So, the Project. I…

So, the Project. I finally talked to Michael in e-mail yesterday, so I feel like I can talk freely about the project now. It's been awkward, and to be honest, I wasn't sure of the appropriate writerly etiquette for handling this kind of thing. To explain properly, I need to back up a little.

When I took on Kathryn for Melcher, it was understood that it was to be part of an ongoing series. That the series would be led off by two books -- one would be mine, and the other would be The Classics Professor, written by Michael Hemmingson. I was pleased to hear that Michael would be doing the other, because his story in AE is my favorite; I love his writing style. It's subtle, oblique, honest. I figured we would write very different books, but that they'd both be good.

You all saw me drafting Kathryn last fall. Michael was drafting his book at the same time. We handed our first drafts in around the same time -- and there the paths diverged. Melcher (the packager) and Penguin (the publisher) were pretty happy with my book. It did what they wanted it to do. They weren't so happy with Michael's. No fault to him as a writer -- the writing was beautiful. (I've seen his draft, so I know it's so.) But they didn't think his style was suited to the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure format.

Things get a little confuddled at this point in the story. As I remember, their first thought was that maybe I could step in and do a heavy style edit, reworking his book so that it more closely fit their ideas of what they wanted for this series. (If you remember, they were pretty stringent in their guidelines for content and style; it was almost like writing a Harlequin romance in that regard.) I said I'd be willing to do that. But a few days later, they contacted me and said they'd talked it over some more, and that they really didn't think that would work. They wanted me to rewrite the book from scratch, in my own voice/style, using Michael's plot as a jumping-off-point. They were going to pay Michael a kill fee for his time and effort, and I believe offer him some kind of cover credit.

Well, obviously this was a big piece of good fortune for me in some senses. Another book to my name, a nice chunk of change (that I could really use). But it came at the expense of another writer, and I felt a little queasy about it. If it had been my book whose style they hadn't liked (which could so easily have happened), I would've been crushed. And I would've felt strange, handing over my characters and plot lines to somebody else to write.

Melcher/Penguin were well within their rights to do this, by the way -- I don't want to imply that there was anything shady about their handling of the affair. The original story concept development was done as a work-for-hire; they did own it. I gather this kind of thing happens in Hollywood all the time -- studios taking one person's idea and handing it around to various writers to take a stab at, until they get something they're happy with. But I'm not used to it, and it's a little strange to me.

As you know, I took the project on. I kept Michael's characters (roughly) and plotlines (even more roughly), and drafted about 40,000 words in about three weeks of December (which astonishes me). I would have told you all about it sooner, but Duncan (at Melcher) was supposed to talk to Michael and fill him in more on what was actually happening; I was waiting from the word from Duncan. But Michael wrote to me yesterday and we've filled each other in; he's enough of a professional that he's being very gracious about the whole thing. I hope I can work with him again sometime, possibly publish something of his myself. I still love his writing.

It's been a strange business -- for me, at any rate. But there it is, and this upcoming spring (I believe), you should be getting two CYOA books from me -- Kathryn in the City and The Classics Professor. I'm doing second draft revisions (rather drastic ones) on Classics now; they're due 1/10 (Duncan extended my deadline), so I'd best hop to it.

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