Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Partners in Crime: Eric Beetner & JB Kohl

Our Partners in Crime Series ( authors who collaborate) has been very informative. So far we've has Guest Blogs from Mark Zubro, Bill Crider, Charles Todd (Caroline & Charles), Mary Reed & Eric Mayer, Max Allan Collins, David Corbett, Michael Stanley, Jeffery Deaver, Reed Farrel Coleman, and Charlotte Elkins.  Today I welcome JB Kohl and Eric Beetner. Eric Guest Blogged on my Dying for Chocolate blog, so it's only fitting that he guest blog here, too.

JB Kohl and Eric Beetner are the co-authors of One Too Many Blows To The Head, which Megan Abbott (Queenpin, Bury Me Deep) said, "feels like a long-lost pulp you find in a favorite bookstore. A delicious mix of classic hardboiled grit and the heart-heavy world of film noir, it's a one-sitting read that sends you back to a lost time of fight halls, Chicago boys and last chances." They have enjoyed a successful collaboration despite never having met face to face or even speaking on the phone. JB Kohl is also the author of the novel The Deputy's Widow and Eric Beetner is author of numerous short stories. They are currently at work on the sequel to One Too Many Blows To The Head. More info on each can be found at jbkohl.com and ericbeetner.blogspot.com.

Eric: Whenever I mention that JB Kohl and I have never met, despite having written a novel, One Too Many Blows To The Head, together, people are both fascinated and confused. How could we pull this off? How could we combine such a detailed creative process as writing a book without constant meetings and communication?

The short answer: it was easy.

We communicated quite frequently during the process. From that first email I received through the Film Noir Foundation website I manage asking to link our site to jbkohl.com so readers of her first novel, The Deputy’s Widow, could get a flavor of the Noir-infused world she writes about to my sending off of a short story I’d written to the almost daily notes and correspondences during the actual writing process. We “talked” a lot but only electronically. It was a hell of a lot easier than the era we were writing, 1939 Kansas City, where a collaboration like this would have taken place over Western Union.

JB: I agree. It was easy.

Somewhere in all those e-mails it hit me that Eric and I think a lot alike. Our styles are different, but complementary, and I think we both understood that. It made working together appealing. I guess it never occurred to me to ask if it would actually work or if we could actually pull it off. We just wrote.

It started with an outline Eric sent to me detailing the story of boxing manager Ray Ward. I wove the story of down-and-out police detective Dean Fokoli into that outline. And then we got to work.

Eric: I'd say we had a solidly structured but loose outline. We knew exactly where we were going but I've said it before about collaborating - the best thing is getting to both write and read a book. Each time I got a new chapter in the inbox it was a surprise. I knew we were on to something good because I could respond as a reader for much of it and I was loving what I was reading.

A great thing about not knowing each other beyond cyberspace was the lack of pressure. If at any point it fell apart or we reached creative differences it would have been easy to walk away. I'm so glad we didn't and I'm happy to say it has carried over into our second book which we are in the middle of right now.

JB: I agree. I never felt like writing the book was something I had to do. It never felt like work; rather, it was something I looked forward to working on. Once the outline was done and we got down to work, we wrote in alternating chapters. I looked forward to each of Eric's chapters and following it up with one of my own.

During the process we gave each other notes: things like "this needs more action," or "if you feel like it, would you mind using this dialog?" -- that type of thing. And it was fun to get that kind of immediate feedback and input during the writing process.

I also really liked getting to write about Ray Ward. He's one hundred percent Eric's character, but I've had the opportunity to write about him from Fokoli's perspective. That's an incredibly interesting thing to do and I think it's easy to overlook how unusual something like that is. When I wrote those scenes I was nervous about getting any of it wrong . . . but it was so much fun to do. It was also really interesting to read scenes written by Eric about Fokoli or other overlapping characters.

Eric: Yes, the only part that was difficult at all was taking over the other character, even for a brief time. You just wanted to get it right.

I don't think collaborating is for everyone and I'm not even sure I could do it with anyone else but it has been a great experience for me and one that I know has made me a better writer. We each still write our own books too but you will hear a lot more from this partnership before we are through.


Paul D Brazill said...

It seems a weird way to write but having read 'One Too Many ...' it clearly works; it's a cracking book.

Ténèbres à la lumière... said...

Hi! Eric Beetner, J.B.Kohl and Janet Rudolph,
I have to agree 100% with writer Paul D. Brazill, I'am in the process of "turning the corner" of authors Eric Beetner and J.B.Kohl's book and I must say that their collaboration really work well together in their book "One Too Many Blows To The Head".

Thanks, for sharing!
DeeDee ;-D