Friday, December 14, 2012

Every Other Friday - M.H. Mead

Margaret Yang is a writer and parent from Ann Arbor, Michigan. She speaks Chinese, loves to cook, hates waiting in lines, and is saving up for a flying car. Harry R. Campion is a teacher, writer, and parent from Harper Woods, Michigan. He loves libraries, hates rudeness, can deep fry anything, and is saving up for more bookshelves. Together, the authors write under the pen name M.H. Mead. Their novels include The Caline Conspiracy, Fate’s Mirror, and Taking the Highway. To find out more about Margaret and Harry, please visit their website

Tell me about Taking the Highway.
Detroit is thriving, once again on the move. The key to this motion may be the fourths—professional hitchhikers who round out incomplete carpools, allowing the car entrance to the super-fast, computer-controlled highways.

The city needs fourths. Fourths need the work. It's an easy way to earn some extra cash.

Or to end up dead.

Someone is killing fourths. The only one who can stop the killer is jaded homicide detective Andre LaCroix, who moonlights as a fourth himself.

What drove you to write Taking the Highway? Who did you write it for?
One day, Margaret was driving from her house in Ann Arbor to Harry’s house in Detroit, and she wondered about all the single-passenger cars on the highway with her. What if only four-passenger cars were allowed on the highway? What would people do if one member of their carpool was on vacation, or sick? They’d have to hire people to fill the fourth spot.

She mentioned this to Harry as merely an interesting idea. Harry was intrigued, and started coming up with plot possibilities—like what would happen if these newly-crucial members of society were being brutally murdered. Before we knew it, we were writing the book together.

Who did we write it for? 
At first, we mostly wrote for each other. We are each other’s first readers and harshest critics, after all. Once the book was done and we started looking outward, we realized that all our books appeal to readers of thrillers as much as they appeal to readers of science fiction. Go figure.

What were your biggest obstacles?
Collaborators have special challenges when it comes to writing, and all of them have to do with scheduling. It’s hard enough for one person to carve out time to write, especially when you are working full time and have a family. Even if you can find the time, now the co-author has to find the time, and it has to coordinate with the other person’s schedule. Thank goodness for email, phone, and texts. We couldn’t do this job without modern technology.

What are your productivity tips?
Outlines! We love them. Can’t write a grocery list without them, much less a 400-page novel. Outlines are especially crucial for co-authors. With an outline in place, we write faster, we never get stuck in a corner, and we do fewer revisions.

Is one of you the leader, and one the follower? How do you handle disputes?

We are equal partners, and neither of us has the final say. We don’t stop talking until we find a compromise that pleases us both. This goes for big issues like plot points and small issues like word choice. Our editors say we’re a dream to work with because we never act as if our words are too precious to change. By the time the book reaches our editor, we’ve already made numerous compromises, and we know we will make several more before the books are on the shelves. It’s all in the service of a better story.

Do you have any questions for me?
Yes! Have you interviewed an author duo before? If so, did they pass along any tips or secrets that will help co-authors work better together?

You are the first writing duo, but I have worked in collaboration (books, articles, scripts, speeches) throughout my own career.  I've written a pair of HTWF entries on Collaboration Dos and Don'ts (part 1 and part 2). I think, even if you don't write with a coauthor (and not everyone is suited to), you should find a writing buddy.


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