“Terry Pratchett and I met in February 1985, in a Chinese restaurant. I was a young journalist. He was a former journalist and Electricity Board PR, and a writer who had just published his second Discworld novel. I was the first journalist who had ever interviewed him. I remember we made each other laugh a lot. We laughed at the same things. We became friends. It was easy.“
– Neil Gaiman
Not too long ago, Suresh de Silva rang me up. Suresh is the lyricist and vocalist of Stigmata, Sri Lanka’s oldest and most famous heavy metal band. Very much a man of words: in addition to producing four albums and taking Sri Lankan metal to places nobody ever thought possible, he’s got the only canines I’ve ever met who respond to operatic outbursts of “come hither!”
So the two of us started talking. We had both released a book each, and we had gone about publishing in different ways. We talked about that. We talked about Sri Lanka, and people, and the good and the bad and the ugly, and somewhere down the line, we started talking about Gaiman and Pratchett, and American Gods and the Discworld and how Neil and Terry met in a bookshop and hit it off. Pretty soon we realized we were hitting it off in exactly the same way. We became friends. It was easy.
Gaiman and Pratchett hit it off and they went and wrote Good Omens. We looked at each other and decided we were going to do the same. It might take us two years, but today we sat and set down the first three thousand words on a new novel. A collaboration. About heaven and hell and Colombo (which is a bit of both) and this Angel called Lucifer who got kicked out for wanting to start a metal band.
We’re also using some unfamiliar technology and methods to get this done. Both of us have written reams, but it’s always been us and the keyboard and a Word document. Collaborations are different.
So we set up a wiki and spent a couple of weeks kicking around enough backstory for us to have a clear idea of the scenery. After a couple of stiff drinks we realized that we could sit down and talk and just riff off on each other, paragraph by paragraph – and so we set up a workflow that lets us do what we do best – sit with a glass in hand and take turns speaking into a microphone, recording and building a story the old fashioned way. Back when ballads were a thing. At the end of the day, all of this gets turned into text.
And it works.
The next two years should be interesting indeed.