Today I’m delighted to welcome two of my favourite comedy writers to the blog: Heide Goody and Iain Grant.
Heide and Iain have co-written fifteen novels in the past six years.
Their debut novel, Clovenhoof, a comedy in which Satan loses his job and has to move to Birmingham, was a bestseller on the Amazon comedy fantasy charts and was optioned by a Hollywood film production company.
They have delivered workshops on different aspects of story-writing at festivals and events across the Midlands and have been guests on BBC Radio numerous times to discuss their work and writing.
This is the first of two interviews with Heide and Iain. Today, they’re talking to me about writing craft. In the next interview, they’ll be discussing the business side of their writing.
Tell us something about your books, including your genre and your characters and/or themes.
We’re a writing partnership. We’ve written novels together since 2011.
We started writing comedy fantasy, and we’ve written in other genres since (horror, and we’re currently plotting a set of crime novels) but always with comedy as a big part of the appeal.
What inspires you to write? Who are your favorite writers?
When we decided to work together we pictured a Venn diagram of where our interests overlap. The influence of Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman is where we saw the most significant intersection.
In terms of what inspires us, we have plundered every possible avenue.
We have both used dreams that we had as the basis for stories, we have played games to drive out some high concept ideas for books, and we’ve thought about character traits after meeting someone interesting.
Whenever we come across quality writing, be it in books, TV or film, we like to discuss it with each other and think about what we can learn from it. We’ve recently enjoyed discussing and dissecting the Netflix comedy, “The Good Place”, which does so many wonderful things story-wise.
How do you start writing? Do you have a process or do you fly by the seat of your pants?
We have a process, but it’s constantly evolving. Iain is a serious plotting addict, and Heide has learned to love it**. We make extensive use of shared ideas documents so that we can jointly stretch and extend an idea or theme.
How has your writing process changed since you started writing?
We’ve learned where our strengths are, and we try to divide work up to suit. If there’s a scene that requires witty dialogue, then Iain will normally write it. If there’s something with lots of slapstick, then it’s often Heide who will tackle it.
How long does it normally take you to write, and what proportion of the time is spent doing what?
We can turn a novel around in about four months, but we sometimes work on several at a time.
If we are working in an existing world, then the planning process isn’t as lengthy, but right now we’re creating a new set of characters for a new series, so we’re taking the time to create some test pieces, so that we can work out exactly who our new cast of characters are, and then we can be confident that we’ll both know what they would do in any given situation.
What is your favorite part of the writing process?
Planning something brand new is very exciting. We love brainstorming ideas and coming up with ridiculous situations we can use in our novels.
Do you involve other people in your writing, as collaborators or editors? How do you make this work?
Apart from each other, we work with editors and proofers. We call upon different people depending on the job in hand, because we know quite well now if we’re slightly “stuck” with something.
Sometimes we need editors to come in as story-fixers. Sometimes we just need an editor to tell us what the hell we’ve just written (because we don’t always know).
Do you have any writing tips you’d like to share with readers?
We met at a writers’ group, so we’d definitely both recommend the experience that you can get from there. We have a very similar work ethic, which is important to us; we take our business very seriously.
We certainly see that writers who treat their work as a business are more likely to get positive results from the effort they put in. We each have our own writing routines but they are built around putting in the hours each and every week.
** for “love” read “regard as a necessary part of the process”
Heide and Iain’s website is full of appropriately wacky resources and ideas. It’s built on self-hosted WordPress and I’ve worked with them to customize it and add resources like a random story generator and a random game rules generator inspired by their book Hooflandia.