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A Collaborative Vision – How the Olympus Series was born.

A few years ago, I was invited to be a participant in the annual “Storylines” festival in Auckland. As it turned out, it had been pitched mostly to children, so my audience (teenage, as I’m mostly known here in New Zealand for my YA books) didn’t exactly flock to it – it made for a quiet day!

However, my fellow YA author at our little stall proved to be charming company – CATH MAYO had just published (through Walker Books NZ) two adventure stories about the imagined early years of Odysseus, one of the heroes of the Trojan War. As I have an interest in Ancient and Classical Greece (it’s part of my Classics degree), we had a very pleasant day chatting books, writing and Greek mythology. Subsequently we kept in touch, her partner and mine joined us for several dinners: we all became good friends.

Our conversations re-invigorated my interest in writing in the world of Greek mythology and history; and I was convinced that Cath was onto something in her focus on Odysseus. He arrives fully formed in The Iliad, already a hero famed for his cunning: I began to wonder if there was a story in there about how he became that mature, sagacious and at times ruthless man – but unlike Cath’s teenage books, I saw it all unfolding in his twenties, in a historical-fantasy story-world, written not for YA but the mass market.

But I was also conscious that (1) whilst I have done papers on Greek myth, I’m not an expert; (2) that this idea was at least partially Cath’s and I felt uncomfortable embarking on a project inspired by another writer’s work; and (3) that I had so many books on the go that finding the time for such a project would be difficult. And the whole idea was made more complicated because my wife Kerry was then posted by the NZ Government to the embassy in Thailand, and we were in the process of moving there. So I began to fear the idea would die stillborn.

I then realized that the obvious solution was to collaborate. Cath’s knowledge is amazing, she’s an excellent writer, she was already working on similar themes and we could share the load – “half the work”, I thought to myself.

It seemed a great idea to me, but I was still VERY NERVOUS about suggesting it; I spent a lot of time pulling together a synopsis/proposal document and a covering note, sent it off and kept my fingers crossed that Cath would like the idea.

Fortunately she agreed, and we then spent a LOT of time (“half the work”: ha ha ha ha…!!!!) mapping out the detailed storyboards, timelines, interweaving even more ideas from myths I’d never heard of into the story frame, and generally having a hilariously fun time building our story – mostly by Skype although we did manage to catch up in person too, during our occasional trips back to New Zealand, and once when she and her husband Alan visited Thailand and stayed with us.

As for the collaboration, it worked well: I think we were both anxious to prove ourselves to the other, so we both brought our A-game when it came to solving problems and weaving in ideas – the story is bigger and better than either of us could have done alone, I’m sure of that.

In a practical sense, when it came to the actual writing, I had a bit more time up my sleeve than Cath (she also runs a business making and repairing violins and other instruments, The Stringed Instrument Company) so to date I’ve done the first draft (we’ve written two of the books so far); and Cath has then surgically repaired and enhanced it – a much tougher job than my messy brain-dumps! Then we’ve batted the manuscript back and forth between us until we and our beta readers are happy.

The result: some of the best work I’ve been involved in, no doubt about it.

I’m REALLY looking forward to getting these stories out into the world, they’ve been a blast to imagine, construct and write, Odysseus is now living and breathing inside my head and I love what we’ve done with the mythos – as I said in the previous blog, it’s unique.

Hope you enjoy the first book, Athena’s Champion, when it arrives on 8th November 2018.

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