Today we’re shining the spotlight on two of our hottest authors: Shaunn Grulkowski, author of Retcontinuum, and Laura Morrison, author of How to Break an Evil Curse. Both titles are JP30 and What’s Hot list frequenters, which makes these two authors something of a pair of celebrities around the site. But solo serials aren’t all they’re known for. Shaunn and Laura are blazing a trail in another genre of fiction, one where teamwork plays a significant role.
The duo recently partnered up to co-author Tradecraft, a prequel to Retcontinuum. Set in the year 2119, Tradecraft follows Elizabeth Murphy, top industrial spy of the megalithic Sinclair Corporation, as she infiltrates other corporations and steals the data Sinclair needs to complete their top secret projects. The story’s already 8 chapters long and picking up steam on the charts. We invited Shaunn and Laura to tell us a bit about themselves, their writing process, and what the future holds for this method of story writing. Check out the interview below.
JukePop: Hi Laura and Shaunn! Go ahead and introduce yourselves to the audience.
Laura: By training, I’m an environmental scientist with an emphasis on invasive species, and I’m currently a stay-at-home mom. Whenever I have spare time, I write my book How to Break an Evil Curse, and now Tradecraft as well.
Shaunn: I’m a building supervisor. I wrote Retcontinuum and split the chores on Tradecraft.
JP: How did you find JukePop?
L: I found JukePop through doing Nanowrimo last year.
JP: How did you find each other?
L: We followed each other on Twitter, and then I checked out Shaunn’s book, Retcontinuum, which I binge read in two days because it’s super good. I was struck by how, though our stories are quite different in a lot of ways, we have a very similar style of writing and like the same sorts of jokes.
S: Yeah, the funny thiing was that neither of us were on twitter prior to being on JukePop. I didn’t even have a Facebook account. We ended up with a small Twitter crew of JP writers: Jenn Flath (The Black Pearl), The Athena Quadrumvirate (Athena), Shannon Vest (Mikolo and Kate), A.N. Jackwitz (Every Moment, Every Thing), Cameron Duke (Cargo), and now K.R. Kampion (Reconstruction). I probably forgot someone, but I’m sure Laura can fix that. I think the thing that jumped out at me about Laura’s work was her timing and joke construction, and how similar it was to mine. I was kind of stuck on Tradecraft, and she kept on me to update it. I took the chance on asking her if she wanted to split it with me, and I’m glad she was into it.
JP: What’s it like working with each other? What are the challenges, the pros and cons?
L: This is the first time I have collaborated with another author in an official capacity, though I grew up writing stories with my little sister for fun so I have some experience working on a book with another person. Working together on Tradecraft has been very smooth thus far. At first it was a bit strange to make the switch from reader of the world Shaunn had created to writer, but I got over that after a chapter or two. The only real challenge I can think of is that I don’t swear, and Shaunn has created a world where the characters most certainly do. And, of course, since his world is firmly established already through Retcontinuum and the first bit of Tradecraft he wrote solo, it’s not like I can jump in and clean up everyone’s language! So, thus far, poor Shaunn has been having to go through and insert curses into the stuff I write since my curses sound forced, like a kid trying to be bad. Also, the violence I write in How to Break an Evil Curse is pretty silly and slapstick, whereas Shaunn’s is quite realistic.
S: As realistic as a book about time-travel can be, I guess. Even though I’d never partnered with anyone prior to this, it was a no-brainer to team with Laura. She’s very funny, and since we’re the same age and have a lot of the same influences, it’s been way easier than I thought. Also, since Tradecraft is very heavy with female leads, it’s nice to have an actual female help mould and guide the characters. She is a terrible curser, though. I told her the other day that it was like reading a cursing worksheet from an ESOL class. But she’s getting better!
JP: Describe the typical process for completing and releasing a new chapter of Tradecraft.
L: Essentially, we take turns writing chapters. Shaunn writes a chapter, sends it to me for edits and insertions/deletions, I send my changes back to him, and as long as he likes my changes we publish. Then, I write the next chapter and send it to him for edits.
S: It’s funny seeing people try to guess who wrote what. Really though, there isn’t much editing that happens other than making sure everyone’s language stays consistent. It’s cool though, because one of us will have an idea and text the other right away, and that’s worked out well so far.
JP: Are there parts of this process that are more efficient with a partner? Parts that would go smoother alone?
L: It’s quite nice to have someone to bounce ideas off of, and great to write with someone who has a similar sense of humor because it can make the story twice as amusing. A downside of writing with a partner is just waiting for each other to fit writing or editing into our busy lives. But even that isn’t really a big deal; recently I went on vacation and we were still able to put out a new chapter that week.
S: I think just from a speed/volume perspective, the partnership route is the way to go. I really don’t feel like there’s been anything that has come up as a problem working together. I don’t think either of us are so precious about our ideas that having someone else go “Yeah, but what if we did this” has been anything but helpful.
JP: What’s your general impression of collaborative writing so far? Does releasing as a serial hurt or benefit the writing?
L: I’ve been having a great time writing Tradecraft with Shaunn. Writing a novel is usually very solitary, so having someone else to talk to about a project is a welcome change. One thing about writing that drives me crazy is having a huge plot twist that only I know about and must wait for readers to get to — but with a partner I have someone else to share it with so the waiting for the readers to get to it isn’t as tough! Another benefit or collaborating is if I run up against an issue I can just ask Shaunn a question about whatever plot point is bothering me, and that usually gets me back on track. Collaborating on a serial (as opposed to a traditional novel) has been helpful, I think, because having the chapter updates gives us an external goal and keeps us on track.
S: It’s been great working with Laura. Actually, I almost prefer it to writing solo. Almost. It’s way less work, which is awesome. Plus, it’s nice to have someone that can rein you in. Left to my own devices, I think I have a tendency to go too far on the weird side. Not to say that she isn’t super weird, but it’s an acceptable sort of weird. Writing as a serial I think really helps you learn how to pace things well, since you can’t just have four or five expository chapters in a row. Unless you want to bore everyone to death.
JP: After Tradecraft, would you collaborate on another writing project?
L: I’d definitely collaborate on another project. We actually already have another story in the works!
S: It’s going to be something way different than what we’ve done so far. I think it’ll be a straight comedy. I’ve also been kicking the idea of a podcast around with Laura and one of the other authors, but we’ll have to see on that one. My assumption would be that we would publish it on JP, but we haven’t talked about that part just yet.
JP: Any advice for other writers seeking to co-author a work?
L: Find someone with a similar writing style and sense of humor. Also, someone who isn’t too attached to a rigid schedule is a plus.
S: I’d advise someone to just work with her, but she’s busy. Honestly, though: find someone who’s similar in taste, but has a different perspective. If you’re too similar, I don’t think you’ll get the full benefit of having a partner.