Will Shakespeare and Kit Marlowe: Library of Erana interview

Originally posted at https://libraryoferana.wordpress.com/2017/11/11/zweihander-interview-will-and-kit/

Pirates 166 meg

Character Names: William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe

Relationship: Roommates; Playwrights; Co-authors

World: New Hell

Books:  Rogues in Hell; Dreamers in Hell; Poets in Hell; Doctors in Hell; Pirates in Hell (Heroes in Hell series)

How and where did you meet?

Will Shakespeare: When alive, we met as rival playwrights, Kit holding forth in the ‘Admiral’s Men company’ wheresoever the troupe played, or at the Rose; and I at the Globe, where I owned an interest in the house.

Kit Marlowe: Eyewash, all that. Shakespeare’s a famous liar. We met in the Clink, on Maiden Lane. So what? What intelligence we had of one another came through his works and mine, what plays we wrote and how we acted in ’em. My Tamburlaine the Great, Parts I and II, I performed in my lifetime; the rest were staged posthumously, but for Dido, Queen of Carthage, writ by me and Thomas Nashe, and ‘performed’ by the ‘Children of the Chapel,’ as fair a clutch of boy charmers as ever gamboled on any stage. I met my death not too long after cultivating Will, a matter of my spying here and lying there, most times with Walsingham, whose wife took umbrage, as women do when boys and men make love. Yet those plays set a new standard in quality and introduced blank verse. Mine were not, like Will’s, tripe writ for money-grubbery by the uneducated and for the uneducated. I helped Will write his Henry VI, Parts One, Two and Three and got no credit for it. Still, my own four plays performed on Earth after I arrived in Hell did what art should do: shined lights on evils hidden and calumny of the vilest kind.

Will: Kit, let’s not linger on this question, unfortunate as it may be. We were sometime lovers, sometime haters of one another, but always haters of repression and Elizabethan frippery. If your spying got you killed, Kit, your love of controversy sparked it — yea, incited it.

Kit: Incited? Poor choice of words, methinks. Edward the Second was first performed five weeks after my death; so that play, at least, retained its bite.

 What is it you like most about the other person?

Kit: Like about Will? His soft white skin, his ample buttocks — his mobile mouth, empowered tongue, and nubile breasts.

Will: Kit means he adores my ear for language, my deeply probing artist’s soul, and my knack of staying out of trouble whilst I slip and slide among the rich and reprehensible at Court. Do recall I’m not the one who ended life with a bodkin thrust deep in that eye so like a doe’s.

What is it you hate most about each other?

Will: We said that. But, since you ask for more: his blasphemy and his need to fill his pages with the ‘vile heretical conceits’ that sent him to trial before the Privy Council.

Kit: We told you that, and, like the Privy Council, you’ll acquit me on the grounds that truth itself can’t be denied — for long.

Will: Christopher Marlowe, like your English Agent in the Massacre at Paris, I hate your overweening pride and lurid need to confess your days of secret agency under so thin a guise as that play. What were you thinking, to warn Elizabeth of agitators, a theme far too dangerous to survive? And how many refugees from the low countries died of your ideas planted in their tiny little heads?

Do you think your partnership will last?

Kit: Henry Sixth answers that, for my part. It’s what Shakey would have writ had he an education or a life made dangerous enough to enjoy. And the rest, you see before you: two souls forever doomed to one another’s company in the bowels of perdition, to count eternity’s every day, and nights more deadly still.

Will: Kit’s a good boy, a young fellow led astray by childish derring-do, and with a taste for the hurly-burly that snuffed his life before its time. But now I have infernity to reform him, and Satan provides the irritant around which we’ll secrete a necklace of pearls while we write as we’ve never writ before.

 Describe the other person (max 100 words):

Kit: Will, go ye first, and light our path with your dulcet tones, so like a cello but a string or two short.

Will: Master Marlowe, my thanks for your recital, though it best be delivered later and revisited daily, as the Privy Council sentenced you to come before them every day: every day of the ten you had yet to live . . . Withal, I’ll try to answer the question: this Marlowe creature hungers for adoration and thirsts for justice, both of which were as precious scarce in life as they remain dubious in afterlife. Nevertheless, his talent is wider than the face of Paradise and tempered by a lifetime few would have dared to live — and I love him for his childish heart and indomitable soul.

Kit: My turn, then, to laud the Bard in terms free of spite and full with admiration: such a mind for the human animal has ne’er been seen on the black earth — not before he lived his quick span, or at any time thereafter. Although glorifying humanity may be an empty effort, he’s made them look into themselves, and find there what joy can be had, and give it value.

 Describe how you think the other person sees you

Will: I think not, for safety’s bereftest sake.

Kit: As my better half insinuates, ‘twould take a three-part comedy of errors to do that story justice. So I’ll not begin it, lest it never stop till eternity runs out.

Tell us a little about your adventures.

Will: Then or now? Becoming famous in life holds no candle to sustaining afterlife. We’ve written three plays now for Satan, and suffered the attendant woes of those who know true ignominy. We wrote Hell Bent, and died in it every night. We wrote The Witch and the Tyrant, and fell afoul of its graveyard stench. We wrote another, Pirates in Perdition, and found the very sounding of its name an incantation to summon fiends and demons and all manner of unexculpated souls.

