One of the most common questions Erin and I get about co-writing involves our egos. Or, more bluntly, how do we keep from killing each other.
Despite, I think, both of us being very ego-driven and easily-bruised people (even if we hide it well), the fact is the work we do together doesn’t exist without both of us, so what’s to get weird about?
That said, one key issue early on became the order of our names. Erin felt mine should go first. I don’t even remember why she thought that, just that I thought she was insane. Mine is difficult to pronounce (Ra-shell-lean), making it a branding obstacle. Additionally, I already had some degree of internet public image and we needed to establish her identity. Finally, alphabetical order demanded she be first.
Yes, by first or last name.
Erin’s college education took place in Canada. The bulk of my primary and secondary education was largely British in word choice, tradition, and character, which means that for us a Mc name precedes a Mal name, because the Mc includes an implied a that places McRae before Maltese.
Do you have a headache yet? Just wait.
So, I then ran around and did our branding. This website, our Facebook page, our joint email (firstname.lastname@example.org). We submitted our books that way, and no one ever mentioned it.
Until we were doing the very final look at proofs for “Lake Effect” and noticed my name was first.
When we wrote to inquire, we found out what we should have asked our publisher about
way at the beginning (take this as a pro-tip, other writing teams), which is that they use ALA style, which does not account for the implied a in Mc prefixes, which therefore places Maltese before McRae. Which means, yes, a small change is coming to the Starling cover.
No worries, because rules are rules, and we really don’t care whose name goes first.
But my dad was in advertising, and branding is very important. So I was like “Okay, so when I get home, I’ll switch the website banner and….”
But then Erin pointed out the email address and the Facebook thing, and the reality that other publishers may not order names the same way, and that no matter how hard I try the branding is never going to be that consistent, and I just need to take a deep breath and let it go.
So that’s the deal. Sometimes Erin will be first, and sometimes I will be first, and it will never have anything to do with anything other than various alphabetization preferences and tendencies of the powers that be in relation to any particular project.
The real lesson here is that you will always wind up in email threads about things weirder and more detailed than you possibly could have imagined when getting words ready for the world.