12 Days of Collabmas: An Interview with My Cowriter

Here we are, the finale of the series. Elizabeth and I wanted to interview each other, because beyond it sounding fun, it was an opportunity to dig a little deeper and ask each other the kinds of questions we normally wouldn’t in casual conversation. We’ve both really enjoyed doing this series, and we hope you’ve enjoyed learning more about who we are as writers and how our collaboration works.

M: Have you ever collaborated with anyone else? This question feels strange, like I’m asking if you’ve ever cheated on me, but I’m genuinely curious. 

E: I did a collaboration forever ago with another fanfic writer, back when I was writing in the Harry Potter fandom. So I’d had a little experience when you asked me to cowrite. I enjoyed it, but it was one of those situations where our styles just didn’t match well at all.

M: Why do you think collaboration is done so commonly in fanfiction, but done rarely in original fiction?

E: Fandom is such a community environment that I think people are a lot more willing in general to reach out to one another in that context. Everyone has a shared interest to bond over, so conversations are easy to start. Plus, there is no money to be made or career to be advanced in fanfiction (in most cases, anyway.) Since it’s just for fun, I think people are more willing to experiment with new ways of writing.

M: Do you think collaborating is easier in a fanfiction setting, where characters and dynamics have already been established, or do you think it’s easier to start from scratch?

E: I definitely think it’s easier with fanfiction because there is so much that neither writer has to explain at the outset. You both already know the world you’re writing in. You already know the characters, love them, and want the best for them. Plus, fanfiction works are usually responses to something the writer didn’t like or wants to change about the source material. When you’re both passionate about “fixing” things that made you sad or angry, the ideas tend to come easier since you’re fueling each other’s fire. However, I do think it’s a lot more fun and rewarding to build a whole new world with a cowriter.

M: Do you think that starting from a fanfiction background helped you as a writer at all? Did it give you a different perspective?

E: It helped me see the importance of representation. A huge reason people write fanfiction in the first place is because they want to see a character or storyline that reflects their experience. Characters that look and think the way they do, or that go through similar experiences. For example, I’m a sci-fi and fantasy fan, but the female characters in those genres are often not great. So when I do see a female character who has an actual story arc and personality traits beyond “swings a sword” or “is attractive”, I’m listening. I feel connected to something, like there are other people out there who just might understand me. Fanfiction helped me realize just how important that feeling is to all of us, how much we need it. It’s why humans have told stories since the beginning of time. I want to give someone that feeling with my own stories, someday.

M: Is there a part of collaboration you don’t like? Please feel free to say that I am the part of collaboration you don’t like, I promise I’ll understand. 🙂

E: It’s not you at all! There isn’t much about it that I don’t like, obviously, but it is sometimes a high-pressure situation. I try to come up with all these perfect ideas or suggest deadlines I know I can’t meet. Sometimes my failures are more embarrassing when another writer has a front-row seat to them. But we’ve been at it for so long now that I can recognize all that as a growth opportunity. And I’m okay with being a disaster in front of you now.

M: When you think of the highlights of our collaborative career, what comes to mind? Do you have a favorite character or story we’ve done?

E: I love all the characters we developed for Kindred, our dystopian YA novel project. They are loveable wrecks, each in their own ways, and I can’t wait to start getting to know them even better.

M: Am I as annoying to you as I am to myself? Don’t answer that.

E: We’re equally annoying 🙂

M: What is your best piece of collaboration advice to those who’d like to try it out?

E: Remember how important it is to be open about your insecurities. It will help you and your cowriter grow closer, as well as improving the work. Cowriting is about testing your limits and growing as a writer, but that can only happen if you are up front about how you need to improve. Plus your cowriter will probably offer you reassurance and/or tough love, both of which you’ll need at some point.

Thank you so much for sticking around to the end of the series! Feel free to share any collaboration questions/thoughts/feelings you have with us on Twitter @MarissaEller and @EWestcoatWrites!

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