Dan and Frazer
Cracking morning's riding. First ever @mtb_marathon (and first time with a numberboard (don't worry, I did the kids… https://t.co/hDKX17xxMR
Sometimes, love is expressed in words; sometimes it's expressed in the form of beef rib cooked for 18 hours at 55 d… https://t.co/PA6hlNRyYz

Review of A Week In December by Sebastian Faulks

As a huge fan of Sebastians, and Sebastian Faulks in particular, this was an exciting prospect. Faulks has had a go at thrillers, James Bond and now a social novel; a state of the nation. Faulks follows a disparate group of 2010ers through the eponymous week in December, including a radicalised young Muslim man, a banker, and a Polish footballer. If that sounds dangerously close to cliché, then your hearing is pretty accurate. Being none of those people, Faulks attempts to empathise, but ultimately ends up projecting white middle-class values on each character.

There has clearly been some heavy research completed to draw the characters, but it can be a bit heavy handed. The banker in particular reads like anthropomorphised lecture notes. This can be successful - Frederick Forsyth has effectively been writing Wikipedia fan-fic for years - but here, it jars with the rest of the book. When Faulks tackles reality TV and video games, the research becomes wafer thin - neither fictional entertainment sound like they'd ever get close to production in real life. Faulks is fairly sniffy about both genres, but if they featured examples as dull as the ones he invents, so would most people. The most successful characters are the literary critic and the well-read young barrister. Their motivations feel real, and are the most readable.         

John Lanchester's capital is conceptually better at tackling the state of the nation - although it retains a white middle class liberal viewpoint, it uses characters not caricatures, and gently lampoons the middle classes too. Where Faulks wins out is the prose. When it's good, it's streets ahead of Lanchester. It just isn't consistently good.

Mark Goodwin's favourite songs

Were you at the Haç, gurning and raving ? Were you at Cream, throwing shapes in the Courtyard? Were you at Gatecrasher, waving glowsticks around? Were you at Sankey’s, getting Bugged Out? Were you at Fabric, looking round thinking “It’s better up north”? If so, you might have been there with Mark Goodwin, Sebastian’s partner-in-crime from The Cheshire Sect. Here’s a playlist he put together for us to re-live those moments.

If you have no idea what we’re talking about, just try this in the gym or before a Saturday night out…

If you’ve got the Spotify app on your computer, tablet or phone, follow this link: Mark Goodwin - The Cheshire Sect - www.danfrazer.com

If you’ve not, follow this link:Mark Goodwin - The Cheshire Sect - www.danfrazer.com

What's it like writing fiction collaboratively?

Jagger and Richards, Gilbert and George, Richard Curtis and Ben Elton, The Coen Brothers… it seems as though in most artistic endeavours, whether its music, TV film or art, collaborations are commonplace. But it’s much less usual with writing a novel. Perhaps this is because novels are seen as highly personal projects – the lone writer sitting in a freezing attic poring over his typewriter with just a bottle of whiskey for company – but that perception has started to change. More writers are now writing with a partner, like Josie Lloyd and Emelyn Rees - or in the case of James Patterson and Wilbur Smith, several different co-authors.

Quite a few people have asked how the whole thing worked, so we thought we’d answer some questions:

It’s very unusual to write a novel with someone else. How did you manage it? 

Frazer: Hemingway said “Write drunk. Edit sober.” So I do most of the drinking, and Dan does most of the editing…

Dan: Mainly because Frazer’s martinis are too strong for my delicate constitution…

Frazer: But, seriously, it’s not that unusual. Almost all successful movies or TV shows have teams of writers, so why not a novel? We bounce ideas around, reign in each other’s worst excesses, argue a lot and laugh more. All in all, it’s been a really enjoyable process.

But what about the practicalities?

Dan: Technology helps. We used Dropbox and adopted a strict version control to keep track of all the changes. Well, I adopted strict version control process. Frazer grudgingly let it into the house and gave it some token attention when it started to feel really badly ignored. The writing process wasn’t particularly regimented, as we each did a bit of everything. It started out with us creating the main characters together and then plotting out the basic story arc. Usually, I would sketch the chapter out roughly. Frazer would then flesh it out and I would cut out all his insane meanderings…

Frazer: You say ‘insane’, I say ‘genius’.

Dan: …and trim it down so people could actually read it.

Frazer: Yes, funny that. I have this strange belief our readers could cope with a sentence that’s more than one line in length.

Dan: Then we’d argue a bit about what to keep or take out. Leaving a chapter for a while before coming back to it later really helps – you forget who wrote what, and you can just focus on what works and what doesn’t. Technology kicked in again to help us for this bit - Frazer has a cinema screen in his basement so we hooked up my laptop to the projector and edited it together word by word. It worked well when Frazer wasn’t too drunk to speak coherently.

Frazer: What do you expect if you turn up after 7pm at night? A man needs something to keep him occupied. Anyway, I need to be drunk to cope with Dan’s pedantry- he’s the only man I know who would insist on re-writing a whole chapter because he’s convinced a fictional character (and a minor one at that) would have driven down Road A rather than an equally feasible Road B to get from his golf club to his house. Seriously! No wonder it took us over two years to write the bloody thing.

Dan: You can’t spell “pedant” without “Dan”…

There must have been some arguments along the way?

Frazer: If you were a fly on the wall you’d think you were watching two people on the brink of a massive fight. One moment we’re abusing each other and getting worked up over some ridiculously minor point, the next we’re laughing our heads off. Perversely, we find it funny to be as brutal and childish to each other as much as we possibly can. It’s hard to get through a session without juvenile sniggering. To call us immature would be insulting to schoolboys the world over.

Dan: *snigger* You said “hard”…

Frazer: *sigh*

Did egos get in the way?

Frazer: Not really. It’s clear to everyone that I’m the talented one in the relationship. Dan secretly realizes he’d be nothing without me so he does as he’s told - eventually.

Dan: Not at all. Frazer secretly realizes that I’m the talented one and without me he’d be nothing, so I get my own way – eventually.

Sebastian's favourite songs

Sebastian, the hero of The Cheshire Sect, has put a playlist of his 50 favourite songs together for you on Spotify:

Link to online Spotify: Sebastian Bonham

Link to desktop Spotify: Sebastian Bonham

The first blog

Well, this is a glorious luxury. I can write what I like without Frazer poking his oar in and moaning about things. Until I give him access to write in this blog as well. I'll enjoy it while it lasts.

Welcome to our blog. We'd like to use this as an opportunity to share what it's like writing a book collaboratively, and how we do it. Although, it'll probably just descend into sulky rants and arguments.

Either way; enjoy!

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