It is sometimes said that every person has at least one book in them. We don’t care about them. We care about the people who have written that book out and made it available for all of us to enjoy.
Last week‘s interview with co-authors Nancy and Vanessa from Strange Little Band seems to have started a trend, as today’s guests are also co-authors. (Is there a buy-one-get-one-free author sale on that I haven’t heard about?)
I’d like to introduce you to Irk and Char, the writers behind The Peacock King.
Coffee? Check. On with the chat then.
AMH: “Hot guys in collars, talking guns, boys in make up, and birdies” – your story seems to have a bit of everything! What do you want a reader to take away from it all?
Irk: It is a pretty big story, with a bit of everything in it! In the short-term I want readers to have some fun, to feel danger when the characters feel danger, to get angry at them and sympathize with them as they see fit. But in the long term it’s about more than just one character or event. The Peacock King is a project to show how history feels from the people in the front lines who rather unwittingly make it.
After the fact, in the history books, things seem all fated-to-be and lined up in a row just as perfect as you please – that’s why I have it in first person, present tense. Readers can see just what a character is thinking while the events happen. They see how clueless and terrified Lyric can be when faced with so much danger but still overcome it, or how dopey Gerald can get sometimes yet still come out heroic. So if a reader is faced with a similar situation – such as a ten-foot-tall man trying to kill said reader with his mind – then they’ll know what Lyric would do in such a situation. Lyric would wet his pants and claim after the fact that he didn’t. Or Gerald – he’d get his own guns to shoot himself.
Faced with this information, I’m sure the reader would realize that if those two lived through dangerous events, surely the reader will as well. There’s a song by the Arrogant Worms called ‘History is Made by Stupid People’. It’s the unavoidable truth.
Char: Honestly, I never really thought about that aspect of it before, even though I’ve always secretly suspected that Irk was up to something. My contributions mostly consist of worldbuilding and acting as Irk’s soundboard, so if the reader finds the world believable enough that they feel they could find a place in it for themselves, then I figure I’ve done my job and deserve a cookie.
AMH: You’re the second pair of co-authors here at Café Wednesday. How do you two know each other?
Char: We’ve been friends for somewhere around nine years. … OK, I am ashamed to admit I don’t EXACTLY remember how we met, but it was through a mutual friend. You know, I’m really overthinking this interview process thing. I should start going with my first answers. In that vein: “Not Biblically, although I have seen her naked. She lives with me. It happens.”
Irk: We met in Louisiana nine or ten years ago, when we both lived there. It’s kind of weird, since we both moved away a few years after to different parts of the country. We still had the internet but sort of broke off connection in 2003 – which is coincidentally when I got my first ideas for The Peacock King. I couldn’t get it started then, though, and Char and I weren’t doing any type of cowriting stuff then. Just reading each other’s stuff. We ran across each other on the internet again in 2007, which was when I was ready to move from Louisiana *again*. I ended up moving to Portland in very early 2008 and we’ve been typing three feet away from each other ever since.
Talking to me constantly (on the internet and IRL) means talking to any idea that runs through my head, and when the Peacock King idea resurfaced, Char was all over it. Giving the world ‘countries’ and ‘geography’ and stuff that worlds sometimes have. It was really convenient!
AMH: Being co-authors must require some compromise. Have you two ever disagreed on where the story should go next, character development, and so on?
Irk: Since the whole story’s so big and we have so many characters, we definitely haven’t decided everything ahead of time. Sometimes we each have a different idea of when two characters met, for instance, or where in the timeline a short is placed. Then it’s a matter of logic, really. We discuss what the implications would be if it went either way, and what’s already established in writing or planning will usually rule out one of the options.
Most times, though, it depends on who seems like they know better. Char’s usually the go-to person for the Judge, whereas I know the inside of the Peacock King’s head rather well. I’m not sure if we’ve ever had what you could call an argument about the story – we know our characters, so it’s really a matter of what the characters could or would do. In the long run, I’m usually the one who decides where the epic-level plot is going, because I’m the best at keeping track of it. Char knows the subplots really well, and so we sort of work together in weaving them into each other.
I think the most important thing is that we’re symbiotic, and we don’t play favorites with the characters. Even if Char likes the Judge, she’ll let him catch it in the teeth. I love Jhe o’Radia, but he’s definitely not always right. When you look at it that way, we just don’t have much to argue over.
Char: HA. I *love* it when the Judge catches it in the teeth, but I have a long history with loving to watch male leads get their asses handed to them. Chiba Mamoru, I’m lookin’ at you!
… Anyway. Yeah, I suppose it’s our little secret that we’ve somewhat divided the cast into Char-characters and Irk-characters. It’s my hope that people can’t really pinpoint which character is in which author’s camp, although now that three of them are out of the bag, I wouldn’t be surprised to find people speculating.
So, there you have it. We get along annoyingly well, and it’s mostly because Irk really does call all of the shots and punches me in the teeth and teaches my kids foul language if I write one unapproved word in her precious, precious world.
AMH: Author character divisions? I’m intrigued! Does a similar workload division extend to your (rather awesome) artwork?
Irk: Thank you! Artwork’s a whole different process than the writing, because while sentences are always made of words no matter who writes them, Char and I’s art processes are pretty different. She inks clear and crisp, I sketch the hell out of all my work. So if she inks a sketch of mine, I have to remember she’s going to, because when I sketch for my own inking processes it’s uh… almost unintelligible by other artists. It looks pretty, but it’s vague.