Kit: Read our plays writ here, to Abbadon’s order, or don’t. But be warned: you’ll risk your wizened hearts every time you turn our pages and let your eyes rub words too dangerous to speak aloud.

Tell us about your world – and your part of it.

Will: Hell is the Reformation come to grief, with no Third Act to cure it.

Kit: Hell is where the heart is, and seldom beats. But when it does, that heart beats as only love can. We are Satan’s personal poets, and no worse can befall a soul who yet owns an ear for courage or for rhyme.

Where do you see yourselves in five years?

Kit: Right here. Scoffing at evil while we glorify every flaw that makes man human. What else, in hell, is a playwright to do?

Will: Enough, Kit. The last line of this comedy is mine: We’ll be here as long as ghosts roam the world and fools rule it; as long as regrets power penance and singers keen their pain.

 

You can find Will and Kit in the following:

Janet Morris on Amazon

Perseid Press Website

Advertisements

Joe Bonadonna speaks out on “Doctors in Hell,” the perfect prescription for damnation’s ills

First published in Black Gate Magazine: http://www.blackgate.com/2015/09/13/the-perfect-prescription-for-perdition-doctors-in-hell-edited-by-janet-morris-and-chris-morris/

Doctors in Hell is available in print and digital editions at Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/Doctors-Hell-Heroes-Janet-Morris-ebook/dp/B00Z753EX8/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1442194400&sr=1-1&keywords=Doctors+in+Hell

And at Barnes & Noble:  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/doctors-in-hell-janet-morris/1122204292

The Perfect Prescription for Perdition: Doctors in Hell, edited by Janet Morris and Chris Morris

Sunday, September 13th, 2015 | Posted by Joe Bonadonna

Doctors in Hell-smallDoctors in Hell
Heroes in Hell, Volume 18
Edited by Janet Morris and Chris Morris
Perseid Press (336 pages, $19.98 in trade paperback, $7.92 digital, June 23, 2015)
Cover: Pandemonium, John Martin (1789-1854), circa 1841, oil on canvas, from private collection. Cover design by Sonja Aghabekian

Be careful to preserve your health. It is a trick of the devil, which he employs to deceive good souls, to incite them to do more than they are able, in order that they may no longer be able to do anything.
— St. Vincent De Paul

By now, many of you no doubt know of my association with Janet Morris and Perseid Press. Maybe you’ve read the reviews of her novels that I wrote for Black Gate, including my reviews of Lawyers in Hell, Rogues in Hell, and Dreamers in Hell. In 2014 Janet and I collaborated onan article for Black Gate, in which we discussed Poets in Hell, how I came to be involved with Hell, and how she put that volume together.

Now, for 2015, Perseid Press offers you Doctors in Hell, the 18th volume in the popular and long-running Heroes in Hell saga, created by Janet Morris back in 1986 .This year I’m going to do something similar to what Janet and I did last year: presenting a brief synopsis of each story/chapter, with the diabolical assistance of my twelve fellow Hellions — the damnedest writers in perdition, to paraphrase the text on the book’s front cover. That makes 13 of us… a nice number, don’t you think?

First, however, I want to share with you my take on the infernal Afterlife of Hell, as it’s portrayed in the Heroes in Hell shared-universe.

Perseid Press logoThe series is often called “Bangsian fantasy,” a genre of fantasy which concerns the use of famous literary or historical individuals and their interactions in the afterlife. It’s named for John Kendrick Bangs (1862 –1922), an American satirist who often wrote such tales. Heroes in Hellitself is an epic series of shared-world novels where the famous and infamous throughout history all wind up together in Hell, where they virtually pick up right where they left off when still alive — but now with a diabolical twist: Hell may give you what you want and what you need, but these things are never quite what you asked for. Hell is not what you’d expect, so always expect the unexpected. Things are broken in Hell, things malfunction, and there’s always a grand touch of irony to everything that happens. Hell gives and Hell takes away, and in Hell the Damned get just what they deserve. There is comedy and tragedy in this eternal and infernal arena of Lost Souls, where human drama is played out across a wide spectrum of such literary genres that include heroic fantasy, horror, action-adventure, political thrillers, westerns, science fiction, and even romance. Each individual story in each book reads like a chapter in a novel, and each story/chapter bears the unique touch and personality of its author.

The premise of the series is based on the tradition that 613 is the number of mitzvoth or commandments in the Torah, which began in the 3rd century CE when Rabbi Simlai mentioned it in a sermon that is recorded in Talmud Makkot 23b. Our series of novels begins with the 613 original commandments, binding on every living soul, and ignorance is no excuse: break just one little commandment and you go to Hell. So almost everybody who was anybody broke some commandment or other while on earth, and now here they are, sometimes in a part of Hell where they belong, sometimes in an area of Hell where they don’t. The Damned come from across the length and breadth of time and history to interact, to scheme and plot, and even go adventuring — all the while suffering the torments of a well-deserved damnation. The worst and best from all of time make the same mistakes in Hell that got them there in the first place: character is destiny, in life Topside and in the Afterlife of the underverse, as well. You could read these books in order, in any order, or without having read any of the previous volumes in the series. In Hell, Time is meaningless, so it doesn’t matter which book you begin with: start anywhere, for the cohesion in each volume makes it stand alone. You can read Hell forward or backward or upside down: Hell is still Hell. It still unsettles minds and makes hearts skip beats. The Damned get the Hell they deserve. Expect what will be, nothing less, and nothing more. This is not your mommy’s world of fantasy: this is Hell, and tonight we dine on gore, tonight we feast on souls.

