Wanted Undead or Alive:
Writing and Collaboration
Janice Gable Bashman
I met Janice Gable Bashman at the 2007 Philadelphia Writer’s Conference where her writing had just won multiple awards. Shortly after, she interviewed me for the pages of Wild River Review. Now I have the pleasure of interviewing her on her latest project.
Bashman is co-author (with Jonathan Maberry) of Wanted Undead or Alive: Vampire Hunters and Other Kick-Ass Enemies of Evil (Citadel Press, and contributing editor of the Big Thrill (the newsletter of the International Thriller Writers). She is a regular contributor to the Wild River Review and also writes for leading publications, including Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market, The Writer,Industry Today, and Food & Drink Quarterly.
L.A. Banks: Janice, you’ve done several collaborations in the past, so how is your most current project different?
Bashman: My past collaborations were for articles; this project was for a book—Wanted Undead or Alive: Vampire Hunters and Other Kickass Enemies of Evil. The book deals with the struggle of good vs evil in film, comics, pop culture, world myth, literature, and the real world. Everything from vampire slayers to paranormal investigators to FBI serial-killer profilers.
The obvious difference from past collaborations to this project is the length of the material, but the major difference is the necessity of finding one voice that works well for both writers. When co-writing a book, it’s important that the material sounds like one writer wrote it and finding that all-important voice is the key to success. It takes a bit of trial and error (and writing and rewriting) to get there, but the end result is, if you do your job right, a voice from two writers that sounds like it’s from one.
Of course, it’s also important that you implicitly trust your writing partner to write the best material possible and complete it on time. My co-author, New York Timesbest-selling author Jonathan Maberry, and I each wrote individual chapters and reviewed and edited each others’ work. Other chapters were a collaborative effort. And, for any collaboration, it’s important that both partners are equally invested in the end result.
My favorite aspect of the process definitely was seeing the book through to fruition. It’s one thing to talk about writing a book with someone; it’s another to see the finished product and know that you wrote something good, something that others will enjoy reading.
Banks: It sounds like you both had a lot of fun pulling this together. I guess that leads me to the next question – to develop this project, did you have to go to a “different place” mentally as a writer?
Bashman: Wanted Undead or Alive was research and interview intensive, so it all began with information gathering. We interviewed hundreds of people for the book —FBI profilers, authors, screenwriters, comic writers, actors, directors, producers, criminal experts, psychologists, and others—as well as luminaries like film-maker John Carpenter, author Peter Straub, and the legendary Stan Lee. The book also has over fifty illustrations from fantastic artists. Once all of that information was in hand, the writing process began, and I had to switch from the researcher/information gatherer to the writer.
While writing Wanted Undead or Alive, I had to focus on crafting the information I gathered into a fresh and exciting read. To accomplish this, I looked at each chapter as if I were writing fiction and wrote the material in a manner that would captivate and keep my readers’ attention. I thought of each chapter (or subchapter) as a story with a beginning, a middle and an end, and I wrote as if I were telling a story, even though the book is nonfiction.
Banks: This definitely sounds like a labor of love where doing the research was almost, if not more fulfilling than, actually sitting down to craft the book. That said, what do you love about the craft of writing and how does the craft of writing inform your life?
Bashman: I love to write. It doesn’t matter if it’s a rough first draft, or a second, third or fourth edit on a piece. Writing is about taking an idea and finding a way to meaningfully convey that idea, and I love everything about the process. For some writers the excitement occurs with the initial idea; for others it occurs upon completion of the writing process. I feel that excitement from beginning to end, and it doesn’t matter if I’m writing fiction or non-fiction. There’s always a story to tell, and I really enjoy telling it.
Banks: When I met you my first impression of you was this fantastic dynamo of intensity and I have described you as a force of nature. So, tell us, what gets your engine going; what compels you to write?
Bashman: I write because it’s something I have to do. Writing takes me to new places, teaches me new things, and exposes me to situations that I might not otherwise encounter. It gives me a means to express myself and a way to connect with all the many readers who I might not otherwise have an opportunity to connect with.
Banks: Ahhh… but you have a young family – how do you juggle deadlines (especially journalistic ones) and the reality of being a wife and a mother?
