Anniversaries can be hazy and imprecise and I don’t just mean in that my wife and I can’t remember when we got married (we can’t; when we had to put our wedding date down on a passport application we didn’t even get the year right). I mean that anniversaries can be imprecise because it’s hard to know when something began. But, given that, it’s probably sort of exactly five years since Heide and I decided we would write something together. We didn’t know what it would be, didn’t even know that it would turn out to be a novel, but it was certainly the start of our working relationship and the beginning of Pigeon Park Press.
I still think the most remarkable thing about this anniversary is that we’re still talking to each other. I firmly hold to the belief that personal and business should never mix. Don’t buy a car from family. Never borrow money from a friend. I assumed back then that our writing project would fail and that our friendship would implode spectacularly. (By the way, we have a document which, for the benefit of lawyers / coroners / survivors, explains what should happen to our publishing ‘empire’ should the spectacular explosion occur.) However, we’re still here and – fingers crossed – we’re doing just fine, thanks. So, what’s been the benefits and success of a writing partnership that’s lasted longer than the coalition government and Johnny Depp’s marriages (combined)?
Many hands make light work
Okay, here’s the big one:
*puts on bragging hat*
Two co-written story collections. One co-edited multi-author novel (Circ). Six co-written novels. And, at the time of writing, one co-edited Christmas story anthology on its way, 87.5% of two further novels (we’re writing two at once. Again. Even though we said we wouldn’t) and 12.5% of the next Clovenhoof book. That’s nine books out there and four more that will see publication in the next twelve months.
*takes bragging hat off*
Point is, neither of us would have hoped to have done even half of that alone. That’s one book every six and a bit months. One book, written, edited, proofed, packaged, published and promoted. There are authors out there who can match or beat that but they are few and far between and are either charlatans or gods.
Two imaginations are better than one
It’s like having a baby. A strictly platonic cloud-based baby. The stories we write are stories that neither of us could write alone. We come up with different ideas, meld them together and produce something that is uniquely different to any of our solo stuff.
We’ve also now just about worked out what we each brings to the table. It can be simply described as the “Stupid” and the “Clever”. One of us brings the Stupid and the other brings the Clever. Sometimes our writing is too stupid and a dose of Clever is called for. Sometimes our writing is too clever for its own good and it needs a blast of Stupid. Anyone who knows us personally knows which of us brings what (By the way, the Stupid sells more books than the Clever – fact).
Two business heads are better than one
I’m going to have to be honest here. It’s more of a case that one business head is better than none. I like writing. And when I’m not writing, I’m writing something else. And when I’m not doing that, I’m planning the next thing to write (watch out for a cyborg-dog-cop thing in 2017/2018!). I’ve got no time for book promotions and search engine optimisation and kindle book formats and getting us workshop gigs and schmoozing TV show-runners and BBC radio presenters and trying to get us into the pages of national newspapers. I like writing.
It would probably be better if I did do more of that stuff but I’m sure glad it is getting done. No matter how much people like our books – and I’m very grateful they do – they wouldn’t have sold a fraction of the amount they have without all that invisible business work that needs doing.
Oh, the stupid stuff
This one isn’t about the division of labour. This is definitely a one-sided thing for which I am very grateful. You see, the Stupid one (okay, let’s call her Heide), is one of them ‘blue sky thinkers’ or ‘think outside the box’ types or, you know, ‘nutters’. When it comes to self-promotion, writing projects and generally pointless hijinks, she is queen.
Of the fifteen bits of stupid below, I was the originator of only one of them (and then I ran it like a fascist dictator). Everything else is her.
- Knit Satan
- Sew horns for a cat
- Do a photo shoot with Satan
- Take a research trip to a Welsh island that is frequently inaccessible due to rough seas
- Set up a ‘halo station’ at a launch party
- Create an interactive Google map of every Birmingham-based novel ever (this is actual genius and she deserves an OBE for this)
- Get ten authors from across the globe to write one single coherent novel together
- Set up a seaside head-in-hole photo thing in Birmingham Library.
- Create a monk’s habit from a pair of curtains
- Become writers-in-residence of an abandoned phone box
- Hold an all-day writing marathon in said phone box
- Create a cake to commemorate the Tunguska Event (which featured in one of our books).
- Try to get in the Guinness Book of Records for the most crowdsourced jokes in a single novel
- Take a bazillion photos with an evil baby (I hate that baby)
- Fake a monster sighting in Birmingham
Five years. All I can say is that, without Pigeon Park Press, I would be poorer, a less productive writer, a less creative writer and I wouldn’t have had phone conversations like:
“Meet me in Digbeth at 5am tomorrow morning.”
“I need someone to hold the tentacle.”