Lawyers in Hell-smallNow, as to what’s going on in Doctors in Hell

For all the horrors and torments that Satan has unleashed upon the Damned, the Almighty has decided that he’s been too lenient on them, and so to Hell were sent Ezra, the Babylonian plague god, and his henchmen, the Seven Sibitti, to spread plague and terror, to wreak havoc and further punishment throughout the underverse. Erra then stirs the pit by adding his own little brand of mayhem, maleficence, and malefic maladies to the mix. The result is that pestilential misery runs amok in Hell, lost souls wail in even more torment, doctors raise their fees, and snake-oil salesmen make a killing selling all sorts of bootlegged versions of vaccines and so-called remedies for the plagues sweeping across and through all levels and circles of Hell. But the damned must suffer, and the Devil is furious about Erra and his enforcers being sent from Heaven to prove that Hell is insufficiently hellish. And since death in Hell for all lost souls is only fleeting, followed by a horrifying turn in the Mortuary where they are worked on by the Undertaker prior to being reassigned, torment and suffering are eternal.

There is no escaping Hell. And don’t bother telling Hell’s doctors where it hurts, they won’t care. They have their own problems.

Ah, but Satan has a plan. Satan always has a plan. It’s a purge that may be even more terrible than anything cooked up by Erra. Satan, you see, has always held to the belief that Mankind is worthy of neither salvation nor damnation, and deserves only oblivion: total obliteration into nothingness. His Satanic Majesty has been trying to prove his point to Heaven and the Big Man Upstairs for ages upon ages, and this argument is what landed him in Hell in the first place. The Devil has always insisted that modern souls in Hell — called the New Dead, roughly anyone born Anno Domini — are so vicious, self-centered, hubristic and morally bankrupt that they would punish themselves and each other, if given a chance, more horribly and thoroughly than Hell’s bureaucracy could ever contrive to do. This leads to a bet between Satan and the angel Altos, who wants to prove the New Dead worthy of salvation — or at least deserving of leniency, to show themselves no worse than their predecessors or successors.

This brings us to the first story, The Wager, by Janet Morris and Chris Morris, wherein Altos, Hell’s only volunteer angel, has been sent from Above to effect Satan’s rehabilitation, a daunting task. Altos and Satan wager on the outcome of a battle between 20th and 21st century militarists who, Satan says, “will combat one another in battles fought exclusively by volunteers: armies manned by voyeurs of violence who find vicarious thrills reading of heroes who never were, fighting villains who never could be. If we hold this war and nobody comes, or the doctors of the damned heal the wounded and save the plague-ridden, then, Altos, you will win, and I shall soften my heart unto the New Dead and forestall the purge you know I am readying.”

Poets in Hell-smallChris Morris follows this up with The Cure, where Satan orders John Milton: “Tell Marlowe you have learned the difference between oblivion, impossible in my domain, and obliteration, which a soul can claim, be he brave enough: obliteration — complete and sweet: Not only ‘not to be,’ but to be expunged as if he’d never been at all. This will make an end to his playwriting and poetry, and an end to his affair with Shakespeare.” So Milton, horrified at what he hears next, must infect Christopher Marlowe with the knowledge of this cure.

Next up is Andrew Paul Weston’s tale, Grim: Satan demands a purging laxative to clear the bowels of the underworld of the dross that has accumulated over the centuries, and turns to the doctors for assistance. However, it appears our infernal physicians are hell-bent on fomenting rebellion. Forced to act, His Satanic Majesty turns to his Chief of Surgical Strikes and cure-all remedy — Daemon Grim — to wield the scalpel of injustice… and wield it he does.

In The Right Man for the Job, Deborah Koren’s story, we learn that the only thing worse than having Wyatt Earp gunning for you is having Wyatt Earp and plague victims after you. Bat Masterson joins forces with Dr. Henry Porter, the only surviving surgeon from the Little Big Horn, in order to stay alive.

The main premise of Nancy Asire’s Memory is the plague that’s struck hell and Napoleon’s memories of dealing with plague during his Egyptian campaign. The ramifications of these memories color his actions when dealing with the threat to those he cares about and shows the response of his friends in the face of potential disaster.

R.E. Hinkle’s story is What Price Oblivion? In this, he writes of 19th Century confidence man Charles “Doc” Baggs, who abhorred violence in life, but finds himself in death forced to be the thing he loathes the most, so much so that even oblivion is preferable to the monstrosity he has become. But when he encounters another doomed soul in worse torment than his own, who deserves that oblivion more than Baggs himself craves it, he finds himself tempted to take action. Can there be good deeds, even in Hell?

