Thursday, September 27, 2012

Broth by more than one cook?

by Catriona.

Hello, everyone.  I'm delighted to be here and honoured to have been asked and since I'm oh so very much not one of the mehegamoths (how I wish that was actually a word) who can employ minions to "co-author" their books, I'm going take a bit of this first post to introduce myself.

But to stay on-topic for a wee while . . . I love some co-authored (with no scare quotes) books: PJ Tracey, the mother and daughter team behind the MONKEEWRENCH series; PJ Parrish, the sisters who gave us LOUIS KINCAID and JOE FRYE, and Nicci French, the husband and wife team (how will they manange to co-author after the inevitable divorce, is what I wonder) responsible for a slew of creepy stand-alones including the fabulous KILLING ME SOFTLY.

But as far as I know I've never read any "co-authored" by mehegamoth and minion books - although Joyce Carol Oates is pretty prolific and she's got that sinewy look of someone who could kill you with her pinkie - so you never know.

Would I do it?  An ever-expanding universe of no.  I write with my office door shut, locked and duct-taped round the edges.  Never been in a critique group, never shown my first draft to anyone, never told anyone, including my agent and editor, what it's about until it's finished. Control freak?  Until the first draft is chipped out of the ground, as his Kingness puts it, freakishly and controllingly so.

With one exception.  Years ago my father told me he had an idea for a children's picture book, but thought I'd make a better job of writing it up than him so he was going to hand it over to me.  I thought for a minute about employing the standard response I give my mother when she asks me for something:  "What have you ever done for me?"

But, A. who could say no to either of these two and (ii) I'd never written a picture book and how hard could it be?

Quite hard.  Mark Haddon, author of THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME once said, in one of those endless snarkfests about whether writing for children is easier than writing for adults (nearly as bad as the one about whether genre fiction is as good as literary fiction) that only an idiot would say there's no skill difference between Ulysses and Here Comes Spot.  But I found telling a story in thirty-two pages with no more than twenty words on each page a lot harder than knocking out a chapter of prose.

Maybe I shouldn't have had a societal breakdown arc, a heart-warming buddy arc and a climactic fire scene all in a seven-hundred-word story about talking buckets.  You tell me.

It's as yet unpublished, after going into development at Usborne and never coming out again.  It joins a radio sitcom that went into develpoment at the Comedy Store in the UK, and is still in there as far I know, and a monograph of my PhD that went into development at Routledge, painted itself the same colour as the wall behind it and stood very still for ten years until everyone had forgotten and stopped looking.

Development is a bad place for me.

But if mehegamothdom ever comes a-calling, and I turn into one of those lucky sods with publishers begging for their shopping lists to bring out as a Little Book of Groceries for the holiday season, I won't need minions to help me cash in.  I've got four picture books all hot to trot and three sitcoms with treatments for the first season and scripts for episode one, as well as that page-turning PhD.

But I was supposed to be introducing myself.  Recovering academic, born blonde (but a lot has happened since then), co-owner of the ugliest ranch-house ever built and twenty scruffy acres in northern California (people from home say: "Oooh, California!" with shining eyes, and I say: "Did you see Erin Brockovich?  That was California.") cat-lover, Project Runway enthusiast, dumpster-divin' fool,  novice cake-maker, master cake-eater.  What else?  Trek, Beatles, Spike (as opposed to Wars, Stones, Angel) and not even as high-brow as all that sounds, I'm sad to say.

Pleased to meet you.