Mine and Philip Terry's collaborative novel When Two Are In Love or As I Came To Behind Frank's Transporter came out in 2019 from Crater Press. It's bonkers in plot and perhaps Oulipian in method. Below I give a little outline of how it was composed. You can get the book here (just scroll down to Crater 57) - www.craterpress.co.uk/
The whole novel was composed over email for about 2-3 years (and then 2 years editing). During this time we met and discussed the project casually, performing it on about five occasions.
There is a base story, which is 32 paragraphs, each with 32 words. 32 words is an arbitrary number; it’s the amount of words that were in the first paragraph that I sent to Phil as an example. The base story runs along the top of each chapter, is in italics and is a smoochy, banal romance.
From each base paragraph we took turns to change a word at a time until all of the original words had become alternative words. We had to keep grammatical sense (but occasionally we broke this rule or added punctuation).
My original idea was to change the original words but essentially keeping the same story and tone going by replacing with synonyms (we did this in chapter 26). But right from the off Phil put in lots of surreal and trippy changes, which was a lot of fun, and makes for a massive weave of narrative. I went with that. Sometimes one of us would have to make a ‘boring change’ like changing ‘the’ to ‘a’ in order for grammatical sense to remain. Because of these ‘wasted’ turns the other writer would sneak in. And then a change that one of us had planned for a few moves in the future would suddenly no longer be possible. An example of this is in chapter 27 where I changed ‘back’ for ‘sang’, gearing myself up in the next go to change the phrase ‘sang through rain’ into ‘sang Purple Rain’ but then Phil took ‘through’ and turned it into ‘sang Hard Rain’. We never really talked about exactly how our individual directions were ‘thwarted’ as it would have spoiled the writing of the novel. In any case the ‘disappointment’ of changes that were no longer possible were far outweighed by the new unexpected changes that the other person had made, forcing both of us to write about things we’d never expected to.
Some chapters accidentally were genre based. For example, Chapter 1 (at least for me) was like Pierrot Le Fou, a film by Jean Luc Goddard. Others were deliberately written in a particular genre. Chapter 5 is written as bad sci-fi and Chapter 21 is written in the style of Phil’s translation of Dante’s Inferno. We were both conscious to repeat tropes and characters in chapters. Wolf and Petra, both invented by Phil, make frequent appearances and are the main protagonists.
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