Rogues in Hell-smallRichard Groller’s In the Shadowlands picks up where his previous story, (“Island Out of Time”) left off. Houdini’s brief escape from Hell results in him returning to Hell with an unwitting passenger: a living lawyer, not yet a member of the damnable dead. His self-assigned mission is now to return the lawyer to the land of the living before it is too late.

In Matthew Kirshenblatt’s Let Us Kill the Spirit of Gravity, a fallen angel awaits and a Beast awakens as Lilith, the first wife of Adam, and the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche come to an unlikely accord.

Pavlovian Slip, by Bill Snider, is up next. In Hell, one would expect that psychologists would be in their place; the variety, the divergences of human experience, the interactions, the very grist of individual will and the exercise thereof. But, for Ivan Pavlov and Sigmund Freud, there can be no joy of discovery, there can only be the persistence of existence, in Hellish accord. When Ivan and his demonic horde of Grumbles join with Sigmund… what kinds of insanity are likely to happen?

My own story, Hell on a Technicality, continues the misadventures of Doctor Victor Frankenstein who, with the assistance of Quasimodo, concocts a plague vaccine that has some unforeseen and diabolical side effects. Meanwhile, Galatea and Frankenstein’s Monster visit a panel of so-called experts to find out if they have or don’t have souls — and if they don’t, can they get out of Hell on a technicality?

In Michael H. Hanson’s Convalescence, Nurse Calamity Jane, with the help of her Sinchester Rifle, protects Satan’s final outpost, The St. Rictus Nursing Home, from the all-encompassing plagues sweeping across Hell.

Dreamers in Hell-smallPaul Freeman’s Hell Noon deals with the plagues sweeping through hell, corrupting souls already suffering the harshest torments, and a group of gamblers holed up in a saloon on the outskirts of the Dead Plains. Doc Holliday leads the motley crew of damned souls as they seek to sit out the spreading contagion. But hell holds no place to hide from Satan’s punishments, least of all for a gambling man seeking to con the lord of all evil.

In The Judas Book, by Jack William Finley, Lobotomist Dr. Walter Freeman thinks he’s got a loophole to free himself from Hell. Judas Iscariot thinks he’s got Hell’s new bestseller, and Frank Nitti thinks they are both a pain in his ass worthy of Hell.

Now we come to the end of it all with Writer’s Block, by Janet Morris and Chris Morris. This time out, Shakespeare insists on taking Christopher Marlowe to the most infamous witch doctors in hell, where Marlowe begs their aid to find his lost Muse: “Can you help us? Spin a spell? Weave a charm? Vex a potion? Hex an enemy? Do any magics such as your sign outside boasts you can?”

“I can. I’ll give ye a push toward destiny,” cackles one bristly hag.

And the witch doctors do just that.

Oh, wait! We’re not quite finished yet. As a special treat, there’s A Moment of Clarity, a wonderful excerpt from Andrew Paul Weston’s forthcoming novel, Hell Bound.

So there we are, Doctors in Hell, where the doctor is always wrong, sinners never win, misery runs amok, and Hell’s damned get their just deserts . . . eternally. I hope you join our Company of 13 Hellions on a journey through all the pits, circles and levels of Hell, where not only doctors, but explorers, warriors, playwrights, lawyers, rogues, dreamers, and poets become an unlikely band of heroes — and anti-heroes — in Hell.

Janet Morris, mother of Heroes in Hell, the damned saga, interviewed by Jennifer Loiske…

Originally posted at:  https://jenniferloiske.wordpress.com/2015/07/12/mother-of-heroes-in-hell-is-on-my-blog-today-meet-janet-morris/

‘Mother’ of Heroes in Hell is on my blog today! Meet Janet Morris!

Janet bio pic cropped 12 05 13 Janet B&W Portrait 2Best selling author Janet Morris began writing in 1976 and has since published more than 30 novels, many co-authored with her husband Chris Morris or others. She has contributed short fiction to the shared universe fantasy series Thieves World, in which she created the Sacred Band of Stepsons, a mythical unit of ancient fighters modeled on the Sacred Band of Thebes. She created, orchestrated, and edited the Bangsian fantasy series Heroes in Hell, writing stories for the series as well as co-writing the related novel, The Little Helliad, with Chris Morris. Most of her fiction work has been in the fantasy and science fiction genres, although she has also written historical and other novels. Morris has written, contributed to, or edited several book-length works of non-fiction, as well as papers and articles on nonlethal weapons, developmental military technology and other defense and national security topics.

Want to know more about Janet? Here you go:

Heroes in Hell series Wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heroes_in_Hell
Janet’s wikipedia bio: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Janet_Morris
website: theperseidpress.com

Heroika 1 Perfect promo 6&9Janet, you’ve had your fingers in many literature jars, as one might say, and it seems you’re exactly where you were meant to be. Do you believe in destiny?

I believe in destiny and also in predestination. So do the heroes and villains in my fiction, such as our newest book, “Doctors in Hell.” Too many things have happened to me in my life that came to me unbidden, on the one hand, and seemed unavoidable, on the other. In the Silistra Quartet I wrote about the metaphysics of an “amenable universe” where what you expect conditions and shapes what actually occurs. A scientist named John Wheeler had a similar approach to modern physics, and he called that view of the universe the “anthropic principle.” To explain this most simply is to say that you get what you expect. Mind shapes reality. So expect the best, not the worst. When I have feared the worst, it has come to me; when I have envisioned great things, they have become reality.

