Once upon a time, in a faraway kingdom, a hero, the Chosen One, was born . . . and so begins every fairy tale ever told.
This is not that fairy tale.
There is a Chosen One, but he is unlike any One who has ever been Chosened.
And there is a faraway kingdom, but you have never been to a magical world quite like the land of Pell.
There, a plucky farm boy will find more than he’s bargained for on his quest to awaken the sleeping princess in her cursed tower. First there’s the Dark Lord, who wishes for the boy’s untimely death . . . and also very fine cheese. Then there’s a bard without a song in her heart but with a very adorable and fuzzy tail, an assassin who fears not the night but is terrified of chickens, and a mighty fighter more frightened of her sword than of her chain-mail bikini. This journey will lead to sinister umlauts, a trash-talking goat, the Dread Necromancer Steve, and a strange and wondrous journey to the most peculiar “happily ever after” that ever once-upon-a-timed.
“Ranks among the best of Christopher Moore and Terry Pratchett.”—Chuck Wendig
“When you put two authors of this high caliber together, expect fireworks. Or at least laughs. What a hoot!”—New York Times bestselling author Terry Brooks
If writing alone is a soliloquy, writing with a co-author is more like improv.
Kevin: Collaborating is turbo fun. We trade off drafting chapters and it feels a bit like an improvisational game, because while I might have a vague idea of what Delilah is going to do in a chapter plot-wise, thanks to our rough outline, I never know exactly what’s going to happen or what kind of cliffhanger she’s going to throw me at the end of it. And the jokes slay me too. I quickly wondered why I waited so long to try it.
Delilah: So true. Getting a chapter from Kevin feels a little like seeing my Easter basket for the first time as a kid. When I write a book by myself, I always leave plenty of room for organic plotting, but in order to write a book with a co-writer, it’s important to have a solid road map so someone doesn’t veer off into a sticky swamp. But there’s still plenty of room for creativity within that outline, and I love looking at each chapter’s objective and trying to figure out how to delight and amuse the reader—and Kevin—by doing something unexpected or flipping a trope.
You’ve got to pick the right writing partner—and make it legal.
Kevin: Trusting your partner is key, especially in the writing and editing bits, but also: Have your agents work out a collaboration agreement. Because I hate worrying about business stuff, and once the agreement is worked out, you have no worries. It’s something your agents will be able to whip up amongst themselves pretty easily and it mostly involves contingency plans for unlikely scenarios.
Delilah: There’s an interesting push and pull in the co-writing relationship as each person discovers what’s a deal breaker for them and what they can feel free to let the other person handle. That trust is key to knowing when to let go—and to trusting that when something is important to you, whether a legal issue or a character arc or just a joke, that the other person will respect that. I feel so fortunate to work with Kevin because he’s a master of his craft, a canny businessman, and a great friend. If either partner has too much ego or if the power or skill differential is too broad, I feel like it would be really hard to keep that balance of professional respect and individual artistic license. You want to pick someone you genuinely like, whose writing you like, and whose business practices are in line with yours, and it helps if they’re on the same level as you are so it’s an equal partnership.
You’ll get the best synergy in person—preferably with fine cocktails and Spam™.
Kevin: If you can, get the initial breakdown done in person. And by that I mean just jotting down the characters, what they want, and what’s in their way—that’s a plot breakdown. The brainstorming back and forth is going to be more vibrant if you’re in person instead of skyping. And where you do it can make a huge difference. We were breaking down No Country for Old Gnomes in New Orleans while we were there for a convention. The convention hotel had a griffin on their room key cards and we looked at it and said, “We should have a griffin in this book.” I honestly don’t think it would have occurred to us otherwise and now we have a gryphon on the cover. And then we went for a walk in the city, soaking up this amazing atmosphere and maybe a liter of rum drinks, and we wound up on Frenchman Street, enjoying live music in bar after bar and taking notes on ideas the whole time.
Delilah: Gotta admit it: Storybreaking a pun book with Kevin is one of life’s greatest joys, and not just because of the rum drinks. The key to hammering out a plot for us appears to be good food, great cocktails, a novel environment, and being as open and supportive as possible. Most of our plotting is just us taking turns, saying, “That’s a great idea! And what if also this? And that? And some more drinks? And spam musubi?” And then the other person says, “Hey, that’s great!” And then we giggle a lot. I can’t imagine our books would have the same vibrancy and creativity if we were soberly skyping at 2 in the afternoon like it was a business meeting. As it is, we’re maximizing our creativity through sensory enrichment and the application of flaming tiki drinks. We want to write fun books, and we want to have fun doing it.
Yes, Virginia, it’s still going to be hard sometimes.
Delilah: Sounds pretty dreamy, doesn’t it? Write a book with one of your best friends and get that sweet book cash for just half the work? But it’s still a book, and it still requires time on task, just with an extra helping of diplomacy and courtesy. Kevin and I each have our own individual publishing and event commitments, and we don’t want to let one another down on our co-written book, which means there are all-nighters and frantic weeks of 6,000 word days to catch up after a con. Sometimes—although rarely—we disagree on something in the book, and it becomes a super polite dance of trying to decide how to move forward in a way that feels right for both of us. Is it worth it? 100% yes! But you shouldn’t go into a co-writing experience expecting nothing but roses.
Kevin: Yeah! Roses can be cloying anyway, and the whole point of co-authoring is to combine powers. Syncing up to maximize our strengths not only takes hard work but the expectation that the mesh will require such work. If everything was perfect with a chapter I sent over, honestly, that’s when I’d start to doubt. If I didn’t see Delilah tweaking and refining my stuff and inserting delightful jokes I’d wonder if she read it. And because our writing processes in addition to our schedules are different, allowances obviously have to be made for workflow. The fact that Delilah is even capable of 6K-word days still boggles my mind when I write at a more plodding pace of 1-2K per day and constantly believe I’m running behind.
You’ve got to learn to say, “Why not?”
Delilah: So much of writing is about being open to possibility and not letting your brain say, “No, that would never work.” Kevin first pitched Kill the Farm Boy to me at an airport barbecue joint in the Dallas airport after a great signing. Three years later, here we are. At any point, we could’ve let conventional wisdom kill the project. Is the title too silly? Do people want a funny book? Will co-writing be too weird or difficult? Can we really do this in Fantasy? Can we really make that many jokes about elf boners? Instead of asking if we were allowed to do it or if it would sell, we just let ourselves have as much fun as possible. Any time I think a chapter might be too out there or wacky, I write it anyway and send it to Kevin, and most of the time, he digs it. That’s how books get made—you pick an idea that’s too crazy to work and just write the hell out of it in exactly the way that makes you feel the most alive.
Kevin: Yes. And because of the collaboration, we both feel safe writing some wacky stuff because we trust the other one to tell us if it works. And when it does—which is most of the time—it pushes us to take more creative risks. Delilah recently wrote a chapter for book three that was an extended punny riff on a particular body function that folks usually don’t discuss and I had never seen anything like it before. I sat there flabbergasted and giggling after reading it and wondered if I could do something like that. Why hadn’t I tried? I made my next chapter an extended riff on something else and Delilah loved it and couldn’t believe I went there. Well, normally—if I’d been writing solo—I wouldn’t have! So the collaboration has challenged me and forced me to grow as a writer while remaining incredibly fun. 14/10, would recommend doing that thing you’ve always wanted to do.
Find out more about Kill the Farm Boy or order the book at the Tales of Pell website.
And if you want to find out who you would be in the world of Pell, take the easy and non-data-grabby name generator quiz!