Bashman: That’s hard, sometimes. I write full-time now, and although I work at home I find myself taking a quick break to do the laundry, run to the grocery store, or deal with other household essentials. I try to time those breaks for when I need to step away from the actual writing process. Although I’m not at my keyboard, I am thinking about my writing, and this break enables me to process my work and hit the keys at a fast clip when I return from my errands.
Writing is my job and I treat it like one. I’m dressed and on the computer early in the morning, and I work as long as possible throughout the day, expecting that towards the end of the day my work will be interrupted by family obligations. I also grab fifteen minutes here and fifteen minutes there to write or research whenever I can, but I try to plan ahead and leave the writing-related tasks that can be completed in a short period for those times.
Banks: Do you think there are more/less pressures associated with multi-tasking around a family for women versus men?
Bashman: Women, in my experience, tend to multi-task around a family more than men, although I’m sure there are many men who may differ with my opinion. Men seem to focus on either work or family at any given time of the day, while women tend to feel the need to get it all done and do it right, so they steal time from one task for the other, potentially sacrificing the quality time allotted to both.
Banks: Talk about your contributions as a female writer to your new book. Do women look at the world differently (or not)?
Bashman: I think of myself as a writer, not necessarily as a female writer, and my contributions to Wanted Undead or Alive are no different than Jonathan Maberry’s. We co-wrote a book and approached it just like any other co-writers would—how would we write the book and write it well?
Some women look at the world differently than men, but in the writing world it’s important to recognize that this is a business. Although we are all in it to create something meaningful through our writing (at least most of us are anyway), we need to accept and understand the business end of publishing in order to succeed. I think male writers tend to recognize this more than women.
Banks: Social media, online—how you feel about the brave new world of literature?
Bashman: Times are changing and at a fast rate. It’s very important for authors to be aware of those changes and to embrace them as much as possible. The internet has given authors a powerful arsenal of tools to connect with readers through social media, blogs, Yahoo! groups, websites, etc., and authors need to recognize those opportunities and use them.
I recently spoke about building your buzz to rack up sales at the Backspace Writers Conference, and I’ll be speaking about it again to the Brandywine Valley Writers Group in September. I embrace these social media and online opportunities and have found them instrumental in helping propel my writing career forward.
I’m on Twitter (http://twitter.com/janicebashman), Facebook, LibraryThing, Shelfari, LinkedIn, and a bunch of Yahoo! groups. I also follow and comment on numerous blogs and post to my own blog, usually about the writing business (www.janicegablebashman.com).
Banks: Wow… like I said, you are definitely a force of nature! Keeping on top of it all is definitely a challenge. What you are writing now?
Bashman: I’m finishing up a proposal for my next non-fiction book; it’s still under wraps so I can’t share the details at this time. I can say that dozens of key players are already on board for the project and it’s sure to be a fun one. I’ll also be shopping a young adult novel shortly.
Banks: If you could have the “dream” next project, what would that be?
Bashman: That’s a really hard question. I’ve renjoyed writing everything I’ve done, both fiction and non-fiction. If you’ve got something in mind, throw it my way and see if I bite.
The late Leslie Esdaile Banks, (1959-2011) was an African American writer. She wrote in various genres, including African American literature, romance, women’s fiction, crime suspense, dark fantasy/horror and non-fiction. Leslie wrote under the pseudonyms L. A. Banks, Leslie Esdaile, Leslie Banks and Leslie Esdaile Banks. She won several literary awards, including the 2008 Essence Literary Awards Storyteller of the Year.
Banks was born and raised in Philadelphia.
Banks contributed to magazines, newspaper columns, and has written commercial fiction for five major publishers: St. Martin’s Press (NYC), Simon and Schuster (NYC), Kensington Publishing (NYC), BET/Arabesque (NYC), and Genesis Press (MS). Books one and two of The Vampire Huntress Legend Series (Minion and The Awakening, respectively), were optioned for Hollywood films by GothamBeach Entertainment and Griot Entertainment. Originally a nine book series, The Vampire Huntress Legend Series was expanded to twelve books.
Leslie Esdaile Banks was a founding partner of The Liars Club, a networking group of professional in publishing and other aspects of entertainment.