Where did your ideas for Brothers and the series as a whole begin?
Will: Coffee. Pacing. Hours-long phone conversations. Those are the phrases that come to my mind when I think about how this story began.
When you sit down to write, a lot of your first ideas come as what some people call “top of the head” thinking. Most of those are cliches, things you’ve seen numerous times on TV or in pulp fiction. One of the advantages of collaborative writing is that it forces you to sit and listen to someone else tell you how bad your ideas are and how much better you can do. You hate losing some of those ideas at the time, but at this point I don’t miss any of them.
To get back to the question, we had both talked about writing something together years ago but never took it too seriously. I guess we just got to that “Why the heck not?” moment and decided to go for it.
Steve: When we first started kicking the idea of writing together around, we didn’t start to get into it until we both came to the conclusion that we had hit upon a unique idea for a story – something that hasn’t been done in this genre before and something that will be pretty exciting to ultimately reveal. And I always drink coffee – that’s a given.
What was the most challenging part of the process, and how did you overcome it?
Will: Everything after the first draft. Phew. The first time I looked the first draft over, I had this moment of, “Oh no, what are we supposed to do now?” This project we had poured so much energy and enthusiasm into had become an ugly, misshapen, hide-under-your-bed kind of monster, and for a while I just wanted to close my eyes and hope it went away, but of course it never did.
Steve can tell you how I chickened out for most of a year, telling myself I just needed to give it some space while I worked on another book. In reality, I was just clueless about the rewriting process.
I suppose what helped me most was a willingness to make mistakes. Even now I could go through the book and name plenty of things I wish were different, but I’ve made peace with that. You live and learn, right? So at some point in the process, I think it’s important to shift your mindset from perfection to perseverance. It’s just you and that book squaring against one another in the ring, and only one of you will come out alive.
Steve: This whole process has been new and full of unknowns for both of us. And only a few people realize how long it actually took. The rough first draft that we originally started with was a drastically different story from what we published – a fact that our beta readers can attest to. With that being said, I think the hardest part was the second-guessing and the lack of experience. We didn’t know what we didn’t know. Looking back, I feel a heckuva lot more confident to be able to repeat the process now then I did even a couple months ago. Gotta love it.
What part of the process was the most fun?
Will: Writing the first draft. Seriously, all the brain-storming and excitement—it was like a continuous high for a while. The sky was the limit. The book could be anything we wanted it to be. There were zero consequences.
Until we actually had to fix all the plot holes and inconsistencies later on, but we already covered that.
Probably the best part of the process (other than the actual writing; seriously, nothing can compete with that) was when Steve and I would be talking and one of us would have an idea, and that would lead the other person to an even better idea, and so on. I could go on and on about how many ideas we considered and eventually scrapped in order to reach the final product, but I’ll resist the temptation—for now.
Steve: Will hit the nail on the head. The most fun I had was brainstorming new ideas and putting the connective tissue together to try to come up with something that made sense and had some depth to it. In my mind, the more twists and turns a story can have, the better. And y’all ain’t seen nothing yet!
How do you plan to improve your writing process as you tackle Book 2?
Will: Outlining. You’ve probably heard the two designations “plotters” and “pantsers” (hey, I didn’t come up with them). I prefer George R. R. Martin’s analogy: some writers are gardeners, tending their story as it grows, while others are architects who plan everything in advance.
I have considered myself a gardener type of writer for years, but with every draft I write, I’m more convinced of the value of outlining. It’s important to allow room for the creativity of the process, of course, since you’re bound to have new and exciting ideas while you’re hammering the story out, but it can also be useful to have some idea what you want the end product to look like.
So that’s the biggest change I would want to see in the process. We already implemented that to some extent as we wrote Book 2, but I may push for even more outlining when we move on to Book 3. (Spoiler alert!)
Steve: I think we have and will continue to make good progress in a lot of areas as we continue to learn from doing. However, I think one area that has been challenging has been setting and hitting deadlines. Will and I are both perfectionists, which can be a double-edged sword when it comes to an endeavor like writing (and publishing) a book.
As you look toward the future of the series, what excites you the most?
Will: Character arcs. One of the handicaps with movies, for instance, is the limited time frame in which to create a compelling character arc. I think that’s one of the reasons many shows are addictive. Take Dexter, for example. Without giving spoilers, the longevity of the show allowed the creators to develop a believable, well-paced, and engrossing character arc for the protagonist. They simply wouldn’t have had room to do so in the space of two hours.
It’s similar with books. I have never been a fan of fiction with static characters. This is particularly common in crime or detective serials, where sometimes the only change from one book to the next is that one case has been solved and another arrives to take its place.
So the advantage of writing a series is that it gives you time and space to develop characters at a natural pace. We have only begun to scratch the surface of some of the characters in Brothers, so stay tuned.
Steve: I’m excited to continue adding depth to the world we’ve created. (Hopefully, it is a world that we never get to witness, but that’s beside the point.) As I alluded to earlier, we believe that the events that have transpired prior to the start of Brothers are unique from anything we’ve seen done before.
What advice would you give to other young, aspiring writers out there?
Will: Never stop, never settle. No, wait—that’s the line for Hennessy cognac, isn’t it?
Seriously, though, all the talk about talent and aspiration needs to go out the window. If you want to be a writer, put in the work. Study the craft. Practice the craft. Someone said you must write one million words to achieve competency. That isn’t strictly accurate, of course, but it’s the right idea.
One of my favorite writing quotes comes from Ray Bradbury: “You fail only if you stop writing.” That’s the measuring stick—not becoming a NYT bestseller, not how many five-star reviews your book has on Amazon, not how many words you write per day. When you feel like you will never amount to anything and your writing will never rise above the trash heap, ask yourself, “Do I love writing? Does it fulfill me?” If it does, then keep going. If it doesn’t…there are plenty of other occupations out there for you to try.
After all, you’d have to be crazy to become a writer for the money.
Steve: This advice applies to all areas of life, not just writing: Hone your craft. Don’t just talk or think about who or what you want to be. Develop a plan with realistic action steps and put in the work. I had a high school basketball coach who summed it up best with a phrase he called the 6 W’s: “Work will win when wishing won’t.”