March 13, 2008

The Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff Interview, Part 5

With parts one, two, three, and four already posted, there are only two posts left to go. In today's segment of Maya's interview, she talks about what it takes to collaborate with another author successfully, where she finds inspiration, and whether or not she intends to move into screenwriting.

JS: What was it like to collaborate with another author? How does that change the way you approach writing, both before and after you slap the words down on the page?

MKB: I love collaboration. Two heads are almost always better than one. I find it exhilarating to sit down with another person and brainstorm a plot arc. That's the biggest difference—that exchange of ideas, someone to bounce ideas off of, someone to give you a reality check.

Of course there are relationship issues to work out. One writer needs to be the "senior" partner in the mix—the one who makes final decisions if disagreements come up, the one who polishes the manuscript and deals with the editor. Although Michael (Reaves) and I have also made use of our editor at Del Rey to help us resolve issues when we're really not sure which direction to take, for example.

Those issues—who decides what, etc—need to be worked out before you start writing. When I write with Michael he's the Jedi Master and I'm the Padawan. I've worked with other people in which I was the Jedi.

Often, each writer will have some area in which they're expert. So you have to work out how you want to harness that expertise. In Batman: Fear Itself, I wrote some scenes knowing that Michael, with his more expert knowledge of martial arts and Batman's weaponry, would go in and make specific references to these things where I had drafted generic terms. That worked for us. Another team might simply have had the expert writer write those scenes or had the junior writer check each factoid with the senior one as they came up.

You have to have a thick skin, be flexible and detached to be successful in a collaboration and you have to be realistic about your level of craft. If you've got all that going you can handle it when your partner points out a weakness in your plot line or a boo-boo you made in a scene. In fact, it's one of the things I love about collaborating—immediate constructive feedback. I don't have to wait until I've finished the book to find out that a plot element isn't working—my partner will catch it when he goes in to polish a chapter.

I think the single biggest concession I make to collaboration is that I let my writing be freer and "messier" in some ways. I don't sweat the details until my collaborator and I have reviewed the material and decided "it is good." Then I sweat the details.

JS: Where do you find inspiration?

MKB: Everywhere. I've written a number of stories based on dreams I've had, I've written stories because of overheard conversations, articles in trade journals or science papers, history texts, song lyrics, or just because I wanted to explore a particular idea that intrigued me, angered me, frightened me.

I read a lot in history, psychology, religion and science and have often had the experience of reading along and suddenly hitting a passage that seemed to leap off the page and proclaim: "Story here!"

Inspiration is so ever-present that I have to sometimes purposefully not "see" things because I've already got so many ideas rattling around in my head I don't know what to do with all of them. I have notebooks with ideas jotted down in them everywhere.

JS: I know you’ve written a number of articles and short stories in addition to the novels that you’ve published. Do you have any desire to pursue screenwriting?

MKB: I've actually written about half-dozen screenplays for an independent film producer in LA. Sci-fi and horror mostly. And I've committed a couple of my short stories to screenplay format just for hoots. I'd love to write a screenplay or teleplay set in the MAGIC TIME world that teleplay writer Marc Scott Zicree created. I wrote the second book in the MAGIC TIME trilogy, but the project was originally conceived as a TV series. It was Marc who first looked at my prose and said, "You should be writing screenplays. You're a natural."

To my knowledge I've only ever had one of my pieces produced, but not as a movie, but as a radio play.

There's only one more post to complete Maya's interview! Make sure you stop by tomorrow to check out the final piece. After that, I'll summarize some of the things we've learned from Maya. I'd love to hear your thoughts!

No comments: