Rolando - What is your definition of collaborative fiction and what made you start writing it?
Lia - What I mean by collaborative fiction is a sort of grander version of the Choose Your Own Adventure books we read as kids. It started because one of the main creative consultant friends I have got really busy and couldn’t give me ongoing feedback as often as I wanted (I’m rather demanding that way), so I thought… Well, I’m sure there are other people who’d be glad to boss me around! There is also that sick little part of me that loved going to school and getting assignments, and this is like that. My readers give me writing homework, and I love the challenge. It keeps my brain alive.
Rolando - What can you achieve through collaborative fiction that you can’t achieve writing regular fiction?
Lia - The collaborators often add at least another layer or two of depth to the story, helping to flesh out subplots that intertwine with the main plot. They’re also good at catching internal inconsistencies I might create, and they keep me true to my genre target audience. Plus, I just really enjoy the interaction. So far, the contributors have all been very pleasant, creative, fun people.
Rolando - Please give us a short and general, step-by-step description of how collaborative fiction works.
Lia - It’s incredibly simple. I establish a premise, write a chapter, and then ask some questions about where things might go. I may or may not already have ideas, but I always take the readers’ ideas into consideration. My dad calls me the “splicer of suggestions” because I sift through the ideas shared and pick the ones that (a) spark my imagination , and (b) feel most consistent with what we’ve already created. I try to post a few “installments” every week until we wrap up the story.
Rolando - When an author begins a story they normally have a notion of what the story will be about and where they want to take it. In collaborative fiction, do you have such an overall general master plan for the story, or is the storyline pretty much “up in the air” at the turn of each chapter? Do your collaborators contribute filler material or do they actually take the story in directions you had not anticipated?
Lia - Both. I have a beginning and the climax ending scene in mind, but I’m not overly particular about how I might get there. That’s how I write books for myself, too. The questions I ask and the suggestions the collaborators give nudge the story in the most interesting route to get to the end. But the collaborators add a lot that can change my whole perspective of the piece. With “The Fargenstropple Case,” for instance, one of the first comments suggested adding a love interest. I had not even considered that kind of element, and yet the character proved to be the most enigmatic and useful person in the story!
Rolando - In collaborative fiction, part of the trick of keeping your collaborators engaged is writing their suggestions into the story. But what happens if your collaborators want the story to go in a direction you don’t like?
Lia - Very rarely someone will suggest something that feels really “off” or unclear and I just don’t use the idea, but since those contributors gave other suggestions as well, it isn’t as if I rejected them. Obviously I can’t write in everyone’s ideas for every chapter. It’s my job to pick the best ones. I don’t think I’ve offended anyone by not using an idea. If I did, they stuck around anyway.
Rolando - Can you “get stuck” in collaborative fiction? For example can you write several chapters and then realize the storyline is not working and then you have to backtrack and rewrite the last few chapters in a different way throwing out suggestions you had accepted previously?
Lia - Funny you should ask. We just had to do that. In Magian High, we’d gotten so many potential subplots brewing, that it was hard to know which ones to follow. I took a week off over the holidays and streamlined the story down the main themes we were following. A few of the readers have since gone back to check the revisions, and they all seem pleased. But that’s writing. You never get it right the first time, and sometimes you have to explore for a while before you know what “right” even is.
Rolando - Do you exchange ideas with your collaborators exclusively through your blog or do you also use other means such as e-mail, Twitter, Facebook, etc.?
Lia - Twitter and FB for sure. There are a small percentage of them that I actually know personally, and I’ve been able to talk live with them either on the phone or in person. Most of them are teens, so I value their opinions in this YA project, yet I know they are disinclined to write lengthy suggestions in a blog (too much like homework).
Rolando - Finally how do you handle the issue of authorship in collaborative fiction? What if a work of collaborative fiction becomes a best seller and one of your collaborators who contributed a lot to the story suddenly claims he/she is entitled to part of the royalties?
Lia - Ha! We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it, I suppose! I do list an acknowledgement page citing the contributors. All who ever comment are included, but those who are more involved do receive special mention. So far there has never been a single contributor who totally dominated the direction of the story. I still retain control, and I am the one doing the writing, after all, and I will run the final story through a few revisions before I take it to “print” and publish it to Amazon. If I suddenly start raking in the big royalties, however, I’d not be averse to sharing with said top contributors, but so far that’s a non-issue. I guess we need a collaborative publicity campaign for that!
Thank you very much Lia. I loved the Fargenstropple Case and I hope Magian High is equally good!
Apart from the "Fargenstropple Case," Lia has two additional books on Amazon: The Circle of Law, and The Parable Project. You can follow Lia on Twitter or visit her website.
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