In the Heroes in Hell series we explore the way the damned recreate the behaviors that brought them to hell in the first place. Heraclitus of Ephesus said, “Character is destiny.” I consider this a universal truth. In our Heroes in Hell series, and especially in Doctors in Hell, the protagonists (including mortal damned and fallen angels, heroes and lords of all the underworlds that humanity’s minds have created) shape their predicaments and their solutions as is natural for the character of each. For example, in the story “The Cure,” Satan sends John Milton to destroy the relationship between William Shakespeare and Kit Marlowe. How? You’ll need to read “The Cure” and the following story, “Writer’s Block,” to find out.

Do you do a lot of researching before starting to write or do you go with the flow and check the details (if doing so) later?

I do both: I find my characters, their destiny, so to speak. I decide how the book will end and how it must begin. Then I research detail as required, most deeply for books such as Doctors in Hell and the Heroes in Hell series, or the new Heroika series that begins with Dragon Eaters: if I’m using historical characters or historical events, or even historical models to create parallel fictional events, I read about the times, the personalities, and if there is any literature about events or people, I read that. I most love to find words spoken by a person with whom I’m trying to connect in order to create or recreate that character– or primary stories written by them or about them from their own time. Examples? In Doctors in Hell I’m using Will Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe, Diomedes, John Milton; even Lord Byron’s dog, Boatswain, has a part to play. With those and my purely historical works, such as I, the Sun I try to quote the characters’ own words: nothing rings as truly as truth.

Once the story is ongoing I research more as I go, since the story opens up for me and I have more questions that need answers. After I’m done, I check everything – but once I’ve written the last word of a piece, it’s as if a door slams shut, and I know less about them than I did when I was writing. The metaphysical connection of the writer to a time and place is something that keeps me writing: I write a door and walk through it, hopefully taking the reader with me into another time and place and into other minds.

doctors-in-hellThat is beautifully said! And I like the image it brings into my mind…something very ‘Alice in Wonderland’ kind of thing…you’ll never know what happens on the other side of the door… Have you ever had a writer’s block and if yes, how did you make it go away?

Ha! I wrote a story called Writer’s Block for Doctors in Hell. You’ll need to read the story to learn the prescription given by one of my characters to another to banish writer’s block.

I will! And hopefully my readers will, too! Thanks for being here today, Janet, and thanks for sharing some of your writing secrets with us!

Cheers,

Jen x

Janet Morris and Chris Morris’ Roundtable Podcast part 1

New podcast with Janet Morris and Chris Morris:
http://www.roundtablepodcast.com/2014/10/20-minutes-with-janet-and-chris-morris/

Dave Robison of Roundtable Podcast says:

This week’s “20 Minutes With…” segment isn’t.

20 Minutes, that is.

Why? ‘Cause when you get the opportunity to sit down with your literary heroes, you don’t hold yourself to petty things like temporal constraints.

I and the exceptional Michael R. Underwood sit down for an incredible conversation with Janet Morris and Chris Morris, creators and editors of the “Heroes in Hell” series, numerous Thieves World tales featuring the cursed immortal Tempus Thales (whose adventures are continued in The Sacred Band of Stepson’s series), and more marvelous speculative fiction than can be listed on Wikipedia.

Seriously… there’s never been a conversation like this on the RTP before. DO NOT miss this episode.

We’ve had some amazing authors Guest Host the RTP, astonishing creators who’s ideas ring through genre fiction and the SpecFic community.

But I’ve never interviewed one of my heroes before.

The fiction of Janet Morris and Chris Morris (“Heroes in Hell”, “Thieves World”, and more) has been a fundamental influence on my taste and aesthetic in genre fiction and having them on the show was an unparalleled delight.

I knew I’d never be able to do it alone, so I was hugely grateful when Michael R. Underwood agreed to co-host the show with me. Between the two of us, we engaged in (waaaay more than) 20 minutes of incredible discourse with these eloquent storytellers, discussing the symmetry of music and story, the resonance of the craft of fiction and non-fiction writing, and how to “ascend from the pit of self-doubt into the light of self-knowledge and mastery”.

This is one episode you DO NOT want to miss.

http://www.roundtablepodcast.com/2014/10/20-minutes-with-janet-and-chris-morris/

Janet Morris and Chris Morris interview on the collaborative process in literature

