On Monday I drove up to Ann Arbor. No, OSU was not playing Michigan this week. Nope, something much better! Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip were visiting Aunt Agatha's Bookstore. I was absolutely thrilled that they were coming close enough for me to see them. As you know from my raving here on the blog and their interview, Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip make up the writing team of Michael Stanley. Together they created Detective Kubu in A CARRION DEATH. This year Kubu returns in THE SECOND DEATH OF GOODLUCK TINUBU, and I simply couldn't pass up the chance to hang out with them for an evening.
So, on my drive to Michigan I have to say I saw some rather strange signs. First of course is the 70 mph speed limit sign. In Ohio we're still at 65. I'm no speed demon, so the Michigan folks were probably thinking "damn Ohio drivers!" Anyway, if I was a speed demon, I'd probably have missed the big billboard that said (honest to God) poopycredit.com. So, I, of course, had to look that one up. It's a car loan center. Their web address isn't actually poopycredit.com. That's a re-direct. But, I had to do a double take when I saw that. And finally, when I got into Ann Arbor I ran into the first and only mess of construction. With the construction was a road sign that was as big as I am and it said, "Injury/kill road worker $7500 fine and jail time." Well, I guess since I was considering doing just that, I'll reconsider now. "Here's your sign." But, you don't want to hear about signs! Unless of course it is this sign:
We need to talk about these fascinating writers from South Africa!
First I went to a local restaurant where a group of folks met and had dinner with Michael and Stanley. It was great fun to just chat over a nice meal. We talked about books and South Africa and the University of Illinois (where Stanley went to graduate school). We talked a little about Cleveland. Very laid back and just fun.
After dinner we walked back to the bookstore. It was an absolutely gorgeous evening and Ann Arbor was really rather quaint. (Can you tell it was my first visit?)
The first thing I have to mention, and I'm going to sound so American, but I could have sat and listened to these men talk all night. I absolutely love their dialects, and find it a very beautiful sound. All right, so that will be all my silliness for this post...
Stan began by pointing out that A CARRION DEATH was released last year on April 1st. They prayed that the date would not be "apocryphal." I think their prayers were answered in spades, but Michael and Stan were surprised by its success as well. They didn't really set out with great aspirations. They wrote A CARRION DEATH for fun and honestly thought it would just end up being self-published. But of course they are published by Harper Collins, and Stan said his English friends would say, "we are gobsmacked." I hope I spelled that right!
Michael took over to do a short intro on THE SECOND DEATH OF GOODLUCK TINUBU which came out June 2nd of this year. The book is also known elsewhere in the world as A DEADLY TRADE. THE SECOND DEATH OF GOODLUCK TINUBU takes place in a tourist camp in another setting, a completely different environment, of Botswana located along the Northern border. Michael pointed out that this area is a fantastic area for wildlife. It is also adjacent to several other countries and much illegal "activity" occurs in this vicinity. The back story of THE SECOND DEATH OF GOODLUCK TINUBU deals with the trials and tribulations of Zimbabwe, and Kubu will have to travel into Zimbabwe in his research of the case.
Michael and Stan are hard at work now on book number three of the Kubu series (woo hoo!). A trio of nomadic Bushman find a game ranger who has been critically injured. The Bushmen get help, but the police arrest the Bushmen as suspects for the ranger's death. The book will go on to deal with the complex relationship between the Bushmen and the ambient culture. In Book 3, Kubu will visit Namibia.
After discussing the three books, Michael and Stan each entertained us with reading small segments from THE SECOND DEATH OF GOODLUCK TINUBU. Michael chose to read the very beginning, the actual death of Goodluck Tinubu. And Stan read a rather humorous segment with Kubu's parents and their cell phone. I still very much enjoy hearing authors read from their own work, to hear the stresses and inflections and pronunciations. To hear the words the way they hear them when they write. It's kind of a look inside the mind of the authors. Very cool!
Following the reading the duo took questions from the audience. And as you would probably expect, the first question dealt with how they write together, especially with the not being in the same geographical location all the time. Michael and Stan do get together in the same room to plot out the book, draw mind maps and outlines. These planning pages often end up with red splotches from accidental wine spills! ;) For the actual writing stages, they decide who is going to take the first draft based on their backgrounds, interest or knowledge. When the first draft has been completed, the writer e-mails it off to the other who then reads it and comments - a lot. Michael explained that he felt it was a benefit to have this immediate, honest feedback in the writing process. After they've had a few iterations of commenting via e-mail and the sections they disagree on have been whittled down, they communicate via Skype to talk through the remaining sections. If they still can't come to a final agreement on a section, the original writer's version is kept and they "assume" that if it isn't good, the editor will do something about it. So through the back and forth process, while one of the writers starts the process, by the time it finishes, it truly is written by Michael Stanley. Stan believes that about 3/4 of the sentences in the books have words in them from both he and Michael. Now THAT'S collaboration! Another challenge for the writers was working on a second book that some people would be reading BEFORE the first and others would be reading AFTER the first. How do you balance how much background you put in so that both groups can experience the best possible reading experience? So the first time Kubu readers know enough but the veterans aren't bored because they already know the information. There is a delicate balance there.
The writers wrapped up the evening by signing books for everyone. What you might find interesting is HOW these two sign their books. They don't sign "Michael Sears" and "Stanley Trollip." Instead, Michael signs "Michael" and then Stanley tacks on "Stanley." Or vice versa. So the signature does indeed match the author name on the cover...it's just created by two people. What a unique duo. And I had to, of course, snap some photos to remember this grand event. This was truly a wonderful evening, and I'm so glad I made the trip. Meeting Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip will definitely be a highlight of my 2009!
Also a big congratulations to this wonderful writing team. Since Monday, they picked up yet another award nomination for A CARRION DEATH. Michael Stanley has been nominated for the Barry Award for Best First Novel.