Tim Lebbon – What’s it like to co-write a novel?

Q. I know that as well as writing your own novels, you also co-write books with other authors. How do you approach this collaborative process – is it very very different to writing on your own, and do you enjoy it any more or less than writing solo? Susan Carnaby, London

A. I love collaborating.  I’ve done it a lot in the past, from the novel Hush (with Gavin Williams) almost ten years ago, to the novella Exorcising Angels (with Simon Clark), and now I’m writing novels with the phenomenal US writer – and my good friend – Christopher Golden.  We’re writing two series of books together, the Novels of the Hidden Cities for Bantam Spectra, and The Secret Journeys of Jack London.

For me, it is a very different process from writing solo novels such as Fallen and The Island. Writing on my own, I don’t tend to plan in great detail.  I’ll come up with an idea, write a few pags of notes, and then plunge into the book.  It makes it a quite organic process, but I’m always thinking ahead a chapter or two, and making notes about happens further on (and sometimes things I need to change that I’ve already written).  I find it really enjoyable working this way, because the story will usually become something very different from what I envisaged at the beginning.  Sometimes it even gets to the stage that I’m keen to get to the end so that I know what happens!

Collaborating is quite different.  Having written three novels together already, and with at least three more contracted, Chris and I have already established a smooth way of working together.  We always starts from a more detailed breakdown.  We’ll know what happens all the way through the book- including the ending – but that doesn’t mean things don’t change in the writing!  It’s a very rewarding experience when the story takes over and starts telling itself, and this happens as much with collaborating as it does writing solo.

I wouldn’t say it’s easier or harder, but it is different.  The book benefits from being edited as we write – we’ll work on a chapter or two each at a time, then the other writer will edit that before moving on.  But obviously there’s the work involved in making sure the writing flows well and the styles don’t collide too harshly.  I like to say that I Lebbonise his Goldenisms, and he Goldenises my Lebbonisms, and we come up with a novel that neither of us would, or could have written on our own.  It’s a wonderful process, challenging and rewarding, and I now can’t imagine myself ever not collaborating.

Tim Lebbon

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