Originally published in Uviart.  Thanks. Uvi Poznansky, for this incisive interview

http://uviart.blogspot.com/p/guest-interview.html

Guest

Interview about Collaboration:
“Though this be madness, yet there is method in it.”
with
Janet Morris and Chris Morris
Authors of
And more books
So said Shakespeare’s Polonius of Hamlet, in Hamlet. So say Janet Morris and Chris Morris, lifetime collaborators in words, music, and strategy. I cornered this elusive pair to ask some hard questions about how they do what they do, and why.
Janet and Chris, writing is known to be a solitary art. How do you two manage to write seamlessly together, so much so that no one can tell which of you wrote what?
Uvi, Apropos of collaboration, Shakespeare’s Touchstone said in As You Like It, “We that are true lovers run into strange capers.” As Chris and I often do.
But first let us give you our view of collaboration as an art form. For centuries, two or more people have been collaborating on written works under one person’s name. History is rife with collaborations, announced and unannounced.
Some examples? Shakespeare had several close collaborators, none so famous in his own right as Christopher Marlowe, who seems to us to have been his closest collaborator, due to similarity in each man’s work and style. We’ve written of these two collaborating in various tales in our Heroes in Hell series. J, the Yahwist, first writer of the Old Testament, also had many collaborators. Even before Biblical times, collaboration was common: the Greek mythic cycles were written not only by Homer, but by many writers; whether these collaborators wrote at the same time, or followed one another, is immaterial: these were true collaborations. As literature became a business, not merely an art form for the collective memory of the human race, the custom and marketing strategy of putting one — almost always male — name on a work became an unwritten convention, pushing anonymous contributors into the background. Yet they often can be found, peeking out from history’s shadows, unsung and influential.
But these questions are about us, collaborating today: while we’re alive, we can answer what questions we choose, rather than leaving posterity to wonder; be as forthcoming as we wish about life and love and art. For us, life and love and art are one. We have always written together, first song melodies and lyrics, later novels — but always with one of us taking the lead, the other in support. In our early days, Janet supported Chris’ music, and Chris supported Janet’s prose. Since we met in 1966, we spent years smoothing the rough edges of our collaborative process, learning to focus on the art in question, not the artist, and thereby improving both. If we write seamlessly, it is because we deliberate about every thought, every phrase, every word, every rhythm, yet strive never to lose the shape of the initial conception. Our prose is rhythmic, our plots inventive, our song lyrics carry messages because we are keenly aware that a person has only so much time in life, and must use that time wisely.  When we begin a new piece of prose or piece of music, we start with a clear idea of what that story or song must say. We vigorously weed out irrelevancies and polish our idea until it is bright, clear, shining in our hearts and in our minds. When writing prose, the mind’s eye is where the visualization first takes place; when we write music, it is the ear which first carries the message to the brain.
All art is communication of ideas. We have co-written op/eds and policy pieces for governments, strategic plans for military, academic, and industrial users, as well as fiction. Writing nonfiction has taught us when and how to be sparing of words. Chris has been the voice of a TV station and products as well as our music. Now we are exploring the close relationships between music and writing fiction by producing audio books. The Sacred Band (audio edition) took a year to complete. Because the story’s characters live deep in our hearts and first drew breath in the 20th century, we took great pains to ensure that the narration remains true to the characters, who have evolved over decades and millions of words. Narration is only one breath away from literary exposition.
For each art form, our process is the same: one of us begins the effort with a title, a musical passage, a topic or an idea, or a clearly-stated purpose. Once the title and the purpose of the piece are agreed, the process of perfecting story and rhythm — yes, even fiction should have its rhythms, its beats — is sometimes begun by one or the other. Often, when a day’s work is completed by one, the other adds a voicing, a suggestion, recognizes a lost facet or missed opportunity, clarifies whatever is unclear; changes are agreed, and at the end of the day, we are sitting together, reading or playing the work aloud and finishing what the morning began. In music or prose, we never continue drafting or recording a long piece of work until we’re both happy with what we’ve done previously. If later in the evolution of the piece an element needs to be included that was omitted or unrecognized in the work as we began it, we go back and make those changes. Some recent examples of this process can be seen in our Heroes in Hell series,
For instance, Chris began Babe in Hell (a story in Rogues in Hell) with the idea of a baby and Solomon reprising the famous Biblical story, albeit in Hell. To Hell Bent in Dreamers in Hell Chris immediately added the quip “And twice on Sadderdays.” Once we’d named the play which is the centerpiece of the story, Janet added the flayed skins of heroes to be used as props. But sometimes, in longer works, we can’t recall who authored what lines. In “Words” in Poets in Hell, working on the first paragraph, Janet asked Chris to supply the crucial word: “Words are the what? of the mind” Janet asked. Chris said “mortar.” So the line now reads “Words are the mortar of the mind.” And so it goes, a natural give and take, sometimes contentious, often strenuous, always fascinating.
Our process is not quick. We’ve taken years to do a book such as I, the Sun; we say The Sacred Band (TSB) took eighteen months, but if one includes the research and discussion time before the first word was written, TSB culminates years of effort to crystallize that story so we could then write it. In this way, we please ourselves, and have pleased many readers and listeners as well.
You who know our body of work are now wondering why one name appears on so many of the books or musical compositions. For now, suffice it to say that publishers think readers want a work crafted by an individual, preferably a male (unless the work is a romance or a book about women in society).
Now that you have told us how you write together, answer this harder question: Why?
Why write together? A collaborator provides perspective, a broader view; a universality that one mind, male or female, often cannot attain. For centuries such collaborations were known only behind the scenes:  the woman or man who was the editor, co-creator of ideas, first reader, was the power behind the throne, unnamed, a secret presence. So how do we decide whose name goes on a work when only one name appears? If one writer drives the work individually, or if a work is best read as the product of male or female, we so credit it. For this reason, we have several times used male pseudonyms when selling a book to a publisher for a particular market.
As you point out, the two of you haven’t always published with joint bylines. How did your first official collaborations come about?
