On collaboration

This is a subject that is interesting to me because I believe we’ve become far too insular in our creative silos as “fine artists”. Where much of the rest of what the buzzpapers call “the creative class” work across fields, genres, media, and platforms to bring their work to light, we tend to have dug ourselves into cozy little bunkers from which we seldom emerge. I remember first thinking this when reading a book on the New York School of poets — a tale that included plenty of collaboration, dalliance, and cross over with the painters and musicians of the time.

That said, I can’t imagine sitting down to work with another writer on a long project like a novel. How do you negotiate that? I’ve worked my poetry angle with songwriters, printmakers, painters, photographers, craftspeople, designers, filmmakers, etc., but the idea of another author is beyond me. And that goes doubly for poetry. I remember once, 20+ years ago, being asked to be part of a group of poets who worked together to create work, and I tried, I really tried, for about two days before I was like, No way. Now, that may have largely been a consequence of one of the writers being, in those days, a bit of a dick, but you get me. I suspect I would have drifted away pretty quickly regardless. Playing nice with others is great in a social group, but not for me on the page.

These two crime writers, however, seem to have made a go of it.

The crucial thing for a good collaboration is the rather diffuse expression “good chemistry” between two people. At the same time, creative collaboration involves the art of balance. Part of the success behind our crime series about police investigator Alexander Blix and news blogger Emma Ramm is that we, as writers, have dissimilar writing styles and, yet, not so different that we cannot disagree without getting into conflict. Both of us are open to the idea that things can be done differently, and neither of us is so precious that we demand changes. Differences are important, and some self-sacrifice – an absence of ego – is absolutely necessary to achieve a successful result.

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