The collaboration Dating Game with McMan and West

My humble intro to this fun piece.

2012-03-31 17.13.08Ann and Salem are dear friends as well as colleagues. We have shared hours of stories, laughter, and serious conversation about writing, publishing, and balancing it all.

These women are remarkable and very talented, but I have no intention of violating their privacy and have tried to be respectful.

Today we will hear from Ann, and Thursday we’ll hear Salem’s answers. Both women have agreed to answer follow-up questions and will give a way a copy of Hoosier Daddy to a random commenter each day. I’ll throw in a copy of Balefire to the person with the most interesting (for everyone) question.

Without further ado…

Part One with Ann McMan Famous Author 1001354_628509520492852_1459246953_n

Welcome. Congratulations on the success of both Hoosier Daddy and your short story collection, Three.

Why thank you, Nurse Magill. I owe it all to my lack of better sense, and the Geritol cocktails I ingest every morning at the crack of five, while my beloved wife and our bevy of livestock are still pounding their ears in slumber.

 I’m happy you agreed to this joint Q& A. Rumor has it that you and Salem actually met because of her review of Jericho. True? (An auspicious beginning of a unique partnership, I’d say.)

In fact, it is true that Salem and I met because of Jericho. My editor at Bedazzled Ink, the august C.A. Casey, sent a copy of the book to Salem at The Rainbow Reade, hoping she might look kindly upon us and consent to read and review the work. (There are some spurious suggestions rolling around out there that Casey also attempted to ply her with a case of Merlot—but I know this to be a pious falsehood. Salem West wouldn’t drink Merlot if you held a loaded Glock to her head.)

So, as fate would have it, the review she had planned for October of that year fell through at the eleventh hour, and she found herself with an open slot. She picked up Jericho, read it, and (lucky for me) liked it. Her review was published on Halloween, and I’ll never forget sitting alone in my house, reading it between mad dashes to the front door to dispense Snicker bars and Sweet Tarts. I was, to be blunt, scared shitless to read what she wrote. I remember gritting my teeth and stealing glances at the words on the screen through squinted eyes—scanning quickly for any adjectives like “overdone, overblown, overwrought, overwritten,” or just the phrase “let me please get this over with.” But that didn’t happen. She really liked it. Loved it, in fact. She even sent a private note to Casey thanking her for sending the book and saying, “I feel like you slipped a ruby into my pocket.”

It wasn’t until a couple of months later, however, that we actually made personal contact with each other. I was too shy and too unfamiliar with the protocol of being a “famous author” (thank god that’s over with…) to know that I should’ve reached out to thank her for taking the time to read my book. So it wasn’t until she posted her “Rainbow Reader Awards” that I finally thanked her. And this I did on Facebook, not even knowing enough to realize that I needed to “tag” her so she would see it. I got lucky again—and Salem just happened to be online when my feeble post scrolled by on the side of her screen. She wrote a quick note to me, and the rest is history. Very warm and happy history, I might add. Of all the myriad debts I owe my little flagship Jericho, this one will forever be the greatest.

 Since a number of authors with whom I’ve spoken have told me that their partners neither read nor assist with their writing; I wonder how it works to have someone who is actively involved in the process?IMG_1137

What’s that wonderful biblical quote? ”Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and curse.” Yeah. That one. Let me just say for starters that you can’t get away with anything. Nothing. And neither can you slam something indifferent out and get a passive, “that’s very nice, dear.” Nuh uh. Being married to Salem and talking about writing is like being married to Yogi Berra and talking about baseball—except for me, there ain’t any seventh inning stretch. I might get ten minutes now and then to whine, but then the party’s over, and it’s back to the salt mine of chapter outlines and the hunt for elusive comma splices. She is a real taskmaster with strong opinions…informed opinions. And she understands how language works—and when it doesn’t. She’s also like an anthropomorphic reference book. I can be pounding away at the keyboard while she’s doing something entirely unrelated, and yell out to her, “Hey, Buddha? I need a word for _____________.” And she’ll reel something off the top of her head that’s exactly right. Best example of this? In Aftermath, when Roma Jean Freemantle is going to explain how the tornado destroyed her prized Chevy Vega—I needed to come up with just the right thing to fall from the sky and crush the car. It had to be something quirky and unlikely, so I asked Salem. Without batting an eyelash, she said, “A steam table.”WP_20131211_004

So let it be written. So let it be done.

You’ll find that I channel Yul Brenner a lot.

Whose idea was the joint venture on Hoosier Daddy?

