Message From The Author

Author's Message

He Said, She Said ...

OR, WHAT HAPPENS WHEN A ROMANTIC-COMEDY LEGEND MEETS A SPEC-OPS WRITER

Consider this scenario: Famously single romantic-comedy author must nail down her newest plot. Macho action-adventure writer wants more humor in his next book. But first, both must teach seminars at a high-profile writers conference in Maui. They meet, and creative sparks fly.

If this were a romance novel, we'd know what happens next. But this lush scenario isn't fantasy, nor is it a romance. It's the real-life story of the professional collaboration between writing partners Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer.

The duo met while riding in a shuttle from the airport to their hotel. During the convention, they taught classes next door to each other and got to chatting. Mayer says he mentioned the collaboration idea on a whim, never expecting her to do it.

"I don't think I thought carefully about it," he recalls. "It was one of those things I threw out there and then it all seemed to line up."
Adds Crusie, "I think maybe I said yes when he asked me to collaborate because I loved his sense of humor."

Things just clicked from there -- not romantically, but in their work -- and soon Don't Look Down, their first book together, was finished. It debuted in April and RT gave it a Top Pick. Crusie's novels routinely win raves from readers and reviewers, and she believes her fans won't be disappointed with this one. "It's still my kind of story," she says, "just with Bob's kind of story layered in. And his hero is amazing."

So what kind of guy makes Crusie decide to walk her writerly talents his way? For one thing, his strength is action. "I tend to have people sitting in rooms and talking," Crusie admits. "Bob got us outside."

Mayer's notable resume includes a stint in the U.S. Special Forces as a Green Beret and mastery of martial arts, not to mention dozens of published fiction and nonfiction books. With Don't Look Down, he hopes to "be an overnight success after 17 years and 33 books."

Mayer called on his military background to flesh out the action in Don't Look Down, which features a sniper in a swamp, a high-tech helicopter and a one-eyed gator. All clearly Mayer influences, although Crusie put her own stamp on the alligator named Moot.

Moot starts off as a scary predator, but quickly becomes sympathetic when readers realize she's a mom protecting her eggs. "At that point, she became a character with a goal and motivation instead of just an eating machine," Crusie says. As an example of how their humor plays off each other, Mayer adds, "it's not her fault she ate some people."

Much to Mayer's chagrin, Moot has become a minor celebrity. Crusie explains: "We were in Florida doing a conference.

I bought a little gator figurine and, to
torture Bob, said we were going to take
it everywhere, like the traveling gnomes. Then people started to ask for her, and now the little figurine gets more attention than we do. It is driving Bob crazy, so my original plan is working."

Mayer has always used touches of humor in his fiction, but her credits his collaboration with Crusie for expanding his comic voice. Crusie's sharply honed humor retains its legendary sass when bounced off Mayer's snark.

According to Mayer, Crusie also helped his hero find a sexy, romantic side as military consultant J.T. Wilder tracks down a sniper while movie director Lucy Armstrong finishes shooting her first feature film and sparks fly between the two.

"In Jenny's books, people had sex and lived happily ever after," says Mayer, "while in my books people had sex and died."

Although the successful melding of two distinct styles did not come easily, the pair decided right away how to work: Crusie wrote the female scenes, and Mayer handled the guy stuff. But by the last revision, Crusie says, "there are lines in there that I can't tell which of us wrote."

Both credit their more or less smooth collaboration to living several states apart. When not traveling to promote the book (they're working on their next collaboration, Agnes and the Hit Man, due out in 2007), they communicate primarily via the Internet. They keep their cool when disagreements arise by simply walking away from the computer. Crusie quips, "In person, we'd probably be smacking each other with keyboards."

The duo has found that writing with a partner has several advantages to the lone pilgrim approach. Two imaginations are better than one, they agree, and having a partner keeps them focused. Crusie says, "Writing with a partner gives a constant spur to your imagination, a constant push to go farther, reach higher."


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