Today I’m honored to present two twitter friends to you, Marousia and PeterWilkin1.
They met on twitter, made friends on twitter, and decided to collaborate on a novel. We could watch them develop the story, talk about it, and finish it, and we celebrated with them. It’ my pleasure to be the first to host them. Here is what they have to say about their book!
Photo: Peter Wilkin
Synchronicity: A Novel Collaboration between Peter Wilkin and Marousia Berry
We thought about how to write about our collaboration. Peter suggested using a conversation format so here is a reflective conversation about how we wrote Crystal Space: Releasing the Dragons
Can you remember how all this began?
M: When I think about how our collaboration began, I recollect that we noticed our poetry posts were synching in terms of themes and feelings, and this really struck us both. There were also the ‘parties’ with Pierre and Missy - those started when I was in Vietnam on business in late November last year, you three kept me company when I was eating dinner alone in restaurants. I feel we became friends and fellow travellers then.
P: Yes, the parties were the precursors of our poetry collaborations, where we spontaneously created several, themed, haiku-based rengas ‘live’ on twitter. I remember we talked about ‘dancing together’ as the two of us wrote Flames of Creation, a dragon-themed renga in January of this year. We both wrote up the experience on our respective blogs and one of the comments prompted me to reply that there seemed to be ‘so much synchronicity (between us) as if we were unconsciously plugged into each other’s thoughts.’
M: I agree that when we wrote Flames of Creation we were tapping into each others thoughts, in my blog I described the process of writing the renga as a ‘seamless waltzing’.
How did we decide on a theme? What came first, the theme of the form/genre?
P: You know, I seem to recall that the theme and the genre emerged hand in hand. Was it my wife, Ally’s decision to open a crystal shop that fuelled our fantasies about a similarly themed novel together? That, perhaps, and our shared passion for all things dragonish?
M: Yes, we both went through a phase where all our micro-poems were about dragons. It was like we were finding the dragon characters for the book. Then I remember you telling me about Ally’s crystal shop and we decided to put the dragons in the shop; we had inklings of the dragon characters and crystal shop setting.
M: I feel we share an obsession for dragons. Maybe deep down I still believe dragons exist and I could fly with them if I just say the right words... How about you?
P: Oh, most definitely. Like you, I believe we are separated from a dimension where dragons do exist by a small piece of knowing that, for now, eludes us. Perhaps our dragon writing is bringing us ever-closer to those magical words?
Can you remember how we decided it should be a children’s novel?
M: I seem to recollect we discovered we shared a love of children’s literature - poetry and books. I remember thinking Flames of Creation had the stuff of a story children would like. Did you feel the same?
P: I did indeed. Looking back, it is as if Crystal Space arose out of the ashes of our renga. In actual fact I’ve just taken a peek at Flames of Creation and it gave me the shivers as I read it through. There are so many raw ideas in our collaborative poem that we have picked out and developed whilst writing Crystal Space.
How did we write the outline and what part did it play in the writing?
P: Whilst we had a very basic idea of a story in our heads, I remember writing out the ‘hero stages’ of a possible storyline and, shortly afterwards, creating a chapter-plan and synopsis from those initial notes. I think our pre-planning has been invaluable: keeping us on track (apart from my inability to stop at a predetermined word count) whilst still allowing us the freedom to roam wherever we wished.
M: I agree, the chapter outline was the key to keep the plot moves on track. I think it freed us to really develop the characters of the humans and the dragons as well as the settings where the events unfolded.
What’s the book about?
M: I guess our premise for the book is that optimism and imagination win through, and mistakes are essential to the process of growing up to be a grounded resilient person. The story follows a classic fairy tale plot line. The protagonist is a girl called Briannca on the cusp of adolescence. She goes to work in a crystal shop where she meets Ruby, the keeper of the dragon crystals. Over to you, Peter.
P: For the very first time in her life, Briannca experiences some major losses as she joins Ruby and the dragons in their quest to save the moon and defeat the incredibly evil Candleman. And she is faced with some big decisions as she and her nerdy brother, Enjee, embark upon a fabulous journey as they weave in and out of various dimensions.
M: Yes, Enjee’s ability with computer games turns out to be be very handy to solve some wicked situations. The dragons as characters are quite tricky but then again they are not human.
P: And I think it’s fair to say that this is no ordinary story. The main characters find themselves in some weird and wonderful places and encounter some incredibly bizarre creatures.
How did you create the characters?
M: We decided on the sister and brother and shopkeeper, and then I recollect that we looked at crystal lore, do you remember how we settled on seven dragons?
P: Yes - the seven dragons are roughly based upon the seven alchemical metals that Carl Jung refers to in his theory of spiritual transformation. And, of course, the stages of individuation that he identifies surface regularly in our book as Briannca makes the transition from childhood to adolescence.
M: I had the chapter where Rose dragon was first drawn out as a character by Briannca. Her crystal is rose quartz which heals and promotes unconditional love. She is incredibly playful but very grounded at the same time. You developed the Golden dragon, Peter, how do you see him?
P: He is the burning sun: a huge force of energy and leader of the dragons. Yet, deep down beneath his pragmatic exterior, there is a warmth and sensitivity in him that surfaces when Briannca is feeling upset or distressed. Just like his crystal, amber, he is both invigorating and calming.
How did we feel sending each other chapters? How did we feel reading each other’s chapters?
M: I was always so excited when I received the chapters from you. I remember waiting for you to write the first chapter and then it arrived. It was a magic moment I will never forget! I read it and it was perfect, so beautifully expressed. And then I had to write the second. Oh, I was so nervous sending it off and I tried to leave threads for you to pick up. I wondered which one would appeal to you. For me it was like an extended drama improvisation... over to you...
P: And I was amazed when you sent over chapter 2 - the distance between us and the fact that we had never physically met seemed irrelevant as your chapter took up the story seamlessly from chapter 1. Well - I say ‘amazed’ but, on reflection, I believe we somehow knew that our imaginations would meld together and the chapters would flow.
What about editing?
P: The editing has been fun, though I must confess to a degree of anxiety when first editing ‘your’ chapters. I remember tentatively apologizing to you in advance should I suggest any changes and you responded with, ‘Hey! Go for it! If I don’t agree I will say so!’ Your comment really freed me up to edit with impunity. For me, editing the book together enabled me to relinquish any kind of ownership of the chapters that I’d written. Now, it truly is ‘our’ book - there feels to be no ‘you and me’ about it any longer ~ only ‘us’. Was it a similar kind of process for you?
M: Yes it was, I feel that editing together worked really well because we did start to think about the book as a whole instead of chapter to chapter - it stopped being a dance and became a threaded unified work. I enjoyed the editing process very much and it very much is ‘our’ book now.
What are our next steps?
M: We need to find publishers interested in children’s books and young adult fantasy to approach. I feel we have a series in the Crystal Space …
P: Definitely! And the prospect of writing a sequel with you thrills me.
M: I have the distinct sensation the sequel is sitting in a dragon’s egg somewhere hatching as we speak.