Reader Request Week 2021 #9: Short Writery Bits

In which I quickly answer some questions of a writeresque bent. Let’s get started!


What are your views/experiences with collaborations – whether in a book, film, or television setting or other? How have you dealt with conflicts in these situations? Compromising your vision say with another writer’s vision? How flexible have you had to be? What are the challenges? And have you ever been in a situation in which you were a “hired gun” so to speak and had to write what someone else wanted you to write and how have you handled this challenge ?

I don’t typically collaborate because I find it as much work if not more than writing alone, so why not just write alone? That said, I have written things where I have had to take input from other people, and in that situation, I just make the point to myself that I’m writing for someone else and therefore the goal is to make a final product they’re happy with. When you have that as a goal, taking direction is not that difficult. Also, in the future I don’t rule out collaborating with another writer, but if I do I will be likely to be the boss in that situation, so they will write to my specification, not the other way around.

Jeffery Otterman:

What words inspire you and what words do you despise?

I like “We’ll pay what you asked for this project,” and dislike “We’d like your work, but we can’t pay for it.”


Dear John,

Since you’ve got movie critic chops…

What did you think of TOMOROWLAND?

I personally enjoyed it, although I think in a general sense it was a movie in search of an audience. I suspect the reason it got made was because Brad Bird had done very well for Disney on the Pixar side of things, and they were willing to throw him a live-action bone to keep him in the fold (it paid off, too, as Incredibles 2 did gangbusters business). I wouldn’t have greenlit it as it was (at least, not for as much as Disney paid for it), but I’m happy it exists in the world.


Do you think talent is more genetics, or does it come from being surrounded by certain influences as a child? I’m thinking in particular of sports greats who also have very talented children, but there are a great many acting dynasties, as well as writers who grew up in a family of writers.

I don’t think it’s an either/or situation; it could be either or both or neither. There were no professional writers in my immediate family nor any obvious genetic predilection toward creativity, and yet I became a creative and professional writer; Athena, of course, has a professional writer in her house with whom she share genes and who actively encourages her to develop her writing skills, but she might eventually decide to do something else with her professional life, which would be fine. I do think that if you are in an environment where a certain skill or profession is part of your everyday life, it’s easier to see yourself doing it, and also you’re likely to have “a foot in the door,” as it were, because of connections and knowledge. But I also know that for every kid of an athlete or writer (for example) who becomes an athlete or writer, there are others who pursue completely different professions.


Do you have anything in place to make sure that your works are protected in the event that you are no longer able to look after your works?

Yes; it’s called a will. The disposition of my intellectual property is dealt with there (short version: Krissy controls it if I’m dead/incapacitated, then Athena). I’m not especially precious about my work after my death; as far as I’m concerned its job will be to keep Krissy and Athena comfortable through their lives.


Why is there so much human totalitarianism and monarchy in the novels of not so right wing authors as yourself?

I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me: Because it’s fun to write about. It’s certainly not an endorsement of those political systems, however.

Brown Robin:

There are literally a bajillion books out there, most of which are never read. In a world of diminishing resources and a culture of diminishing returns, why do we need even one more?

Well, first, I disagree with the assertion of diminishing resources and diminishing returns, especially as regards books, and second, why not? Writing a book is an accomplishment independent of anyone reading it, and if it gives the author satisfaction to have written it, then that’s a good enough reason for the book to exist. I mean, I play my guitar and will probably never be a professional musician, but playing the guitar makes me happy and therefore it has value in itself. Not everything has to be about someone else.


How should book titles be printed on the spine? Vertical, so that the title is easily readable when the book is properly shelved; or horizontal, so that we can easily read it where the book lies carelessly on the side table where we tossed it 2 months ago? 

I mean, I can read both equally easily, so… either way is fine with me? I have no real preference? The only real preference I have is for consistent cover/spine design across a series. That way when they’re in a bookshelf together they look nice.


Do you consider there to be a difference between writing for reading text and spoken text? i.e. do you feel there a distinct between in medium between the two?

The two are very distinct, in part because spoken text is as much about the voice delivering the text (or, if viewed, the body language of the person) as it is the text itself. Text meant to be read has a very different dynamic, even when it’s dialogue (i.e., acting as speech). As a writer you can really mess yourself up if you forget these are separate modes.


Now that Athena is working for your blog in a non-term position, have you found any difficulties in reconciling being her dad and her boss? I totally understand if that’s more behind the curtain than you’re interested in getting, but figured it couldn’t hurt to ask.

Actually I’ve found being her boss pretty congenial. It helps I had an idea of who she was prior to hiring her, so that to some extent the job could be tailored around her as much as it was tailored around the things I wanted and needed in a staff member. To that end she’s being doing what I’ve asked of her, and she’s writing things for the site that I wouldn’t write about, either because I have differing interests, or because we’re in different life stages and have different life experiences. I have really enjoyed reading her work, and also watching her develop as a writer (and helping her do so). She’s good staff. I think I made a good decision hiring her.

— JS

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