I don’t remember when Karen brought up the idea of writing a superhero crossover between my Portland Supernormal Legacy teenagers and her Seattle Rage Brigade rock band. Maybe while we were on a panel to talk about the Year of Writing Women (2018), or at a book signing, or one of the other events sponsored by our mutual publisher, Not a Pipe?
I do remember my reaction. A superhero crossover book would be awesome! Karen’s Rage Brigade books are great, how cool that she thought of a crossover with my books!
Then the worries set in: What it would be like – writing a book with another writer? Would it be like one of those group projects where someone does all the work? Would we argue about the story? What would it be like to write about her Barbara? And, yikes, what would it like to read her writing about my Olivia?
When Karen first mentioned the crossover idea, we were both busy with other projects, so it was more of a ‘future us’ project. Finally, near the end of 2019, she brought up the idea again and I decided to set my worries aside. We agreed to start in January 2020. We would do bi-weekly calls since I live in Portland, and she lives in Seattle.
To be honest, I don’t remember all the details about those first writing calls in January and February of 2020. I remember the exhilaration of brainstorming the story with a writer who knew my characters. I remember when we realized the Supernormal Legacy books were written in past tense and the Rage Brigade book were written in present tense. We decided to write our story in present tense, which I found surprisingly difficult at first. It was good brain twister for me. We also decided to write alternating chapters – Barbara’s viewpoint, Olivia’s viewpoint, and so forth.
The story was coming together, and the process felt good.
Then March 2020 happened. The world stopped. Many of us sat at home and worried about what was to come. I started working from home. My critique group started meeting over Zoom. Friends would come by, and I would talk to them while standing on my front porch as they stood in the street. My neighborhood was filled with people walking in arcs around each other to maintain social distancing. Grocery shopping became fraught with concerns over lack of toilet paper, flour, etc. Planned trips were cancelled.
But there was one activity that continued as it had been. Writing with Karen. Every other Saturday, usually at 10:30, we would get on the phone, open our Google doc, and talk about what we’d written in past two weeks. Then we’d discuss where the story should go next. We’d talk over each, excited about the monsters we’d created, amused when Rage Brigade folks clashed with Uncle Dan from the Supernormal Legacy. We debated if trolls were good guys or bad guys. We created a back story that meshed our characters’ worlds together in ways we didn’t expect.
In short, we wrote. Sometimes it was harder than others, the weeks in between calls were rough (you all know, you went through it too), and I didn’t always meet my writing goals. But we kept going throughout 2020 and 2021 until we had a complete story. We’d done it!
I will always think of Far from Normal as one of my pandemic lifelines. Consistency and connection in a time where both were hard to find. I don’t think I could have written a book with just any writer, though. It takes a co-writer with good ideas, a good work ethic, and frankly, the willingness to care more about the story than one’s ego. Yep, I’m talking about you, Karen!
Would we do it again? Absolutely! Karen and I believe that Barbara and Olivia will met again sometime in the future.
Far from Normal will be available as an ebook, and in serial form on Karen’s blog, beginning May 26, 2022.