I absolutely adore Botswana and couldn’t believe it when I was asked to be part of the launch celebrations for Deadly Harvest by Michael Stanley which is set there. Deadly Harvest, Book 4 in the Detective Kubu Series, is published by Orenda books and is available in e-book and paperback by following the links here.
I have a wonderful guest post from Michael Stanley all about collaborative writing.
‘A wonderful, original voice – McCall Smith with a dark edge and even darker underbelly’ Peter James
‘Richly atmospheric … a gritty depiction of corruption and deception’ Publishers Weekly
A young girl goes missing after getting into a car with a mysterious man. Soon after, a second girl disappears, and her devastated father, Witness, sets out to seek revenge. As the trail goes cold, Samantha Khama – new recruit to the Botswana Criminal Investigation Department – suspects the girl was killed for muti, the traditional African medicine usually derived from plants, sometimes animals and, recently and most chillingly, human parts. When the investigation gets personal, Samantha enlists opera-loving wine connoisseur Assistant Superintendent David ‘Kubu’ Bengu to help her dig into the past. As they begin to discover a pattern to the disappearances, there is another victim, and Kubu and Samantha are thrust into a harrowing race to stop a serial killer who has only one thing in mind…
‘Under the African sun, Michael Stanley’s Detective Kubu investigates crimes as dark as the darkest of Nordic Noir. Call it Sunshine Noir, if you will – a must read’ Yrsa Sigurðardóttir
‘This book took me to a world I didn’t want to leave. It kept me reading, it kept me guessing, and it kept me gasping at its many twists and surprises’ R.L. Kline
‘Compelling and deceptively written…’ New York Journal of Books
Collaborative Fiction Writing
A Guest Post by Michael Stanley
Our first book, A CARRION DEATH, which was first published in 2008, took us three years to complete. Of course, since this was our first foray into writing fiction, it wasn’t surprising that we had an enormous amount to learn. One of the things we learnt was that it’s unusual for two people to write fiction together. But as we learnt more, we discovered that there are several highly successful writing teams in the genre – Nicki French (husband and wife), PJ Tracy (mother and daughter), Charles Todd (mother and son), Karen Perry (two friends), just to name a few. Indeed, it’s becoming sufficiently common that some teams even use both their names rather than hiding behind a pseudonym; for example, the Swedish partnership of Roslund and Hellstrom.
Both of us have been university professors and both of us have enjoyed collaborating in our academic lives. Stanley has co-authored non-fiction books; Michael has written many academic papers with other researchers. So it seemed natural to us to work together on a project writing fiction. And we enjoyed finding out how to do that.
Sometimes writers (and readers) ask us how we can share this very private creative art with another person. We think this is the wrong question. For us, a better question is how can someone write alone? We have the benefit of having an involved person to brainstorm with, to bounce ideas off, and to give truly critical feedback. We also have the benefit of having someone to share a glass of wine with while discussing the intricacies of plot or character – a solo writer can’t do that, because no one else will be totally involved.
We both do everything. We brainstorm together, follow up on research, travel to little known parts of Botswana, and write. Our process is that one of us does the first draft of a piece, sends it by email to the other, and receives a response which is often a highly commented and edited version. The originator responds, then back and forth in that way, perhaps more than twenty times. Eventually the piece is not written by Michael or by Stanley, but rather by some gestalt, named Michael Stanley, who sits somewhere between Minneapolis and Johannesburg in cyberspace. Readers tell us the product is seamless; our friends tell us they can identify who wrote what, but they are wrong about half the time!
We believe there are many benefits to collaboration. We can brainstorm plot and character, and we think we get a more cohesive final product as a result. When one of us flags, the other is there to nag and take up the slack. Best of all we get immediate and interested feedback on anything we write.
However there are some caveats. You must be willing to take harsh criticism, knowing that it’s directed at the product rather than you, and that the only goal is to improve the work. There must be trust and an ability to see the other person’s point of view. It helps if you have similar writing styles. And it probably takes longer than writing alone. But all that is outweighed by the biggest advantage: it’s great fun! And, after all, most people who write do it for the enjoyment.
DEADLY HARVEST is the fourth in the Detective Kubu series, and these books would never have seen the light of day without the collaborative style we’ve developed. We’ve remained good friends, and we’re still having fun. For us, collaboration definitely is the way to write mystery fiction.
About Michael Stanley
Michael Stanley is the writing team of Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip. Both were born in South Africa and have worked in academia and business. Stanley was an educational psychologist, specialising in the application of computers to teaching and learning, and is a pilot. Michael specialises in image processing and remote sensing, and teaches at the University of the Witwatersrand. On a flying trip to Botswana, they watched a pack of hyenas hunt, kill, and devour a wildebeest, eating both flesh and bones. That gave them the premise for their first mystery, A Carrion Death, which introduced Detective ‘Kubu’ Bengu of the Botswana Criminal Investigation Department. It was a finalist for five awards, including the CWA Debut Dagger. The series has been critically acclaimed, and their third book, Death of the Mantis, won the Barry Award and was a finalist for an Edgar award. Deadly Harvest was a finalist for an International Thriller Writers’ award.
For more information about DEADLY HARVEST or to book an interview with Michael Stanley, please contact Karen Sullivan: Karen@orendabooks.co.uk
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