Reality Skimming

Collaborating Across Continents

First published on the website of Alison Sinclair

So how do two writers who have spent fourteen of their twenty-one years of friendship/collaboration separated by five hundred to three thousand miles actually produce a saga that details forty plus years of imagined events and sketches in a thousand more?

The Saga got its start early in our second year at University of Victoria when I spotted Lynda, whom I knew slightly from Maths 130, writing something with quotation marks in it and sidled up to ask her whatchadoin'?. She already had the Gelacks and Reetions well established - though in different form- and I was carrying around the Burdanians in embryo, so to speak, and for a time we combined forces. Gradually, however, Lynda's part of the universe proved the more playable (though the Burdanians went on to their own destiny) and she cheerfully made room for a sitting tenant. In student lounges and cafeterias and - I am ashamed to confess - classes, the Saga burgeoned,and has continued to flourish through the getting of five-and-a-half degrees between us, one husband and three children (Lynda's), moves from Victoria to Prince George, B.C. to Hamilton, Ontario, to Prince George (Lynda's) and from Victoria to Hamilton to Boston, U.S.A., to Leeds, England, and to Calgary (mine). We have contributed to the profits of phone companies in three countries and exchanged scenes and parts of scenes by hand, conventional post, the original OPUS/BBS network, E-mail in all its incarnations, and now FAX, the Internet and Web. What computer literacy I possess is owed in part to the need to keep the saga going.

We each have a cast of characters, usually ones we've introduced. Some we are quite possessive about; others, we toss back and forth. Generally, we write from the viewpoint of "our" characters - with THRONE PRICE, we each took one of the principles, more or less, except for those times when one or other of us got the bit between her teeth and ran with it, or, alternatively, got hopelessly bogged down and 'turfed' the fragments to the other. We pass what we have written back and forth for comments which usually run along the lines of 'I really like it ... but ... he/she wouldn't do that/say it that way!' (particularly of the characters we feel possessive about) or 'You're breaking the rules of this society/universe' (Lynda) or 'Isn't there a simpler way to do this?' (Alison). Simple matters we resolve by E-mail. Thorny questions (Chapter 23 of THRONE PRICE was a bear since we both had very different ideas as to what was allowable), complex scenes (those crowd scenes) and wild speculations we hammer out on the phone. My phone bill is something I am always very careful to keep out of sight when my Mum visits, and whenever I phone Lynda, I can hear childish wails of "Is it ALISON??" in the background.

I can't recollect at what stage we decided to try and carve the Saga into novel-sized pieces, but over Christmas/New Year of 1996/1997 I was house sitting for my parents in Victoria and Lynda came down to join me, with the intention of working on THRONE PRICE, which was then in the form of a cluster of draft chapters. The Great Victoria Snowstorm ensued and by the end of a snowbound five days we had a scene by scene outline of THRONE PRICE and portions of the subsequent books, FAR ARENA and AVIM OATH (which we were at that point trying to shoehorn into one immense book). Then we went back to our respective abodes to work on our respective halves. THRONE PRICE was complete and submitted by the end of September, came back for revision in November/December, and was resubmitted with extensive changes to beginning and end in March. This August it was officially accepted by EDGE.

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