I still have the scars.
Under certain types of light, the scars read "qwerty."
Okay, enough joking around! Here we go...
Q) So, how did you come up with the name Rune Skelley?
Jen: We talk about this in one of our early skelleyverse posts. We wanted one name, and we wanted it to be unisex. We thought about using our first initials and our surname, but then you run into the problem of whose name comes first. And also the problem of sharing initials with JK Rowling. I have a few baby name books that I use when naming characters, and so I basically went through the same process for our pen name.
Q) Pants or pantaloons?
Jen: Pantaloons, definitely.
Kent: Pants, if it's a weekday (except Fridays).
Jen: Kent takes casual Friday very seriously.
Q) When did you start writing fiction collaboratively? How did that begin?
Kent: This is one of those things that's been going so long it's like it's never been any other way… In college I started a space-opera type of novel, pantsing it, ironically, but I didn't know how to wrap it up. Jen was very supportive even though it was a sorry mess. Another long-standing interest of mine was role-playing games, starting with D&D. Jen and I were part of a group, and we also started gaming as a couple activity, and that's essentially "making up stories together" so it flowed naturally into the more traditional form of a novel.
Jen: Around the same time he was working on his space-opera, I had an idea for a vampire story, but for some reason I was hesitant to write it on my own. I remember talking to Kent about it a lot, and basically strong-arming him into collaborating on it. It ended up as a short story, and I haven't looked at it in forever. I'm sure it needs a ton of work. Kent will probably tell you that he didn't really do much with it besides hold my hand, but he's lying.
Kent: You made me let go so you could type. I do remember that there's a passage that's in verse, which you assigned specifically to me. And I recall workshopping it between the two of us quite a bit. But it was always your story, you did a great job. I was happy to be in the front row. And I think that's how a good collaboration often feels, like "Wow this is fun, I'm so glad this person is letting me take part in this!"
Jen: It's a great way to be in on the creation of a story, to tell the exact story you want to tell, but still be surprised. That's one of my favorite parts of collaborating. Even though we make a big bad outline, and we talk about all the scenes and all the characters, I still get to be surprised by the details and the nuance that you bring. It's really cool.
Q) Egg nog or egg noodles?
Jen: egg noodles with lots of butter.
Kent: egg noodles; nog is a hoax, people!
Q) When you aren't working on your own fiction, what other writing do you read?
Jen: Lots of different things. Right now I'm reading a mystery (which I read a lot of), and Kent is reading "The Botany of Desire" to me. I should say here that Kent reads to me while I cook dinner. Next up after my mystery will be an Archer book (the cartoon spy), and then the JJ Abrams book.
Kent: I also try to maintain a varied reading diet. I have always been partial to science fiction, and still lean that way most of the time. My favorite authors are Roger Zelazny and Neal Stephenson. Currently, I'm reading "John Dies at the End," which is rather gonzo and full of horror-humor and immaturity. It's great fun. I try to read stuff that holds up, stuff I can still enjoy now that I'm ruined as a reader.
Jen: I think being ruined as a reader is why I read so many mysteries. I don't think I would be able to write a successful one, so it's fun to try to figure out how they do it (both the author and the bad guy).
Q) Feed me an elevator pitch.
Rune: Would you opt for immortality if the price was never again touching another living thing? That was the fictional world written about by Verity North. Now, 50 years after the disappearance of Verity and her scientist husband, their granddaughter has begun publishing new works that continue the series, and giving tours of the labs and prototype immortality facilities. But there are some areas that are off limits...
Q) Elevators or escalators?
Jen: Well, it depends somewhat on how many floors you need to cover. I really like escalators. We were at Macy's in Manhattan not too long ago, and they have these amazing old wooden escalators.
Kent: My heart says escalators, but my brain says elevators.
Jen: But what does your inner-architect say?
Kent: escalators, all day long.
Q) What advice would give to someone who is starting their first collaborative fiction project?
Jen: Make sure you like to spend a lot of time with your partner. And make a good outline.
Kent: I second those points, and suggest you consider warming up with a project that neither of you is too close to. You need to learn how you'll work together, and you might feel protective until you know you can trust each other.
Q) Curds and whey or oatmeal and fruit?
Jen: Oatmeal with brown sugar. Fruit on the side.
Q) How do you stay motivated when you hit challenging moments?
Kent: Personally, I find motivation in competitive ways, which is not going to be a good fit for every partnership. But I get my game-face largely by not wanting to feel like I'm being outrun. That, and coffee.
Jen: I don't drink coffee, so that doesn't help me at all. I think that having a writing partner helps tremendously, both for the competitive reason Kent mentioned, but also because I don't want to let my partner down. We cover for each other, so if I'm not in a prose mood, I can work on other things related to the project while Kent writes, or vice versa. The project doesn't languish because one of us is having an off week.
Kent: I can definitely credit Jen with most of my motivation. On my own, I'd probably be too lazy.
Jen: On his own he'd definitely sleep more. Kent sometimes has the urge to write stuff that isn't a collaboration. I never ever get that urge. So I guess for me, having a partner is the way I stay motivated. Full stop.