Ours. Seriously. I think we were taking a bath at the time. We pretty much storyboarded and outlined the entire book that morning (it was one of those long baths that involved shaving legs, so it must have been in the Spring). We both thought it would be an absolute hoot to collaborate on a formulaic lesbian romance.  There was never a time when we debated about whether doing this was a bad idea. We believed that we had the right combination of skills, drive, humor, and psychosis to pull it off. When I was weak she was strong. When she was weak, I had Burke Street Pizza on speed dial. It worked out. Besides, she really is a comic genius with wonderful timing and a great ear for dialect. Plus she has good hair, and that alone covers a multitude of sins.

You’ve successfully published eight popular books in the past two years—along with working a full-time job as a graphic designer, which is a little daunting. Since I’ve asked Salem a couple of questions about her experiences in collaborating on Hoosier Daddy, would you tell us how the experience worked?

Oh, lord. Is this the Bob Eubanks part? “We asked your wife what your most embarrassing bed moment was, and she said…” Well. The experience worked very well. We would talk each night over dinner about where we wanted to take the narrative the next morning. We’d jot down notes or sketch things out in one of about a dozen notebooks I keep on my desk. I’d usually get up first (I’ve always been an early riser), feed the cats, put the dogs out, and get the coffee going. Then I’d head back to our tree house (what we call our studio) and get things fired up. By the time Salem came tottering down the hall with our cups of coffee, I’d be ready to get cracking. Then we’d go to work. I’d write something, she’d read it and add or detract—or we’d do the opposite. Sometimes, she’d sit right beside me and we’d hammer things out together. Occasionally, we’d work independently on different sections—but that was more the exception than the norm.  She did a tremendous amount of the research—mostly because she’s good at it. But partly because she was more familiar with the geography of the setting, and because she has tremendous background in manufacturing techniques and management theories…things that immediately lead me to glaze over and start humming show tunes.

 How do you divide the actual writing, revising, proofreading?942147_403950666383288_1121284428_n

We shared the writing, although we agreed that we needed one voice for the story. So even though we wrote it together, I was responsible to weave the components together to try to achieve a coherent narrative—like a quilt maker who takes diverse squares of fabric and stitches them together into a larger pattern that makes sense, looks pretty, and succeeds in covering any holes in the mattress. I hope we succeeded. I think we did. There are some densely technical sections that I left exactly the way Salem wrote them…to try and “fluff” them with Ann McMan Speak would’ve been tantamount to rewriting the Panama Canal Treaties, and I didn’t want to risk compromising national security by making any changes. Salem did nearly one hundred percent of the proofing. We did very little revising…but that’s not unusual for me. I pretty much revise constantly while I’m working. Consequently, my finished manuscripts are pretty much exactly what you see when you get the final product. I don’t think Salem normally writes this way, so we did have some struggle to achieve harmony with my resistance to “just put something down on the page” when I was feeling stuck or unmotivated. Fortunately for us, most of those exchanges of gunfire resulted in little damage to our physical surroundings, and we had enough Spackle on hand to cover the holes in the walls.

Are there Pro’s and Con’s of having an in-house “first-reader?”G&K1

You mean apart from the gunfire thing? Well…in a way, we each had an in-house “first reader.” And I’d say it worked very well. At least, it did for me. But then, I’m pretty spoiled by having someone as smart, savvy, and erudite as Salem West on hand as my eternal first reader. And there’s that whole good hair thing, too….

“Since there may be a question for some of your fans, would you clarify your status with your publishers and where your books can be found?”

That’s a great question, and I’m so glad you asked it. While it’s true that I have the very great honor of working with Bywater Books on my upcoming release, Backcast, I still maintain a close relationship with Bedazzled Ink. I like to think that, like Lana Turner in the Top Hat Malt Shop, Casey and Claudia discovered me, hunched over my first little manuscript…without the tight-fitting sweater, of course. So they will always be my first home, and they will always be the home of all forty-two volumes in the Jericho series. 
Oh. Did I say that out loud? My bad….

What can we look forward to reading next?

From me? I guess Backcast—which should be in my editor’s capable hands by the summer. Then it’s on to Patriarch, the next Jericho novel. And I thank you for the prognostication that these will, in fact, be things to look forward to! I hope so.

Thanks, Ann! This has been great–and entertaining, as usual. I, for one, appreciate what you have brought to the proverbial “Table” for all of us, readers and writers. Truly, Tip Of The Literary Spear…TOTS!


