The Nature of Collaboration With Kim Askew & Amy Helmes, a guest post
In the course of publishing our Twisted Lit novels (each of which is inspired by a different Shakespeare play), we’ve often fielded questions about what it’s like to collaborate. The process demands an equal and ego-free partnership, an ability to view the world through a similar lens, and a willingness to see the strengths in our differences. Of course, none of it could ever work without many candid conversations, which is why we decided to pick each other’s brains on the topic for our guest post today!
Amy: Hey, Kim! Are you ready for me to explore the deep-dark recesses of your mind?
Kim: Um, as my writing partner, you’re already a frequent visitor, so come on in and make yourself at home.
Amy: You were the one who initially proposed we write a book together. What made you think I’d be a good writing partner and that we could actually do this thing without strangling each other?
Kim: Are you saying you’re surprised we haven’t resorted to bodily violence seven years and four novels into this collaboration?
Amy: Not per se, but … we’ve been friends with each other for a long time, and there’s always the potential risk that working closely together on such a time-consuming, creative endeavor could test our friendship. I mean, look at the Beatles!
Kim: Bad comparison. There were four of them. We’d be more like Simon & Garfunkel if it came down to some bitter feud.
Amy: But the Beatles were cuter. And there’s no “troubled water” in our writing partnership.
Kim: True on both counts. So back to our collaboration, when did you know that it could actually work?
Amy: Well, you’re smart as hell, and I know that there’s no stopping you when you put your mind to something. Resistance would have been futile. When you suggested rewriting Shakespeare’s plays as YA novels, I was instantly inspired, and I knew we’d have the same vision in mind.
Kim: We’re pretty simpatico in all the ways that count, huh?
Amy: Yeah. Our first “friend date,” as I recall, was me inviting you over on a Sunday to drink tea, eat dark chocolate and watch “Masterpiece” on PBS, because that’s just how we book nerds roll. But we also have some key differences in our personalities. You’re an eternal optimist, and I am hopelessly pragmatic, for instance.
Kim: True. If you think about it, that’s probably what makes our creative partnership so great. Our individual strengths really complement each other.
Amy: What about my annoying quirks? Tell me. I can handle it.
Kim: Well … there are those mornings when I open my inbox to find seventeen URGENT emails filled with all the rapid-fire thoughts, ideas, and fears you had while you weren’t sleeping.
Amy: Fair enough.
Kim: But seriously, there’s never a dull moment working together. What would be some highlights for you?
Amy: A Saturday afternoon back in 2010 — getting a phone call from you telling me that bestselling author Jacquelyn Mitchard wanted to acquire our novels for her new imprint. I think we both instantly started hyperventilating. Otherwise, my favorite moments have been our brainstorming sessions: namely the laughter, and those mind-blowing moments when everything falls into place in one of our novels and we realize it’s actually working.
Kim: Like when we decided to set our latest novel in a wilderness rehabilitation camp for juvies. Such a perfect, 21st century setting to tell the story of Shakespeare’s havoc-wreaking fairies from A Midsummer Night’s Dream!
Amy: Perfect segue, girl. Let’s talk about Puck!
Kim: Great. What do you think about our girl, Puck? She’s probably our most controversial heroine yet.
Amy: No doubt. She’s hostile, even whiny, at times. And she lies. That said, she’s also smart and fiery and lovable. I wouldn’t have her any other way.
Kim: Let’s hope our readers agree!
Life isn’t always fair, and no one knows that better than fifteen-year-old Puck. When she’s unceremoniously booted from yet another foster home, this city kid lands at DreamRoads, a rehabilitation wilderness camp for juvies. Her fellow campers include a famous pop star with a diva attitude, a geeky, “fish out of water” math whiz, and a surly gang-banger with a chip on his shoulder. The program’s steely director aims to break Puck, but she knows that every adult has a breaking point, too. Determined to defy this realm of agonizing nature hikes and soul-sucking psychobabble — even if that means manipulating four lovestruck camp counselors and the director’s dim-witted second-in-command — Puck ultimately gets much more than she bargains for in this “wondrous strange” outdoor odyssey inspired by A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
For more information about Kim Askew and Amy Helmes, visit twistedlitbooks.com.
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About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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