Co-Authoring Is Where Magic Happens


By Lindy Ryan


(in advance of Throw Me to the Wolves, Black Spot Books, May 24, 2022)


Relationships are tricky, and anyone who might tell you that co-authoring isn’t a relationship would be dead wrong. Like any other partnership, finding the right co-author can be akin to finding a writing soulmate—two people who share the same passions and ideas, and have the skills, drive, and desire to put in the work to reach a shared vision together

It takes a special something between writers to form a partnership, and, just like any relationship, there’s no “one way” to mold that collaboration. Some co-writers do the alternating chapter thing, some let one person complete a full first draft before their partner dives into round two, and sometimes this can look more like a writer/editor division of labor, with one person largely response for writing and the other taking on an editorial role. Sometimes a co-author is an idea man, other times the two actively write together, sharing sentence space. All of these methods—and more—work. And, they’re not mutually exclusive, nor do they define the operations of every co-author relationship for authors who have multiple co-author collaborations across their catalog—or even the same relationship between co-authors across all of their projects. It’s your partnership: You make the rules, and you can break them, too.

So far, I’ve had the chance to co-author three projects—my first, the book-to-film romance project Aloha With Love, written in collaboration with screenwriter Terence Brody; a recently finished middle-grade dark fantasy with co-author Sam Hooker; and, of course, Throw Me to the Wolves, the first in not only a new supernatural horror series, but of many collabs, with my main co-author squeeze, Christopher Brooks.

Unlike those other projects, Throw Me to the Wolves didn’t start with a blank piece of paper, or the nugget of an “hey-what-can-we-do-with-this” idea. While Aloha came about from a bit of agent match-making and my project with long-time friend Sam Hooker was the result of years of working with him on his Terribly Serious Darkness series (and years of begging him to apply his wit to collaborating on the spookier side), partnering with Chris on Throw Me to the Wolves started while working through the editorial process on another project and became a long-term partnership.

A little bit of backstory: Throw Me to the Wolves wasn’t always Throw Me to the Wolves. I first started tinkering with Britta’s story some ten years ago, when it was a very different story with a very different title. When I finished the initial manuscript in 2018, my agent pitched it to publishers for nearly two years. Each time we got the same feedback: make it less angry and more YA, less horror and more urban fantasy. I resisted the idea at first, then gave in and reshaped the book, but it never sat right with me. Sure, Britta’s story might have commercially made more sense as a YA urban fantasy at the time, but I wasn’t willing then—or now—to deviate from the vision of the book I’d set out to write. So, that other-novel got stuffed in a drawer and I got busy with other projects, and as these things so often happen, it was forgotten.

Enter Christopher Brooks.

Chris and I first began working together in earnest when he came into my life as the editor on a different horror novel, we’ll call it Ducey. Ducey was only about 50% complete at the time. I knew Ducey was special, but there were a few bumps in the plot that needed paving over. Chris read the first half, gave me some notes, and really, the rest was history. Something just clicked between us in those early brainstorming calls—a way of thinking, a shared sense of depravity, some larger storytelling arc where the universe said, “Hey, put these two in each other’s path.” As I consolidated the notes Chris and I developed on Ducey and we started circling the perimeter of future projects together, I felt Britta stir under my skin—remember me? I distinctly remember standing in my kitchen, and saying, “So, I have this other manuscript I think could use your help—but I don’t want you to edit it, I want you to co-write a new version.”

And on the other end of the line, on the other side of the country, Chris said, “Tell me more.”

I sent him the manuscript later that day. He took a look and eventually came back to me with the same thing I’d always thought but had never been able to do on my own: there is more here than a run-of-the-mill YA urban fantasy (not that there’s anything wrong with run-of-the-mill YA urban fantasy). We talked about Britta, her struggle, the murder of her family and the terse relationship with the rookie cop investigating the murder of the woman who’d killed them, and the elements of magic and witchcraft and southern culture that make up the swampy Louisiana gumbo of Throw Me to the Wolves. To my endless delight, Chris agreed to partner up. This manuscript was “written,” after all, and there were no expectations, so it was a perfect pilot project to kick the tires and see what happened. I told Chris to claw not-yet-Wolves to pieces and we’d stitch it back together. Chris dissected that book, called out its failings, and suggested areas where we could tweak the narrative to achieve the vision that had lived so long in the back of my head, and now in the front of his mind. He scrapped scenes, wrote new ones, (forced me to write a terribly awkward sex scene), and we got weird with details of human dissection, because why not? In the end, Wolves had not only become the book I always hoped it would be, but so much more because of Chris’s involvement. Looking back, I couldn’t have asked for a better co-writer, or a better experience. He’s the Labaye to my Britta, for sure.

As it happened, both of these projects—Wolves and Ducey (which has since sold to a Big 5 imprint)—finished at roughly the same time, and so to really pressure test our writing relationship (because one doesn’t simply agree to share their writing life with just anybody without testing the boundaries), Chris and I made the insane, possibly terrible decision to take a cross-country road trip, in December, and drive from his home on the west coast to Denver, where I had a book signing scheduled for another project.

Now, nothing says “bonding” like stuffing two people in a car for a week, then forcing them to travel a zillion miles through windstorms, ice road closures, and a bad case of probable food poisoning from questionable diner food in Little America, Wyoming. But, by the end of the trip, the question was no longer “do we want to write together?” it was “here’s the starting list of things we ARE going to write together,” including several pages of plot notes on something we’re currently working on, a screenplay we’ve already begun pitching, and a laundry list of ideas we hope/plan/intend to work on in the days that come—including, of course, the second book in the Cry Wolf series, which we have not yet begun writing, but probably should.

It’s not all a bed of roses, of course. Relationships of any kind take work, even (or perhaps especially) those that revolve around the fictional lives of fictional characters set in fictional universes. You have to be willing to compromise, to be okay with disagreeing sometimes, and ready listen to the other. I can’t say that Chris and I have ever had a true argument or disagreement, but I KNOW there are times that man has rolled his eyes all the way into the back of his skull because of me, just like there have been times I’ve thought, omg, this guy. We struggle sometimes with time zone differences, and the fact that Chris likes to start his day roughly around the time I end mine. But, while we may passive-aggressively send each other It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia gifs to release a little steam, what I like to think we do better is listen to each other. Not just in times of discord (although especially then) but in our most disorganized, creative moments. In fact, one of the things I cherish most about Chris is that I can call him up out of nowhere and launch into on a complete ramble about an idea I know doesn’t work, much less make sense, on a project that is not the one I’m supposed to be working on, and count on him to a) not make fun of my gibberish or b) get frustrated at my complete lack of focus. Instead, he’ll pluck out the bits of gold in those tangents so that together we can tie them into something we’re both happy with—and excited about. That’s the crux of partnership right there: working together to make each other better.  

So, while the beginnings of my co-authoring partnership with Christopher Brooks might have started in an unconventional way—we weren’t two authors who appreciated each other’s works, or longtime friends, or even paired up TO write together—for us, I couldn’t have asked for a better beginning. Chris once said that I carry him, and I, respectfully, disagree, and insist he carries me (he certainly puts up with enough of my nonsense). But, that’s the rub, isn’t it—the key to any good, healthy, fruitful relationship: honor each other, give each other hell, and always, always, have each other’s back. If you’ve got that covered, the writing is magic.


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