Today sees Kensington Gore’s publication of The Order of the Four Sons by Coyote Kishpaugh and Lauren Scharhag and they have taken time out from celebrating to sit for an exclusive interview. We asked them twenty questions on topics like writing, reading and teamwork but we started with The Order of the Four Sons.
1.) You previously published this book independently; how did this, traditionally published, edition come about?
L&C: It was pure luck. The publisher, Kensington Gore, saw a short horror story Lauren had posted on her blog and liked it so well that they asked if she could turn it into a series. In the course of working out the details on that project, she asked if she could show them the Order of the Four Sons (O4S) series. They went ahead and snapped that up too.
2.) Has the book been rewritten, at all?
L&C: Yes. Book I was our first book together, so it was the roughest. We’ve hit our stride since then. Mainly, the edits to Book I were a lot of trimming and tightening up. We re-ordered some chapters. There was only one scene that had substantial rewrites. Overall, though, we feel very good about the changes.
3.) What's the best part of this new deal as far as each of you are concerned?
L&C: The best part is knowing someone out there believes in your work enough to publish it, to invest time and money in it to make it the best it can be, and then to go out and promote it to the world. That’s a very good feeling.
4.) In one word each, how would you describe this experience?
5.) This is the first book of a series, are the rest of them covered in this deal?
L&C: Yes. Originally, the series was going to be four books. We had already written Books I-III. The publisher felt that Book III was so long, the audience would be better served if we cut it into two installments. The same will be true of the fourth and final book. So we’ve gone from four books to six.
6.) Do you share the same literary tastes?
Lauren: Some. I’m an English major and prefer literary works and poetry. Some of my favorite writers are Nabokov, Cormac McCarthy, Thomas Hardy, Margaret Atwood, W. Somerset Maughm and T.S. Eliot. But I believe good literature transcends genre. I don’t usually read romance or mysteries, but I’ve read some Nicholas Sparks and Danielle Steele. I love Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie and Dashiell Hammett. Basically, I read constantly and I try to read a bit of everything.
Coyote: I tend to read everything I can get my hands on, though I read more fantasy, science fiction and horror than anything else. Our tastes overlap a little, though. I also love Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and love poetry, for example.
7.) You each have to pick a single book that helped define the person you are, what is it?
Lauren: Sorry, can’t do it. Charles de Gaulle said it best: “Don't ask me who's influenced me. A lion is made up of the lambs he's digested, and I've been reading all my life.” Personally and professionally, dozens of different books have influenced me in dozens of different ways. It would be impossible to choose a single one among them.
Coyote: No, nor can I. There have been too many. Some have inspired me, others have shown what I really don’t want to be, but there isn’t one that consistently stands out from the rest. Even if I were to give you an example, tomorrow I would choose something else. Nor would I be the same person then that I am now; I’m still reading.
8.) Any advice for other indie authors?
Lauren: Write every day, even if it’s just a few lines. Being a writer is like being an athlete. If you want to be good, you have to train constantly. Also, read a lot. I am continuously amazed by indie authors who say they don’t read. If you don’t like books, what on earth are you doing this for?
Coyote: Lauren already covered the need to train as an author, both in reading and writing. In any art, be it performance, creative, or martial, you must make it a part of your life. But like the other arts, writing is also self-expression. Write what you love, what affects you, what you’re passionate about. Put your heart into it and take criticism, good and bad, without apology or regret. Then write more, and better. Because if you’re not growing then you’re stagnating.
9.) Is there a question that you wish someone would ask you and what is your answer to it?
L&C: Yes, we’d like readers to ask, “How could you kill off my favorite character?” Our answer is because we are cold, chthonic gods who demand sacrifice. No, actually we never do anything to any character without good reason. That being said, there is an added element of suspense when you know that no one is safe. Do we routinely annihilate cast members at the drop of a hat? No. We get attached to our characters too, you know. But we firmly believe that the decisions we make in the stories only make them better.
10.) Which is easier writing solo or together?
L&C: We wouldn’t say one is easier than the other. They both present different and unique challenges. In some ways, writing together is a lot more fun. We always have someone to bounce new ideas off of, we get to act scenes out in Lauren’s living room. There’s a lot of joking and laughing. Writing alone is a lot quieter and we’re less likely to meander onto other conversations. But there are also ideas that we create together that would be very different apart.
11.) If asked to describe each other in two words, what are they?
