Every author probably has a question that is always asked of him or her. What does everyone want to know about George R.R. Martin? When he will write his goddam sequel. What do we always get asked? See. Clever. A smooth segue between George R.R. Martin and Greg Lazarus for those millions of Google searches that include both our names.
We always get asked how we write together. And we always say the same thing. When we write, we don’t fight. It’s sort of true. If you don’t count comments like, ‘Don’t be stupid, stupid’ in your definitions of fighting.
One way we achieve this peaceful stance towards one another is by developing our own writer vocabulary. Words subtly shift their meaning. If I’ve penned a draft of something and I show it to Greg, I’ll ask him what he thinks. And this is how it goes: ‘Interesting’ means ‘crap’, ‘good’ means ‘fairly crap but not entirely crap’, ‘ great’ means ‘maybe we can salvage one or two lines from your 500 words’. But doesn’t any relationship work like this? Since when did ‘I’ve got a headache’ mean ‘I’ve got a headache’?
Some writer collaborations probably involve a whole lot of fighting. Raymond E. Feist at Open Book Festival seemed to imply that this was the case with his collaborative partner, Joanie or Jo or Jumbo or something. He said that they screamed at each other for hours but all in the interests of the narrative, of course.
This would never work for us. New work feels very fragile. Ours is not a cactus like Feist’s manuscript; it’s more like a struggling sapling, just breaking through hard soil. Even sharing ideas at the early stage is very difficult. Greg refuses to do it. He says he has to feel his way into a piece. I think that sounds a little bit poncy, but I tell him that I understand. And after he’s sent me the first 500 words, I’ll be sure to say, at the very least, how ‘interesting’ I’ve found them.