Are Two Storytellers Better Than One?
A Co-Writer Can Help You Tell Your Story
Please don’t get me wrong. My brother doesn’t need a keeper, though sometimes my wife says that I do, but if he did need a keeper, he has a bunch of sisters who would be happy to take the job. We grew up in the Mojave Desert near Death Valley. Our father was a dentist, who had a practice in Trona, California, a small mining town. He was the only dentist in town. As the good citizens of Trona mined the minerals of Searles Valley, Dad mined their teeth.
When Andy and I went off to college, we left the desert, thinking never to look back. We thought we were done with Trona, but couldn’t have been more wrong. For 35 years, I was a business lawyer for international commercial finance companies in Ohio, Michigan and Colorado. For 25 years, Andy was a trial practice lawyer, working in Southern California. We have kept our law licenses current, but are now writing fiction full time. Though some say that’s what we did as lawyers, this is different.
As lawyers, we were always solving other people’s problems. After we each moved to Colorado, we talked about starting a business together where we only had to solve our own problems. We both have many years of formal writing experience, and we have always been storytellers, first to siblings and friends, then to our children, and now to our grandkids, so writing fiction made sense.
|The Brothers Washburn|
A few years ago, I started writing a young-adult science fiction series, so when Andy also tried his hand at writing fiction, it didn’t take long for us to come together as The Brothers Washburn on a young-adult horror series. Scary stories are a family specialty. The tale is set in Trona, California, which is a perfect setting for a horror series.
Growing up, Andy loved A Collection of Short Stories, by O. Henry. Later, Stories Your Mother Never Told You, by Alfred Hitchcock, was a favorite. As a teenager, he was fascinated with The Illustrated Man, by Ray Bradbury. For my part, I was always on the lookout for anything by Edgar Rice Burroughs and always searching for new sci-fi authors. It is no surprise, then, that we are currently writing both a YA horror series as well as a separate YA sci-fi series. We find that once we start telling a horror or sci-fi story, the bounds of the story are limited only by our own imaginations.
|Trona is located in|
As brothers, we get along well and have healthy levels of mutual self-respect. We can freely share ideas and challenge each other without worrying about egos. We are more creative when bouncing ideas off each other and discussing a general storyline, but we actually write separately, and then confer later on what we have been doing. Sometimes we disagree on specific wording, and there is some friendly give and take as we consider alternatives, but then we agree quickly on the final wording. We both appreciate the different perspective and skills the other brings to the joint process.
In key ways, we are different in how we approach a story. Andy was a planner (a habit from writing like an lawyer), but in fiction, he no longer plans ahead. He likes to develop his characters, and let them take the story wherever it is going. On the other hand, I am definitely still a planner. I make lists and outlines, not only for a current story, but for future stories too.
Andy doesn’t like having people around him when he is writing, especially when he is creating new material. Sometimes people just bug him. When I’m writing, I have to organize my surrounding environment. Once everything is in order, I can detach from the world and write.
If Andy hits a tough spot in the story development, it is usually because of outside distractions. If he can get rid of distractions, he can keep writing. If I hit a tough spot, I don’t try to force it. I stop, leave the house, and pick up some fast food where I can watch people. I come back refreshed and ready to move the story forward. I find that fresh ideas come naturally when I’m eating--Chipotle is always good.
Background research is important to us both in two areas: theoretical science and local Trona geography. First, the Dimensions in Death series is an ongoing horror story based on principals of science rather than on demons, devils or magical creatures. An understanding of extremes in scientific theory is necessary and fun. But, this series is not science fiction with a few scary scenes. It is horror and suspense in a fast-pace narrative with a little science, by way of explanation, sprinkled on for spice, as the truth is gradually discovered by our heroes in the story.
Second, the local geography in the story plays a critical role in setting the mood of the tale. Trona, California is a real place in this world located in a desolate region of the Mojave Desert by Death Valley, and we try to keep the scene settings as real and correct as possible.
The general outline for the first book, Pitch Green, came together one evening in November of 2010. We were attending a writer’s seminar in Manhattan, listening to panel discussions by top literary agents. As we rode the subway from one end-of-the-line stop across town to the opposite end-of-the-line stop, and then back again, we mapped out the basic elements we would need to expand a favorite childhood, scary story into a full-length novel.
Andy wrote a first rough draft, and then I took it over to edit and expand the tale. In writing the first book, the ground work was laid for both the sequels and prequels in that series.
In Pitch Green, we meet two teenagers, Camm and Cal, who are destined by their wit, pluck and luck (not always good) to become the balancing force in this world against predators that keep showing up around an old mansion, which is something more than just a mansion.
Our heroes must make a stand against the mansion’s guardian, any unearthly visitors who might want to come through the mansion in search of easy prey, and the forces of the U.S. Federal Government, who are using the mansion to access unlimited natural resources. Camm is the brains; Cal is the muscle, and together they make a formidable team when they decide to work together. They are joined by an FBI agent, Special Agent Linda Allen, who is smart, resourceful and not intimidated by either those who are using or those who are protecting the mansion and its secrets.
Hurled from one scene of horror to the next, the protagonists barely have time to catch their breaths, let alone to comprehend what is really happening. They do not understand the nature of what they face. Though their intentions are good, by the end of the first book, they have left a dimensional doorway wide open and unguarded. Pitch Green is the opening act in a long and complex tale in which Camm, Cal and Agent Allen will be intrepid explorers in the dimensions in death.
The Brothers Washburn Author links:
Book Dealers: see: Pitch Green or Mojave Green
Kindle Editions & paperbacks available on Amazon.com
Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/
Nook Books & paperbacks available on Barnesandnoble.com
Miscellaneous Dealers: see: Pitch Green or Mojave Green