18 July 2008

Interview with Sandra Glahn

Welcome Sandra Glahn, Thanks so much for agreeing to this interview on co-authors. I have found these interviews very interesting as I have been curious about how it works.

1. Firstly can you tell us a little about yourself?
Sure. Became a Christ-follower in my teens. Married, with a daughter who's 13. Both my husband and I earned Master of Theology degrees from Dallas Seminary, and am now in the middle of PhD work in Aesthetic Studies at the University of Texas at Dallas. I got started writing books because of a decade-long struggle with infertility and a dissatisfaction with what was available on the market at the time. I moved into fiction when stem cell research emerged as a hot topic. Can you imagine trying to write a book on that three years before anybody had ever heard of it? Z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z.
I live in Texas, but I am also a fifth-generation Oregon. And I love travel and history. And HGTV.

2. How did you know you wanted to be a writer? Have you always had the desire or did it come later?
Actually, I wanted to be a singer. Diana Ross specifically. I did love to tell stories early on, thanks to a great second-grade teacher. But I didn't think of myself as a potential professional writer until I graduated from college and had a boss who thought I should do it.

3. If you were not a writer what would you like to be?

See #2. Actually, I'm also a professor, and I do love the work, though I'd shrivel up and die if I couldn't write.

4. When you co-write a book how do you choose someone to write with?

The first time, the writer found me. She was a storyteller looking for someone who could do grammar and plot and pacing. The second time, I was a patient needing doc credentials, so I partnered with an ob-gyn. We went on to write seven books together, three of them fiction (and he edited the manuscript on my solo medical suspense work). I'm currently considering a different co'd deal, which an agent approached me with. Sometimes the draw is the opportunity and the project itself; sometimes it's the person and his or her credentials.

5. How do you go about writing as co-authors, does one do the research and one write, or do you collaborate on each character?
It has varied. I have done most of the first drafts. When writing medical stuff, I let my co made sure it was all accurate, and we drew on his other resources. For example, sometimes he could go to a medical meeting and get a quote we needed by simply asking the right person. Or he could access medical sites that required expensive memberships I didn't have. But usually I do the research and the first draft; and then my coauthor makes sure I don't say anything flagrantly wrong. Having a good coauthor is like putting down something I've written and coming back to it with fresh eyes a week later--only the process takes only 24 hours. He or she receives it with fresh eyes and can instantly flag typos and goof-ups. Like one time I had a patient in a novel talking with a trach tube down her throat. The doc said, "Uh, that would never happen!"
I should note that the feedback is not always technical. Once I was writing from a guy character's point of view, and I had him say, "Sheesh." My co read it and wrote back, "Real men don't say 'sheesh.' What real men DO say, I can't repeat. But they don't say 'sheesh.'" Now, I realize some guys say "sheesh." But he had such strong feelings about it, that I changed it.

6. Do you have differences of option on how the story should go and how do you work out what way to take the story?

You mean differences of opinion? (Jenny here Yes it was Opinion spelling wasn't my best subject) I'm going to assume so...
This is where trust is huge. If one of us really, really, really wants something to go a certain way with a plot or character, we yield to the one with the strongest opinion. For example, I was going to kill off a child in one book so we could explore empathy and grief, but my co's wife told him, "You cannot kill her." So we didn't.
Generally we bounce ideas around like, "What would you think of this?" And the response is, "Cool. But if that happens, then these are the ramifications." The end product is like taking yellow Play-Doh and blue Play-Doh and ending up with green. In the end there's not "this is his part and this is mine." It's one synergistic piece of work.
Now, non-fiction is somewhat different. When we've had a major difference over something like what we think the Bible says about marriage or whether donor insemination is okay, neither of us feels compromise is appropriate or desired. So we've chosen either to leave stuff out or to say outright that we differ and go on to present two sides. The process has not always been pleasant, but the end result has been, I think, a better product.

7. What benefits have you gained from co-writing books?
A better product than I could have produced on my own
A broader platform than either of us could have reached on our own
A set of invigorated eyes when mine grow tired
The joy of partnership--someone shares the joy of finishing a book, a publisher accepting, a check in the mail, a good review

8. Do you have any up coming projects?
I'm in the middle of a pretty big deal right now with a new coauthor, but I'm not at liberty to discuss it until and unless all the t's are crossed. :)

9. Where can we find you on the net?
On my web site: www.aspire2.com
Editing Dallas Seminary's Kindred Spirit magazine: www.dts.edu/ks
And at the women's leadership site for www.bible.org

10. Do you have any final thoughts for us?
Yes. Coauthoring can be excruciating at times, even when you're working with someone you love. You work just as hard as any author to negotiate deals, but you get only half the pay. And if you disagree philosophically on something, it can tear you up inside--you've invested so much and you want it to reflect who you are! You must have deep trust, a lot of humility, and agape love for your coauthor. The question of who gets credit can be difficult because the publisher will often step in and tell you whose name goes first, even if the two of you have agreed otherwise. And it's not always the name of the person who does the most work. So an essential quality in a coauthor is Christian maturity. Two people committed to love, joy, peace, patience...can make it work and work well. But you'll still have some rough terrain. Like being married and having kids, it can be tough at times, but you also love it and feel like the payoff is worth it. Totally.


Donald James Parker said...

Interesting concept. I was going to co-author a book with a friend so we could present a true POV of love from both sides. Unfortunately her cancer came back and that never happened. I can see how it would be relationally challenging to produce something of creative substance without having control over the process. The fruits of the spirit in both parties would be necessary to pull it off.
Thanks for sharing this with us.
Donald James Parker
author of Reforming the Potter's Clay

Trish Perry said...

Really interesting, Jenny and Sandra. I think it takes a special temperament to be able to co-author, and you've clearly made the most of your ability to create with another author. I love the "Sheesh" input. :-)

Darlene Franklin said...

Interesting interview for anyone considering working with a co-author! (As I am.) Jenny, thanks for stopping by today.

Cheryl Wyatt said...

Very interesting article/post.

I admire anyone who can co-author. I think it'd be harder than it seems.

Great post, Jenny and Sandra!

Cheryl Wyatt

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