I've been working for some time with the eminent Vancouver-based writer and sibling of mine, Darren Groth on a series of short young adult novels. The first of these is now available on the Kindle platform. I'm often asked how we go about collaborating on a work of fiction. While all books are collaborative to some extent, shared authorship duties are relatively rare in our game. To be honest, it took us quite a while to figure out a collaborative approach that worked for us. We tried a few approaches unsuccessfully. Although our styles of writing are not that different from each other, the trick is finding a way to make them flow together. What we realised is that every project needs a champion and, while sharing text is relatively easy, a story's vision can't be doled out in a 50/50 split. Concentrate, a young adult novel, marked the first time we worked as a writing team, each of us taking on roles as necessary to serve the story. Here's how I described the process three years ago:
We have tried collaboration before a few times. We tried taking alternate chapters. We tried taking on different characters. Nothing really worked and I consigned the whole endeavour to the ‘revisit one of these days’ file. Little did I know Darren was hatching his own variation on the concept.
What we eventually hit on was taking alternate drafts. The result was similar to writer-editor only with the editor taking a far more active role adding character layers and additional narrative. Our model was less ’50 per cent text each’ and something more like what Joel and Ethan Cohen do: share the writing credits where one or the other might take the lead on any individual project. Seems to work well for them. Why not us? We are already brothers after all.
It seemed to work for us. Not only did we finish the story, but Concentrate was shortlisted in the prestigious Text Prize for young adult writing later that year. So that's something.
We're now in the home stretch of a new collaborative work in the same series. This one is called Wake and it's one we're both really excited about. But with the new work under construction, we felt it was high time to bring Concentrate into the world. But we didn't want this to be a big hairy deal, so we have realised the book for the Kindle platform. We hope to have an EPUB format available soon too, but for now it's Kindle only.
We've also made it available in two editions (and under two titles) The original Australian story Concentrate will be released in the coming weeks. Available right now is the North American version: The Focus and The Freak. This is what's it's about:
The Focus and The Freak is a story of faith after loss, determination after setback and hope after defeat. Combining the best elements of magic realist and literary young adult fiction, it contends there is no more powerful thing in this world as heartfelt belief.
If you're in Australia and you want to hold out for the Concentrate, that's fine, but if you want to collect them both (something neither I nor Darren would discourage), you can grab your copy of Focus. And be sure to rate the story and leave a review. Because, you know, that would be a nice thing to do. And you're a nice person. Aren't you?
UPDATE: Concentrate is now available too.