28 thoughts on “The collaboration Dating Game with McMan and West

  1. Ann, I’m so glad I found you as and author. Thanks to your on-line publishing Jericho, I don’t want to miss anything else you write.
    Have a nice New Year, you and yours!

  2. AMFA,
    Thank you for so many laugh out loud moments that I have whilst reading your books. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to use the word “whilst”. Do you really refer to your Sweet Baboo as “Buddha”? Is there belly rubbing for luck involved or perhaps serenity and Bordeaux (Chateau Pape Clement 2010). I agree with you about Dairy Queen, even in minus digits wind chill.
    Thanks for sharing a bit of your life with us, I look forward to Salem’s views.

    1. Hi there, Cheryl. Yes…I do call Salem “Buddha.” Sometimes “Buddha Bean,” but only when she’s being VERY good, or I am weary of how much she loves cooking with legumes. In fact, we are very fond of Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines, and just had a delightful 2007 Pierre Henri Morel. It’s great, and can hold its own with a Dilly Bar….

      1. Howdy there, Ms. Sims. I have to say that I’m beyond honored to be outputting anything that impresses you! But hey? Building 350 cars a day don’t mean nothin’ if they’re still Yugos when they roll off the line…. Five books in two and a half years is certifiable, but I promise that a couple of them actually have some redeeming content. I’d be honored if you’d take a peek at them (one of them?) some time. I can take it…I have the tumors to prove it.

  3. Hi Ann, first I must tell you again how I just love your books. I have been fortunate to have met both you and Salem. It was a pleasure! Humor is a big part of you. Just in conversation you seem to find a way to make people laugh. So this may sound a bit crazy, but can you give us a day in the life of Ann on a day she is PMSing like crazy?

      Coming soon to a RedBox near you.

      Oh, dear, Donna. Where shall I begin? Remember those old NBC promos that lead into the winter Olympic games, and the whole “agony of defeat” sequence that showed a downhill skier tumbling bum over teakettle down the Matterhorn or some equally daunting slope? Well. That’s pretty much what I’m like on a low day. Without skis. Or a mountain. Or snow. Or Jim McKay calling play by plays. It ain’t pretty. Not that Salem has to hide the cutlery or anything…I don’t want alarm anyone. But I do have my dark moments (they generally don’t last much longer) when I’m persuaded that the best thing I can do for the world is take my keyboard out into the front yard and smash it with an ice axe. Fortunately (?), that’s why god created Cosmopolitans—and Al Anon—not necessarily in that order. So instead of beating up on expensive Apple peripherals, I’ll pick up a copy of something like “The Courage to Change,” or read some Jane Austen. Before you know it, I’m once again researching the logistics of how two women could unintentionally rip a sink out of the wall (note that Jane Austen is not much help with this one), or how many times a tornado could sling a red Camaro around. You know…the sweet solace of everyday things. If all else fails, I’ll cook something. Roll some pasta, make some bread, and get a big pot of arrabbiata sauce going. I think T.S. Eliot called this practice “withdrawal and return.” Of course, he could’ve been talking about the refund policy at—it’s unclear. Either way, it generally works very well for me.

  4. Kudos to you Jeanne for your excellent questions and to Ann for her enlightening answers. There is not an Ann McMann book that has not had me chuckling through some portion of it. Hoosier Daddy has been no exception. I have not read the final chapter because I’m saving that for when I can get the book and read it all at once. I think it’s great that Ann and Salem were able to collaborate and no blood was spilled. I’d also like to thank MAF for her excellent questions. I know I have been curious if we will be seeing more of Syd and Maddie. Great interview ladies, can’t wait for the other half.

    1. Thanks, Lori. I promise that we’ll see more of Maddie and Syd. Well…not MORE in the sense of…well…you know what I mean. To do that, I’d have to get my mitts on their xrays, and Maddie isn’t much for leaving things like that lying around. David, however, is another story. I think he once had her dental records for sale on eBay…who knew she had Invisaligns? You never can tell with those cultural icons…

  5. Ann, I too have been known to laugh out loud while reading your books. Thanks for taking me away from my everyday problems and allowing me to enjoy your stories. You state Backcast will be in your editors hands by summer. When will it be for sale? Can you explain the time line once you give it to your editor?

    1. Good morning, Nancy! Hmmm. Normally, I’d say that Backcast would be on sale within a month or two of handing it off to my editor. But I think Kelly Smith at Bywater is already booked up until some time in 2036. I’ve been thinking about finding creative ways to cut into that time frame—like maybe writing the entire thing as a series of text messages and Instagrams. Thoughts? It could be an idea with some merit. Accessibility. Brevity of expression. Socially relevant and cutting edge. Warm color palette, heavy on the umber.

