Working with a co-author (and who is Kitty Cox?)

girls-344334There aren’t many people I could write with.  The list basically consists of Kitty Cox.  For years, she’s been the yin to my yang.  Our lives are intertwined so much that our husbands think of us more like sisters than just friends.  She’s my supervisor at work.  I’m her mentor in writing.  She has a flair for the number side of things; I excel in making sure it’s noticed.  Together, we’re the kind of friends I spent my life wishing for – including the part where I don’t have to worry about what I say to her.

And that last bit is why we can write together.  I can honestly tell her, “No one talks like that, chica.  Your dialogue is stiff and false feeling.”  Conversely, she picks apart my writing until I want to cuss a blue streak at her.  She makes sure I have a reason for every single action my characters take.  It’s not enough to just put them in a situation, Kitty wants to know why Mack didn’t just ask Ryan to take her to the hospital.  She wants to make sure I’ve prepared the readers for this by keeping her personality consistent.  She highlights every place her eyes glaze over when reading, then tells me to rip it out.

Kitty helps with every book I’ve put out, just like I help with every one she creates.  Granted, I kinda have a lead on her in the production area, and maybe having a full-time job gives her a bit less time to catch up, but she’s still writing.  When the idea for the Eternal Combat series came up, it was meant to be.  I’m a gamer.  She raises horses.  We both work for an internet company, so have a decent amount of technical knowledge – including the bad things that happen on the world wide web.

girls-380618.jpgSo what started as one book quickly grew.  Add in some gamer gate, a bit of weirdness at the Hugo awards, and this book morphed into a series.  The key players in gamer’s gate were the idea of the backbone for our characters.  Long nights over margaritas/martinis always turned to what would happen next in the series.  And then Kitty sent me a couple paragraphs.

She writes well.  It’s like a darker version of the way I do.  I have a love affair with the idea of hope.  She has a penchant for making the reality into something powerful.  Put those together, and we ended up with a book about some of the strongest women I’ve ever imagined.  They’re super hero strong, without losing their femininity or becoming cheap placeholders for characters that could feel real.

And then we moved into the rest of the series, and wow.  I always thought that writing with someone else would be a headache.  Sure, I expected the long debates over how to get from point A to point B in the book.  I never thought they’d be so much fun!

Since we’ve been pushing to get Flawed finished, Kitty has finally come to accept that she’s more than just a ghost writer.  She’s good at this.  She enjoys it.  That means there’s no reason her name shouldn’t be on the covers and she shouldn’t get equal billing for the hours she puts in.  The minute she agreed to it, I swapped covers and adjusted everything! (That’s the best part about digital books, changes can be made quickly.)

It also makes the final edits a lot easier.  The pair of us sit down and go through the comments our editor left.  Some we laugh off.  Many we debate.  Is this fragment indicative of the character’s mental state?  Are we trying to make the reader feel something with the choppy flow through this section, or were we being lazy?  How does ripping out that line alter things later in the book?  Does THIS line have any reason to be here?  What’s it driving in the story?  Does the sex scene have a purpose besides titillation?

children-839789.jpgYou see, every single word in a book should do something.  Whether that’s characterization, plot development, or setting – they all need to keep the novel moving in a single direction.  Forward.  The goal is always to get to the end of the book, not to wallow in the journey.  We just don’t want to skip any details between the inciting incident and the culmination of the character’s struggles.  Working with my best friend?  Yeah, it’s a whole lot easier.

Oh.  Right.  And Flawed is almost done.  Maybe after this series is out, we’ll have to start on something else, because working with a co-author is a lot better than I could have imagined.

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