Our first official collaborations in song music and lyrics preceded our collaborations in books and stories by about a decade. Although Janet received some writing credits on The Christopher Morris Band (MCA 1977) record album, and High Couch of Silistra was published under the byline ‘Janet Morris’ in that same year, not until 1984 was the first fantasy fiction story, “What Women Do Best,” published with the byline ‘Chris and Janet Morris’ in Wings of Omen, (Ace, 1984). And that occurred only with editor Bob Asprin grumbling that ‘now everybody’s going to want to do this in Thieves’ World®.’”
If Janet hadn’t been a canonical contributor to the series at that time, we wouldn’t have gotten permission for the dual byline. And sure enough, other spouses and collaborators long relegated to the background began appearing in Thieves’ World volumes and other places.
Subsequently, we signed a multi-book contract with Jim Baen, one of the caveats being dual authorship for some titles, but not all. We delivered those books, including The 40-Minute War, M.E.D.U.S.A, City at the Edge of Time, Tempus Unbound, and Storm Seed with dual authorship and Jim published them that way.
This in turn led to other joint book contracts, including but not limited to Outpassage (1988), Threshold (1990), Trust Territory (1992), The Stalk (1994), as well as several books by single-author male pseudonyms.
Nevertheless, publishers generally still wanted single male names on adventure or nonfiction or ‘serious books’ and female names on romance books, so the market continued to conform to its preference for single-writer bylines.
A book with the name ‘Janet Morris’ was still worth more to a publisher than a book with ‘Janet Morris and Chris Morris’ as listed co-authors. So we created male pseudonyms and these books commanded substantial advances in markets formerly closed to us. In the minds of publishers then, and perhaps readers, a story told by a single male was preferable, but even a tale told by a woman was preferable to a tale told by one woman and one man. We set our sites on this ox, and set off to gore it. And might have succeeded, as male/female co-authorship became more commonplace, but our brainchild “nonlethal weapons” intervened, taking us out of the fiction marketplace for nearly two decades. In that interval, Alvin Toffler, author of Future Shock, another writer at the literary agency which handles us, wrote War and Anti-war with his wife Heidi Toffler, insisting her name appear this time as co-author. The revolution had begun in earnest among writers with enough clout to enforce their wishes.
Do you believe that putting a man’s name or a woman’s name on a book effects who will read that book?
We experimented, as did other writers and publishers, with putting different names on books. Sometimes Janet wrote with other male or female writers, to see if the ‘Janet Morris’ brand could be transferred as publishers looked for ways to turn writers into franchises, as was done with Robert Ludlum, Stephen King, Tom Clancy, etc. But when a better writer is paired with a lesser writer, quality may suffer, and even honest writers trying to accommodate one another may lose the consistency of purpose, passion, and voice that a single writer or a self-chosen pair of writers can achieve.
The ‘brand name writer’ bias may then kick in, causing readers to buy only books written by the individuals or pairs of writers they already enjoy, not the franchised producers of subsidiary works or ‘as told to’ books.
As for the ‘gender’ bias in literature, at present this is still a real and strong force. Men looking for adventure fantasy or science fiction or military books are less likely to buy a book written by a woman; women with a strong allegiance to women’s rights and women’s issues are less likely to buy a book by a man or co-written by a man.
So the issue of whether a man’s name or a woman’s name goes on a book may be inextricably linked to subject as well as story, insight, and prose quality.
You’ve both written under single-author pseudonyms, always choosing a single male. Why did you do that? Do you still do it? If, so, why or why not?
We did this to break out of the science fiction/fantasy ghetto, into the mainstream, in days when those genres had a more limited market than today.
Do we still do it? No.
In actuality, our body of work allows us to write what we wish under either or both our names. For instance, we’re writing a novel about Rhesos of Thrace — as is our wont, this book has a Homeric feel, a purport that takes the Iliad for true, but focuses on a single character from that story and his later adventures. This book is a true novel — one part mythical realism, one part dark fantasy, one part heroic fiction in the literary sense, and one part a historical representation of the mythos of that character. We plan a new Sacred Band of Stepsons novel, which requires very specific voices and explores the hero-cult as a fait accompli, a subject fascinating us.
But if we were to undertake a contemporary story dealing with modern politics (sexual, racial, governmental and corporate), we’d consider writing such a book under a new male pseudonym, to allow us complete freedom of what we’d say and how we’d say it, because the truths behind these topics are brutal and unwelcome to those who think revisionist history will solve all the problems inherent in modern society and the human condition. Which condition is, of course, the only fit subject for fiction.
What are the benefits and debits of collaboration so far as process, not marketing, is concerned?
If a pair entering into a collaboration sets ground rules, defines story elements and shares a joint preoccupation with the characters, two hearts, two sets of eyes and two sets of ears impart an enhanced perspective, powering the creation of characters spun from utmost reality, characters perhaps more fully realized than a single mind might contrive to make them. In a pair made up of one male and one female writer, the native intelligence of both sexes is present in great measure, bringing a universal verisimilitude. The process of reaching truth and clarity for characters and story may have uncomfortable moments for one or both writers, but facing those places in the soul where one hesitates to look is the true purpose of fiction — to portray the world through a temperament (or two, or three).
What advice would you give to other collaborators about creating and marketing their joint works?
If two collaborators each have a previous body of work, then once both acknowledge parity, a new book can begin taking shape. If one writer is better known or better at structure or at lyric, then play to those strengths. Do not show this book to third parties, or discuss it with others until both writers are completely certain of every nuance, every line, every twist and turn of plot and psyche.
If two collaborators have no previous experience working with others, they must work harder to put aside their preconceptions and look at story and character honestly: success, not in the short term but for all time, depends upon the quality of every word. Make sure that both collaborators share the same goals. Define the story elements. Invoke the characters and be sure both agree who those characters are and what they represent concerning the story’s driving purpose.
Then begin, starting at the beginning. Create an adventure that two can share, and you will have created an adventure that the world can love.
Only when this first book is finished, no longer a fragile vision, but a full blown juggernaut of risk and beauty, show it to a publisher whose other publications attract you. If you both like what an editor or publisher has previously chosen, they may well decide to choose you.
Book Links:
Author Links:

