For our final Collabmas posts, Marissa and I wanted to interview each other because, honestly, it sounded fun! I asked her some questions about her current interests and projects, some last thoughts about cowriting, and also fanfiction because we both love talking about that. Enjoy, and make sure to check out Marissa’s blog as well! We’ve really enjoyed doing this series, and we hope you’ve enjoyed the content!
How do you think fanfiction has shaped you as a writer?
M: I’ve said before that I wouldn’t be a writer without fanfiction, and that’s absolutely the truth. Fanfiction was like a prerequisite to writing, for me. It provided me with a world, characters, and stakes, and all I had to do was write it. The characters dancing around my head weren’t mine, but they were enough to get the wheels turning. Soon, new worlds and new characters were starting to take shape. Beyond being the perfect starting place, fanfiction was a way to get feedback. The first people to ever tell me I was a strong writer were people leaving comments on my fanfics. Fanfiction is the foundation that the writer I am is built on.
You’ve been branching out into mystery and thriller territory lately in your short fiction. What do you like best about those genres?
M: My grandpa was a cop and an avid reader of mystery and thriller novels, and my dad is a true crime addict. I grew up hearing cop stories, and absorbing the kind of things that make great thriller seedlings. I’d never written anything even remotely close to that genre before grad school, and honestly I wrote the first one out of spite. The first story I workshopped got a ton of responses about how it lacked conflict, and how the stakes were too low. So, I wanted to show them high stakes. Life or death stakes. Then, I quickly became addicted to it. The this lacks conflict responses morphed into you should turn this into a novel responses. Also, it’s just really fun to sit down in a chair and pretend to be Edgar Allan Poe.
What are your favorite stories or characters we’ve created together?
M: I’ll always have a special fondness for TOYR (the first multi-chapter fic we did together) because it was so much fun. It was like a fandom wide phenomenon, and I loved it. That being said, I love all of the Kindred characters so much. For people who don’t know, Kindred is a sci-fi/fantasy YA novel we worked on plotting together, and I absolutely adore the characters. It was my first experience with an ensemble cast, and the chronically ill kids in my WIP wouldn’t exist without them. I even wrote them for a flash fiction assignment. Eliza called it “fanfic with no source material.” I can’t wait to write that book.
Some projects are best written individually, and some really benefit from having two authors. Do you have a way of deciding which ideas you want to collaborate on?
M: To be honest, no. All I really do is decide based on my level of emotional attachment, I think. The books I work on on my own are really just my own stories. They’re based on my own experiences somehow, or my own feelings. Those just feel like me too much to write with someone else, even if that person is someone I know so well. On the other hand, there are ideas I’ve had that are really just more fun than emotionally deep, and I almost always want to share those with Eliza. You are definitely right in that some stories just aren’t meant for collaboration, but there are some that really end up entirely new stories with it, and better for it.
Why do you think people are so reluctant to co-write?
M: The main reason, I think, is that everyone has that same attachment to their own ideas and stories that I mentioned in the question above. I have it too, obviously, but it doesn’t apply to everything I come up with. I think the only writers who end up fond of collaborating are ones that start with an idea that lends itself to collaboration, and a great partner to work with. That being said, collaboration is a huge part of other writing, like screenwriting and songwriting, and the idea that it’s so strange in fiction writing is understandable, but still strange to me. I think, if nothing else, it’s worth a shot. Taking a step back from your own ideas and sharing them with others is rarely a bad idea.
How has your MFA made you a better writer, and would you recommend that route to others?
M: This is such a difficult question, honestly. My MFA experience has been the most rewarding period of my life. I’ve become a different writer entirely. Before, I didn’t write YA, I didn’t write mystery or thriller, I didn’t have much confidence. All of that has changed. To sum it up in one sentence, my MFA took the raw materials that I had and turned me into not a finished product, but a much, much stronger work in progress. As far as recommending it to other writers, I absolutely would. Not all MFAs are created equal, but my program has been nothing but beneficial to me. That being said, all the MFA is is diligent practice under expert supervision, and there are other ways that that can be achieved, without the formality of academia.
Any ideas of what you’d like our next collaborative project to be?
M: I really, really want to write Kindred. I love those characters to death, and moving onto another collaborative effort and leaving them behind would almost feel like a betrayal. Kindred forever and always!