Guest Post: Gail Giles on Writing with a Co-Author & Why Faust?

By Gail Giles

The question is asked: why did we (Deb Vanasse and I) decide to use Faust as the central theme of our book No Returns, the first book of our Battleband series (Running Fox, 2014)?

We actually didn’t.

I had an idea that came from dealing with a student of mine who was repeatedly drawing Satanic symbols on his papers. I asked why. He said he was calling up the Devil.

I asked what he would do if it worked and the Devil was busy or asleep and when he came he was pissed.

I started a book with boys in a band that inadvertently call up the Devil and he is truly irritated with them. It was supposed to be a comedy. I had a little more than a chapter done and I went to vacation at Deb’s place in Cabo.

I asked her to co-author the book with me. She suggested a series.

As we worked, it got a little more serious with the addition of Pod’s mother and her disappearance. Now, it was turning by degrees much more Faustian.

 We decided then to go for it. Make it a true Faustian bargain and try to make it our own. We pulled in some history about Faust and the original tale, since some readers might not know the Faust tale. We will be pulling in other old tales and legends throughout the series.

Which all leads to working with a co-author. How does that work? Is it easy? Do you fight? Who gets final approval?

Deb with Mackenzie at glacier

As I said before, I came up with the original idea and the first chapter. We revised the chapter and the next bit that I had and began writing the next part together. Kind of one would say something and we would write it down and the other would say something and on it went.

We got a couple of chapters roughed out that way and lots of notes and about how the book would run.

We changed the direction of the book from out and out comedy to something a little more serious with comedic overtones. We fleshed out characters and how we wanted them to develop over the book and gave some thought to how they would develop over the series.

Then the vacation was over. The rest of the book was written over the phone. Sometimes one of us would write a scene or a whole chapter and we would revise over the phone or we would just do the writing over the phone.

It wasn’t hard for us. No fighting at all. Agreement when we reached what we both thought was approval. Nobody took a diva role.

Now we do less phone work and write a chapter or so and put it in Dropbox and the other person revises and then it just goes back and forth until we think it’s right. Or right enough to go forward until we edit again.

The only hard thing is for Deb to keep me working.

Gail makes new friends.

Cynsational Notes

Gail Giles is the author of six young adult novels. Her debut novel, Shattering Glass (Roaring Brook), was an ALA Best of the Best Book, a Book Sense 76 selection, and a Booklist Top 10 Mystery for Youth selection. Her second, Dead Girls Don’t Write Letters (Roaring Brook), was an ALA Top 10 Quick Pick and a Book Sense 76 selection.

Deb Vanasse is the author of more than a dozen books for readers of all ages. Her debut novel, A Distant Enemy (Dutton), was a Junior Library Guild selection and is featured in Best Books for Young Readers, as was Out of the Wilderness (Clarion). See also The Self-Made Writer.

View from Deb’s office
Gail’s assistant, Oscar Wilde

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