Lauren: Caring. Sincere.
Coyote: Brilliant. Integrity.
12.) Favorite time to write?
L&C: Any time’s a good time to write, but our together time is always Friday evenings, from about 5:30 until the wee hours. All our friends and family know not to interrupt that time.
13.) What do you find hardest to portray on paper (well, the digital equivalent anyway)?
L&C: The characters’ facial expressions and vocal tones are frequently hard to convey. There are over a million words in the English language and sometimes, you just can’t find one that works. So often, we just revert to “less is more.” When there’s no way to convey a tone, we just go with, “they said,” and let the reader’s imagination fill in the blank.
14.) Which of your characters do you most identify with?
Lauren: This is another situation where I could never pick just one. Every character has at least a little sliver of my personality in them, so I feel like I have something in common with all of them, even the villains. In the O4S series, I feel like I share Kate’s bleeding heart, Murphy’s irreverence, the Colonel’s temper, Clayton’s ability to listen, Alyssa’s migraines, Jack’s dark humor—I could go on, but you get the idea, and we have a very large cast of characters.
Coyote: Both of us have poured different aspects of ourselves into different characters. There are times when I certainly identify with Leo and Clayton in their approach to some situations. Certainly their verbosity, as well as Doug’s, is at least partially drawn from me. Nathan’s temper and light sensitivity I identify with, as well as Christophe’s romanticism. The list goes on.
15.) Has something you were writing ever moved you to tears while you were writing it?
Lauren: Yes, but it concerns events in the final books, which we’re working on now. I don’t want to spoil anything. Writing poems have done it to me before, too.
Coyote: Absolutely. For example, there’s a scene in one of the later books that, when I was reading it aloud, I couldn’t stop shaking. It involves snow and a whip. You’ll know it when you see it.
16.) Have you ever been surprised by what each other has written?
Lauren: I don’t think so. Working together on this series, we always talk things out a dozen or two dozen ways before we actually start putting pen to paper. So if Coyote goes and writes something on his own, I usually have a pretty good idea of what to expect.
Coyote: No. We plotted and schemed out where we were going overall when we first started together and we’ve mapped out all the twists and turns together since. When one of us has a concern about a plot point, we attack it together. When Lauren shows me something she’s written out, we already know where we’re going with it.
17.) What is the one thing that distracts you from writing?
Lauren: The thing that interferes most with my writing time is having to take time to market the books, as well as the usual everyday stuff—the job, going to the grocery store, dishes. That sort of thing.
Coyote: School takes up a great deal of time, alas.
18.) Why do you write?
Lauren: I’ve been writing all my life. I write because I can’t not do it.
Coyote: I love stories. I was telling tales as soon as I could talk and writing as soon as I could make the letters. There is something magical to me about stories and I love collecting them, creating them, telling them and sharing them.
19.) When do you write?
Lauren: Whenever I have a chance. If I’m not writing, I’m probably composing something in my head. When I dream, I dream of my characters. It’s pretty much constant.
Coyote: All over the place. When I first wake up, when I go to sleep, the laptop is right there, waiting. When I’m writing an assignment, it might inspire me to jot something down. When I schedule classes, if I can arrange it they’ll coincide with something I’m writing about, with Lauren or solo.
20.) Who do you write for?
Lauren: For me. Period. I think trying to please others is the death of art. Worrying about what other people think places restrictions on it. I don’t want restrictions on my work.
Coyote: For myself. If you’re not creating the stories that you would want to read, then there’s no point in them. When you cater to others, you’re keeping yourself back. When you’re truly creating something from your soul, you’re unleashing more of your own potential. There is nothing better.
Thank you both for taking the time to talk with us and we hope to have a chance to chat again when the second book hits shelves.
Lauren Scharhag is the author of Under Julia, The Ice Dragon, The Winter Prince, and West Side Girl & Other Poems. Her work has appeared in The SNReview, The Rockhurst Review, Infectus, and Glass: A Journal of Poetry. She is the recipient of the Gerard Manley Hopkins Award for poetry and a fellowship from Rockhurst University for fiction. A lifelong resident of Kansas City, MO, she currently lives with her husband and three cats.
Coyote Kishpaugh has been writing prose and poetry most of his life, and alternately entertains and terrifies his children by telling them stories late at night. Currently, he is pursuing his degree in psychology at Rockhurst University. He lives in Kansas City, KS.