Chris and Janet Morris, “Fantasy’s power couple” top Black Gate’s fiction charts for July, 2014

The Top 20 Black Gate Fiction Posts in July

Monday, August 25th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Poets in Hell-smallThe most popular piece of fiction on the Black Gate blog last month was “Seven Against Hell” by Janet Morris and Chris Morris, an exclusive sample from their new anthology Poets in Hell.

Don’t step off the podium just yet, Janet and Chris. I’m happy to report that the #2 fiction post in July was also from fantasy’s power couple: an excerpt from heroic fantasy novel The Sacred Band by — who else? — Janet Morris and Chris Morris.

Third was perennial favorite “The Find,” by Mark Rigney, Part II of The Tales of Gemen, which has been near the top of the charts every month since it was first published here nearly three years ago.

Michael Shea’s tale of Lovecraftian horror, “Tsathoggua,” which first appeared here last September, came in fourth.

Next was Aaron Bradford Starr’s epic novella “The Sealord’s Successor,” the third adventure fantasy featuring Gallery Hunters Gloren Avericci and Yr Neh, the most popular adventuring duo we’ve ever published.

Also making the list were exciting stories by Joe Bonadonna, Mike Allen, John C. Hocking, C.S.E. Cooney, Sean McLachlan, Peter Cakebread, Vaughn Heppner, Jason E. Thummel, Harry Connolly, Steven H Silver, E.E. Knight, Judith Berman, Martha Wells, David C. Smith, and Dave Gross.

If you haven’t sampled the free adventure fantasy stories offered through our Black Gate Online Fiction line, you’re missing out. Here are the Top Twenty most-read stories in July.

  1. Seven Against Hell” by Janet Morris and Chris Morris
  2. An excerpt from The Sacred Band by Janet Morris and Chris Morris
  3. The Find,” Part II of The Tales of Gemen, by Mark Rigney
  4. Tsathoggua,” by Michael Shea
  5. The Sealord’s Successor,” by Aaron Bradford Starr
  6. The Moonstones of Sor Lunarum,” by Joe Bonadonna
  7. An excerpt from The Black Fire Concerto, by Mike Allen
  8. Vestments of Pestilence,” by John C. Hocking
  9. Godmother Lizard” by C.S.E. Cooney
  10. The Quintessence of Absence,” by Sean McLachlan
  11. An excerpt from The Alchemists Revenge by Peter Cakebread
  12. The Pit Slave,” by Vaughn Heppner
  13. The Duelist” by Jason E. Thummel
  14. The Whoremaster of Pald,” by Harry Connolly
  15. The Cremator’s Tale” by Steven H Silver
  16. The Terror in the Vale,” by E.E. Knight
  17. Awakening,” by Judith Berman
  18. The Death of the Necromancer, a complete novel by Martha Wells
  19. The Shadow of Dia-Sust” by David C. Smith
  20. An excerpt from Pathfinder Tales: King of Chaos, by Dave Gross

A Day in Hell with William Shakespeare

Poets in Hell KindleWill Shakespeare talks about his affair with Satan, Kit Marlowe and the perils of Hell.

Library of Erana

Hell week was such a lot of fun I decided to linger. Here’s an interview with William Shakespeare, the greatest playwrite of them all.

Welcome to the Hell Interview Channel, brought to you infernally hour after hour.

Name (s): William Shakespeare; Bard of Avon.

Age (before death and after you ended up in HSM’s domain): Born in April, 1564, I died at age 52 on April 23, 1616, at Stratford-upon-Avon, and woke here, where I languish, ‘not of an age,’ as Ben Johnson said of my work, ‘but for all time’.

Please tell us a little about yourself. I’m a poet, a playwright, sometimes an actor, oft a lover; less oft a villain; always a fool for love and a dupe for words.

Who were you in life? I became an actor in 1585, married Anne Hathaway when I was eighteen; two days after I died I was buried in…

View original post 1,497 more words