Collaborating with F. Paul Wilson

proteus_cover_KINDLE_03-28-13Now that The Proteus Cure has been out a month, I thought it was time to write about the experience of collaboration.

At my first NECon, which was also my first conference, I met F. Paul Wilson. I had not read any of his Repairman Jack books but ran up to him and said, “Hey, you wrote Deep as the Marrow!”  He seemed surprised because at Horror Conferences, most people don’t know about the handful of medical thrillers he’s written (and which have sold quite well). I later read most of the Repairman Jack books, and like them very much. But to me at that point I only knew his medical thrillers. I suppose I was not the fan he expected. “Repairman Jack who’s that?”

The next year, I came armed with a terrific idea for a thriller and was dying to run it by him. He argued the science and story wouldn’t work. I argued that it would. After brainstorming and talking for several hours, he conceded the science part had potential but the story didn’t make sense, because of the science. Hard to explain now but he was correct. He said, “How about instead you have this doctor…” And certainly his idea was better and lent itself to credibility. Mine would have been torn apart by critics for its inaccuracy. That next Monday he emailed me and said he couldn’t stop thinking about this book; so we decided to write it together.

When we began, I fancied myself a very good writer. I was insanely creative and wrote very quickly. But after one exchange with Paul where he read over my portions, I realized how much there was to learn. We started with a throughline, which was a chronological  list of events that happened throughout the book. Much of this was not included in the manuscript, it was just information we needed, all the background detail that makes a book fit together.

After the throughline, we made an outline. That was tricky as we had to consider whether to tell the story in the order it happened, through flashback, or a little of both.  Once the outline was completed we tackled one chapter as a time. I discovered that when you have a good outline, it’s like a coloring book. All you need to do is fill in the color, the emotion, the dialogue, but most of the lines are already there. Paul taught me how that’s not only dialogue that distinguishes characters’ personalities but their movements and thoughts. We’d split a chapter into sections and assign random pieces. This way we both got to write every character. Doing it in that manner worked well so that there were no glaring differences in the narrative. We emailed a couple of times a day to swap chapter sections back and forth. More recently we used Dropbox. We had a few long calls, to brainstorm, discuss, get our characters out of trouble or into it.

We rewrote this book more times than I’ve ever written one and I think Paul would say the same. We needed to get it just right. It’s a long book, 400 pages and when you rewrite something that long, you get to know the characters like the back of your hand.

Now it is done to our satisfaction. This book had several readers over the years and we listened to all their critiques to make this the best book it could be.

This is not a Repairman Jack book and I hope that when his fans read it, they are not disappointed because Jack isn’t around the corner, rushing in to save anyone. Read it and get to know Paul’s other side, the doctor-writer part of him that casts a different kind of horrific shadow over his writing.

fpaulYou will like this book for different reasons. There is no supernatural element but instead a pervasive and possible threat to all mankind, administered by your family friendly doctor, that will take hold and destroy who you are before you even know what happens.

To buy the Proteus Cure in trade paperback or on Kindle, CLICK HERE.


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