Just the thought of writing a piece of fiction with someone else makes my brain hurt. The egos, the creative differences, work ethic, pacing, etc. Ugh. I know some people thrive in collaborative situations, but I’m pretty comfortable weaving my little baskets all on my own. I just never saw myself writing a book with someone else, and I’ve even turned down multiple offers over the years because of these feelings.
With that said, the second my friend Joseph Bouthiette Jr. suggested a collaboration, I didn’t hesitate to accept. Not because he’s my friend, or because of how many copies I envisioned we’d sell, but because of his sheer uniqueness. His brain goes a mile a minute and often I have no idea what the hell he’s even talking about, but he never fails to inspire me. His writing is packed with wild and often frightening ideas that get my brain spitting electricity. Never fails.
When we started, all he had was a handful of characters and some prayers he’d written. He asked me if I’d be interested in doing something with them. Immediately, I thought of one of the first story ideas I remember having, but never did anything with—something I came up with as a teenager. My idea was about a pregnant woman living in a world of pure darkness, literally—a world existing in a time long after the sun had exploded. She was the only person left alive on this dark planet, surrounded only by bioluminescent creatures, ones whose evolution allowed them to live in such darkness. Other than this, I only had a title: Black Earth.
I pitched this idea to Joe as a world in which his characters could possibly exist. He loved it. We thought it would be interesting if these characters came into the world suddenly and was forced to adapt or die. Quite by accident, or perhaps subconsciously, this combination of ideas created a fertile environment in which to make statements on the human condition, religion, and old world/versus new world thinking. Within an hour or so of conversation, our story was really getting its legs.
Although the gestation period went off without a hitch, I still secretly expected things to take a turn for the worse once we actually started writing the thing, but I was completely wrong. Not once did either of us take issue with what the other was doing. We both trusted one another enough to know that each change only bettered our weird little tale and the journey our characters were taking.
Joe suggested we write in the same style as my first two novellas, Malin and Don’t Sleep, Don’t Dream, so that’s where it started, however it quickly morphed into the form of an epic poem. We took turns writing each chapter, allowing one another to change absolutely any and everything the other had written, and we went back and forth like this for months, until the entire thing was unrecognizable. Our unique writing styles seemlessly blurred into this new thing that neither of us could have written all on our own.
I’m extremely pleased with how this one turned out. It’s certainly something I would have become obsessed with had I encountered it in some obscure bookstore somewhere. Hopefully you all will enjoy it as well.