So when we collab our art we often have to decide to do so from the start. The work divides up pretty evenly, though, because I like to color and she likes to ink. We have our different takes on hair and jewelry and how fabric drapes, as well, but we’ll usually meet in the middle. Earlier on we had to redo some work or just let one person do the artwork for that round, but by this point we’ve become more accustomed to working with each other. I think we still have a lot to learn, but I’m happy with what we’ve made so far.
Char: I’d say a similar division of labor is there, yes, right down to the part where we tend to draw certain characters more often than others. In the end, though, we mesh as well with art as we do with writing, but Irk’s right about artwork being different than writing. It’s a lot easier to spot our individual contributions to art projects than anything we co-write. We can mimic each other’s voices rather well in text, but our visual styles are very, hopelessly distinct!
On the bright side, they play well together, so that’s a lovely bonus. We’re actually planning out a project that plays with our differences as artists as part of the narrative, which I think will be a lot of fun.
AMH: On to The Peacock King itself. One of the most intriguing concepts in your story is the role of the Poets and the Armed. If you had to choose, which of the two would you be and why?
Char: Aw, I only get to pick one? You’re one of those Purists, aren’t you. … Armed, if I can’t be Mixed. All psycho Judge-fangirling aside, I really admire their sense of purpose and their dedication to preserving the structure of the world around them. They’re very down-to-earth as a group, and very concerned with taking action and being proactive in making a difference in the world around them. They’re honest, direct, and willing to get their hands dirty with varying degrees of enthusiasm.
It’s not easy, though; being Armed means being the natural enemy of every anarchist in existence, putting yourself opposite, but not necessarily in opposition to Chaos (and hoo-boy does she like to mess with the Armed, they’re such charming little mini-Judges), and to a large degree willingly submitting to a worldview that is very black-and-white. You either are breaking the Law or not breaking the Law; the Judge doesn’t recognize anything else. Even though the individual Armed can make subtler distinctions, their Arms are of the Law, so their decisions boil down to that binary.
Irk: Ah, dang. I hate picking one or the other! That’s even a big theme. But if I had to, I’d go for Poet. I’m pretty much always writing, drawing, reading, or writing things in my head. More than that, I like the edge Poets have on reality – that just by witnessing or participating in an event they can change it beyond what their own actions would account for.
Poets get to see or read or find out about all the good stories. That’s what I’ve been fascinated by since a young age – being able to know the heart of any story, to know all the secret angles of it. This does put Poets in a lot of danger and get traumatic at times, though – they tend to be surrounded by chaos. A lot of that is just a matter of control, though. They’re also great facilitators, since group Poetry is pretty much the ultimate collaboratory experience. Park a Poet over the shoulder of an Armed and the pair becomes near-invincible.
I have to admit my absolute favorites are the Mixed, though. While a lot of character and social divisions in PK hinge upon the division between Poet and Armed, they don’t *have* to be divided. The precision and focus of being Armed can help balance the spaciness that comes with Poetry. Poetry can give an Armed an edge in a fight, and in fact make it by nature the Most Epic Fight That Ever Was. Most or all I like the combination of Armed Aim with a Poet’s ability to read things. So if the Mixed option were thrown in there, it’d be my true choice. Besides, I feel bad picking just one, since I love both factions so much, and they work so well together when they’re not picking fights with each other.
AMH: You’ve completed 2 books so far, and have a 3rd one in the works. How do you envision the future of The Peacock King?
Irk: Back in 2003 I already knew Peacock King already had several novels’ worth of story. Now that I’m actually writing it, I still can’t say how much is there. I could follow plotlines for *two* trilogies’ worth of novels. And I might just do that. At this point, my deepest concern is making sure it doesn’t outlive its usefulness.
I grew up with the Pern novels and thought I couldn’t get enough of them, right up until The Dolphins of Pern. That was when I discovered that if I’m not that interested in a book, I just physically can’t read it. That was the end of Pern for me. Peacock King has lots of characters, and I want to know how they get along and how the world furthers itself and all that. I also want a real story there while I’m writing all that. So if I ever run out of real story, I’ll stop. Possibly I might do a short every now and then.
From the start, the point of Peacock King has been showing great events develop from the front lines. There will always be great events, and greater dangers to face. I sort of face writing from an adversary perspective, though. I build up a very hard-to-beat foe, stick it on the chessboard, and then see what sort of pieces I have to place and how I have to advance them to take that foe out. I’ve got some quite colossal foes already out there – I’m pretty sure if I manage to take those guys down, I can call this thing done and let my characters go on to have grandchildren in peace.
Char: I have this crazy little dream where it gets picked up by Studio Ghibli and made into a series of movies, but I’m not holding my breath. I think the content may be a little more than what they’d be willing to work on. I could be wrong, though, and they’re perfectly welcome to contact us if they’re interested!
Irk: Oh! Crap. I just hope we can find a publisher. *crosses fingers*
AMH: Any last words?
Char: Well, being that it’s the season and all… GEAUX TIGERS! LSU! LSU! LSU!
Irk: In terms of very last words, I think I’ve picked out my tombstone phrase! “I told you I was tired.”
Café Wednesday returns next week. See you then!