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November 12, 2018

Guest Post: TWILIGHT OF THE ELVES by Zack Loran Clark and Nick Eliopulos

Posted by TaylorT

Hi readers!

We’re Zack Loran Clark and Nick Eliopulos, co-authors of THE ADVENTURERS GUILD and its upcoming sequel, TWILIGHT OF THE ELVES. This series takes place in a world that’s inspired by classic fantasy properties like Dungeons & Dragons and Lord of the Rings --- it’s a setting of elves, magic, wizards and monsters. Except in our story, the monsters have won. Few cities still stand, now that the world has been totally overrun by supernatural horrors. And only the Adventurers Guild is brave enough to leave the safety of their walls and venture outside.

We are best friends writing about best friends, two kids who get drafted into the most dangerous guild in the city of Freestone. And we’re both big nerds, having edited dozens of kids’ fantasy books in our careers as editors, then sitting down once a week to play tabletop RPGs together. With these books we wanted to bring the joy of collaborative storytelling to young readers. What’s it like transitioning from editors to authors?

Zack Loran Clark: We’ve joked with other author/editors that there is an “editor brain” and an “author brain,” and while they definitely draw on the same resources and experiences, they can also be remarkably --- even stubbornly --- separate. Sort of like quarrelling siblings.

For example, my editor brain doesn’t always share its toys. When I’m writing sentences onto an empty page, occasionally they don’t arrive as the glittering golden threads of light that I want them to be (Or even as complete sentences). Sometimes, it’s only in revising that I can see what I meant to say, and get it down in a coherent fashion.

Nick Eliopulos: And trying too hard to make your first draft beautiful can really stall you out. The only way I’m ever able to get writing done is by ignoring my editor brain entirely. I make a promise to that part of myself that there will be time to clean things up. Later. But first I have to get words down on the page, so kindly-take-a-nap.

Really, so much of being an editor is about scrutinizing something you love --- and putting the screws to it! Because even the most exceptional writing by the most brilliant authors can benefit from a critical eye. When I’m working as an editor, I always start with what I love about a chapter or a novel...then I zoom in on what’s not working, and pick it apart.

The result, I think, is that I’m a little less precious as a writer. I’m always open (and sometimes eager) for the sort of feedback that comes during the editorial process. If Zack thinks a joke isn’t landing, or our editor doesn’t like a plot development, I know they’re seeing something I’m too close to see...and that I shouldn’t take such criticism personally. It’s all part of the process.

KRC: How do you work together when writing?

NE: We treat it like a game! Our whole process draws directly from our experiences at the gaming table, where we’ve been playing Dungeons & Dragons and a host of other tabletop RPGs together for more than a decade. We love the collaborative storytelling that arises from those games --- playing our characters off of each other, keeping (or sharing) secrets while pursuing separate but overlapping agendas.

So when we decided to write a book together, we established some world-building, some big-picture personality traits and goals for our characters...and then we made up the rest as we went.

ZLC: We write in alternating chapters, from the points of view of our two protagonists. But that means while one of us is writing, he takes control of everyone --- even his co-author’s POV character. This requires a leap of faith, but Nick and I have been friends and collaborators for so long that we trust one another to do right by our creations.

In The Adventurers Guild books, I write the character Zed, a half-elven mage, while Nick takes the point of view of Brock, his roguish human best friend. But more often than not, I find that in Brock’s chapters, Nick has imagined or revealed something new about Zed that I never would have thought of --- clarifying who he is, even for me. This is the magic of collaborative writing. It’s multiple voices telling one story, each bringing a richness that makes the narrative feel all the more alive.