by Joyce Lamb)
Cam Baity and Benny Zelkowicz, co-authors of the new YA The Foundry's Edge (the first in The Book of Ore series), give each other a hard time … I mean, interview each other about the "joys" of collaborating and other stuff.
Cam: First of all, thanks so much for taking the time to finally sit down with me. I know how busy you are, but I was hoping I could ask you a couple of questions.
Benny: So nice to finally meet you. You are shorter than I had imagined. And, actually, I have a few questions of my own, if that's OK. I think the thing people ask me most often is, "How do you write a book with someone else?" How do you describe our process?
Cam: I usually say, "Partner? What partner? I did this all by myself."
Benny: Good. I feel less guilty now. I think it's a lot like being married. It's a relationship, a commitment that is entirely reliant on the partners' ability to communicate and resolve conflict in a productive way. Of course, both parties will eventually disagree and want to do things in exactly the opposite way. Then, either you dig your heels in and fight, or you acquiesce as a gesture to show you are reasonable.
Cam: True, and like all relationships, it requires upkeep. Fortunately for me, I have a partner who tires of fighting easily, so I tend to get my way a lot. What would you say is the most rewarding part of how we work? And, conversely, what is the most challenging?
Benny: Resisting … obvious … answer …
Cam: I believe in you.
Benny: OK, I'm good. My answer would be the same for both — world-building. It's a job that is never done, especially with two people. The upside is that creating with a partner can be ecstatic, like two kids in a sandbox with infinite possibilities and no parents in sight. The downside is that infinite possibilities equal infinite possible mistakes.
Cam: And like our own world, a fantasy world is constantly in flux. Even between two people, who are particularly good cataloguers and note-takers as well as strikingly handsome, it can be a feat to constantly enforce (and remember) the established rules. That's where the checks and balances of a partnership can be a lifesaver.
Benny: You're sweet. So how about the characters? What would you say about our system?
Cam: I guess I'd continue with your family metaphor. Bringing a new character into existence with a partner is a lot like parenthood — it is a heart-racing thrill to have brought someone to life, but after that initial high wears off, you wonder "Now what?" So you ask them. And then, like a real child, they start talking. And walking. And they make you laugh. And they make you angry. Then, inevitably, you get into a fight, and they stop talking to you. That's the tough part, when you bend over backwards and do everything you possibly can to reach out to them, but your characters give you the cold shoulder.
Benny: Totally. Even though we are in control of our characters' fates, it does sometimes feel like we're discovering their motivations and desires as they live and grow on the page. Sometimes they obey, and other times we have to keep them in line. Like with Goodwin, one of our antagonists, we were very conscious about avoiding clichés like "I want to take over the world!" and other "moustache-twiddly" tropes.
Cam: Yes, but while still maintaining him as a bad guy. Bucking too hard against the standards can be just as annoying as going full-stereotype. One thing we always agree on, probably because of our background as animators, is a passion for villains. You can take them as far as you want to, and it's OK because they need to be extreme (or at least capable of it), all while maintaining sympathetic and recognizably human intentions.
Benny: And that's what makes you the perfect villain.
Cam: I yam what I yam. What would you say are the benefits of writing with a partner?
Benny: Well, because the process of building a book is so all-encompassing (especially one with intensive world-building), it is a huge comfort to have someone else to shoulder the burden with. When you have kids and day jobs, it's nice to be able to share the crazy workload. And there is always plenty to do. It also becomes a tremendous asset when you can discover your particular strengths and weaknesses so you can fit together to balance each other out as a singular voice on the page — where the sum is greater than the parts.
Cam: That's the nicest thing you've ever said to me.
Benny: Well, technically it was about partnership in general, not you.
Cam: No, seriously, quit with the compliments.
Benny: Listening, Cam. See, this is exactly what I was talking about before when ––
Cam: Well, I think I've pretty much covered all the important stuff. Any last words?
Benny: Yes. Working solo has its benefits, too.
Here's the blurb about The Foundry's Edge (courtesy of publisher Disney Hyperion):
For Phoebe Plumm, life in affluent Meridian revolves around trading pranks with irksome servant Micah Tanner, and waiting for her world-renowned father, Dr. Jules Plumm, to return home. Chief engineer for The Foundry, a global corporation with an absolute monopoly on metal production and technology, Phoebe's father is often absent for months at a time. But when a sudden and unexpected reunion leads to father and daughter being abducted, Phoebe and would-be rescuer Micah find themselves stranded in a stunning yet volatile world of living metal — one that has been ruthlessly plundered by The Foundry for centuries and is the secret source of every comfort and innovation the two refugees have ever known.
Find out more about Cam and Benny at their website, camandbenny.com.