      In all seriousness, I think that it likely will be a six- to eight- month process to actually get the thing into print once it’s turned over. Of course, that depends upon how well I write it, and how much revision it will require. For detailed information about how well I will manage THAT process, see my response to Donna Wells above….

      But once Backcast is safely with Kelly Smith, I’ll start right away on Patriarch (the next Jericho book) for Bedazzled Ink. After all, idle hands are the devil’s playground….

  6. Thanks, Ann, for the laughs. Jericho is one of my favorite books and will always have a spot on the re-read pile. Please keep expanding that world and take us along for the ride. Hoosier Daddy and Three are on the TBR stack. Thank god I’m retired, I can always put off some chore until another day so I can read. Also, thanks to Salem and Barrett for contributing to the mayhem and laughter.

      1. You’re very welcome, Beth!

        Can I just say how GREAT it is to hijack this blog space of Barrett’s? She’s always fond of telling me that any time a light comes on, I start performing…which makes getting my water out of the refrigerator seem like a Busby Berkeley routine. Let us know what you think about Hoosier Daddy!

  7. Thanks for sharing. One of the things I love about your books Ann is that they have been known to make me laugh out loud at times, even on subsequent readings, do you and Salem laugh out loud whilst you are writing some of the scenes and/or dialogue in your books?

    1. Hi ya, Jane. Salem and I laugh at EVERYTHING. It’s probably wrong on about a zillion levels—but we totally immerse ourselves in the stories. Sometimes, we actually “do” the dialogue…in character. I hear all their voices in my head, and they all become very real to me.

      Okay…I just realized how that sounded. Don’t worry…the voices don’t tell me to do things like overthrow the government of France. At least, not yet.

      But every summer when we load up our car and make the sixteen hour trek to northern Vermont for vacation, we pretty much riff and ad lib the entire way.

      Unless I see a sign for Dairy Queen. Then all bets are off….

  8. Aw Gee – living the romance as well as writing the love story? Very sweet. I can see why all three of you get on so well with such easy humor. Thanks for sharing – I’ll look forward to reading Salem’s side of the story 🙂

      1. A propos of that whole adoption thing, Barrett…PLEASE clean up your room. All those empty Scotch bottles are becoming a total nuisance. I realize that you miss Milwaukee, but believe me…this is not the way to reconnect with your past. It looks like the Schotz Brewery in there….

  9. My questions for Ann…. We are all patiently waiting for the saga that began in Jericho to continue. When you first envisioned Jericho was it like JK Rowling when she envisioned Harry Potter? Was it all there start to finish and you just needed to take the time to get it all written or has the story grown as each part of it has been written? How long did it take from the day you first discussed “Hoosier Daddy” to the book’s publication?
    Thanks for all the laughs your books and stories have given me.

    1. Hello, Mary Anne! As much as I’d like to say that, of course, I imagined an entire Jericho franchise when I wrote the first tale—and that I have scads of ideas already sketched out and a Happy Meal deal pending with McDonald’s—I cannot. In truth, Jericho’s popularity took me as much by surprise as it did my publisher…although I think Claudia and Casey did some time reading tea leaves before the first edition got hammered out. But I have to say that I do love these characters and this little town—and it’s true that they all spend a fair amount of time whispering in my ear about where they’d like to go next. I don’t think I’ll be finished with them (or they with me) any time soon…especially now that Roma Jean is in college and learning to drive a bookmobile. The one thing I need to figure out is how to get the folks who love Jericho so much to ride along with me as these characters grow and change and tell different stories. Maddie and Syd will always be Maddie and Syd—the still points of the turning world. But there are other folks in Jefferson County who want a chance to share a bit of the limelight with our two heroines. It’s my job to make them as hypnotic and endearing as possible, and I hope everyone will trust me as I figure out how to get us there. I promise it will be worth the trip.

      Regarding Hoosier Daddy, Salem and I started talking about it last Spring. I think the entire process of writing it, editing it, and getting it into print took about eight months—and that’s with me working a full-time job, AND the two of us managing my eighty-year-old mother’s move from her farm in Virginia to a house in a neighboring North Carolina town—AND overseeing the massive renovation and restoration of the 150 year-old house she now calls home. I think I slept about three hours a night during this period, so I plan to spend the next six months in bed…as long I as I can keep hiding from Kelly Smith and Marianne K. Martin!

      Thank you, MAF, for being such a superlative champion of our genre. You make it all worthwhile.

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