a fictional biography of Darren Keefe as he relates his cricket playing years with Walter, who rises to the top. It’s the tale of him becoming embroiled in a match-fixing scandal as he follows his more talented elder brother through the ranks to national representative level.

Entertaining, and a fascinating insight into the workings of the manipulation of players for match-fixing or side gambling. Darren’s fall from grace after a match accident (look for Squiggly) is secondary to his seeming naïvety when choosing friends and what he tells. But he’s content to see Walter rise through the player ranks, remembering how everything they each know about playing they learned together playing in their childhood back yard.

Then, things go seriously wrong, and the finale is awesomely disturbing. I mean, seriously unsettling, disturbing, uncomfortable, and not for the queasy. I loved it.


Published 2016 by

text-publishing-logo

ISBNs:
Australian Paperback (288 pages): 9781925355215
UK Paperback: 9781911231035
eBook: 9781922253798

In NZ, sold at any Booksellers NZ retailer http://www.booksellers.co.nz/directory

Go…buy…read…enjoy!


Serong’s first novel, Quota, published 2014 by Text Publishing Co., 2014, (earning the Ned Kelly Award), drew on his career as a criminal barrister. He’s since written a screenplay The Ship Thieves, and is now working on his third novel with a working title Lassitude.