Together they have created a fantastic new dark fantasy/thriller series that was exciting and fun to read. Bringing together the perfect blend of genres as well as imbuing the story with a very tangible feel of modern day London, The Thirteen Hallows will likely find itself on several “Best of 2011” lists for a variety of genres. You can also read the review of The Thirteen Hallows.
How did the two of you first meet?
Colette: We are both represented by the same LA management agency. Our manager, knowing that Michael was looking for a writing partner on a project introduced us, thinking we would be a good fit. We had several meetings, initially in LA and later in Dublin and London before we finally decided to work on The Thirteen Hallows.
The combination of a bestselling young adult writer from Dublin and an award-winning playwright from Los Angels is an unlikely writing duo that seems like something straight out of a novel. What brought the two of you together as a writing team?
Michael: Although I’m probably better known in the US as a YA writer, I have a huge body of adult horror and fantasy behind me. What I was looking for in a collaborator was someone with Colette’s particular skills – skills which she honed in novels, short stories and especially that most difficult of mediums: plays. Good collaboration essentially boils down to personalities who work well together and are able to integrate each other’s notes and ideas without killing each other. (Not that we ever fought. Ever. No, really!)
How did Colette’s experience writing screenplays affect the planning or writing of The Thirteen Hallows? What were some of the biggest challenges you faced as you learned to work together on this novel?
Colette: We’ve both written screenplays, which helped tremendously when it came to writing dialogue and giving characters’ unique voices. Sarah, a twenty two year old from a sheltered family cannot sound the same as the thug Robert Elliot, who has a much different set of experiences he is bringing to the story. The biggest challenge in working together is simply listening; however, Michael’s years of experience as writer meshed well with my experience as an actress to give the characters each a distinctive voice.
In another interview, Michael mentions that he came across the legend of the hallows at various points in his life while researching other projects. How did the idea of these hallows develop into The Thirteen Hallows?
Michael: My specialty is mythology. And there are artifacts like the hallows scattered through just about every mythology. However, what makes the Celtic hallows so interesting is that they are a self-contained group of objects. Usually – though not always thirteen – they are inextricably entwined with Irish, Welsh, Scottish, English and Arthurian lore. Each hallow had its own history and it was a natural step to explore those stories and weave them into a contemporary novel.
What is the biggest difference for you, Michael, between writing young adult fiction and adult fiction? Colette what was the biggest difference or more surprising difference for you between writing screenplays and fiction?
Michael: There really is no difference in the actual writing or plotting. I choose to tell different stories for the younger reader and, of course, I would never put sex and extreme violence in a YA book. But writing for adults and children requires the same care and attention. In fact, writing for younger adults is tougher. They remember everything and if they spot a problem, they’ll be sure to let you know.
Colette: The length. An average play is 75 pages. An average screenplay is 105. Our book pushes 400 pages, close to 100,000 words. I was probably most surprised by how much plotting there was to do in the story. Because we were on different continents, Michael insisted we plot the book right down to the chapter-by-chapter level. He introduced me to an amazing computer tool called THE BRAIN and we’d plot in each character and storyline as a star on the graph, until the book looked like an uber complex galaxy of plot points.
The mystery and history of The Thirteen Hallows touches real historical and mythological figures as well as many of the objects being referenced in historical events. What were some of the most exciting discoveries or connections that you made while planning and writing for the book?
Colette: For me it was learning about the history of the Hallows. Michael’s been doing this kind of research for years. This opened my eyes to an entirely new world with enormous possibilities. The sword alone has a mythology that touches on some of the most exciting moments and dynamic people in history.
Michael: Research is always the best part. As we dug deeper into the history and mythology behind each of the hallows, we discovered more and more stories – some of them deserving of novels in themselves. The research did bring home just how much of what we believe to be the great English legend of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table, was really borrowed from Irish and Welsh stories and then pulled together by a Frenchman.
What literary works or writers have most influenced you as a reader and as a writer? Did any of them influence your work on The Thirteen Hallows?
All great literary works influence us as writers, not their stories as much as their storytelling ability. Joseph Campbell is one of the literary giants whom we both respect and whose work has influenced us. Michael prefers fantasy and science fiction writers while Colette prefers playwrights and fiction. We have both also been influenced by the ‘classical storytellers’: Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, H.G. Wells, Arthur Conan Doyle, Jane Austin as well as the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson fairy tales.
In the novel, as Sarah moves closer toward solving the mystery of the Hallows, she digs herself more deeply into a difficult situation for herself. Which of Sarah’s scenes were the most difficult for you to write? What was it about that scene that was such a challenge?
Colette: When Sarah travels back into the past, we had to make sure the audience was able to track her on her journey so that they could piece together her experiences, with the experiences of the sword. This is much more complicated than it seems because this twenty two year old woman is suddenly becoming connected to 2,000 year old history. These flashback scenes took extra time and consideration in order to smoothly marry the present with the past.
This novel is a wonderful combination of fantasy, thriller and contemporary adult fiction that also deftly taps into the genres of historical and horror fiction. What did you enjoy most about writing The Thirteen Hallows?
Michael: The research. It is always the best part of writing. And, of course, it is the great excuse to travel. We visited every location in the book and the first hand experience gave us a much richer vocabulary and short hand with each other when we approached writing the novel.
Colette: Let me add that it is interesting to see how the lines between genres are breaking down with publishers and readers. As you’ve seen, Hallows is not a pure horror story, nor is it fantasy. I think readers nowadays are happy to have genres blurred. We’re seeing that on screen too: The Pirates of the Caribbean mashes up history and fantasy, Cowboys and Aliens mixes the Western and the Science Fiction genres.
For readers who have finished The Thirteen Hallows and who are looking for more fiction from the two of you, what else is out there for them to read? What are you working on now?
We are almost finished with the sequel: The Hallowed Keepers and we have several projects we are both working on, collectively and individually.
Irish-born Michael Scott began writing over twenty-five years ago, and is one of Ireland ‘s most successful and prolific authors, with one hundred titles to his credit, spanning a variety of genres, including Fantasy, Science Fiction and Folklore. He writes for both adults and young adults and is published in thirty-seven countries, in twenty languages. He is considered one of the authorities on the folklore of the Celtic lands and is credited with the resurgence of interest in the subject in the mid-1980′s. His collections, Irish Folk & Fairy Tales, Irish Myths & Legends and Irish Ghosts & Hauntings have remained continuously in print for the past twenty years and are now included amongst the definitive and most-quoted works on the subject.
An internationally produced playwright with over 15 produced plays, Colette Freedman was voted “One of 50 to Watch” by The Dramatist’s Guild. Her play Sister Cities was the hit of the 2008 Edinburgh Fringe and earned five star reviews: It has been produced around the country and internationally, including Paris (Une Ville, Une Soeur) and Rome (Le Quattro Sorelle). She has co-written, with International bestselling novelist Jackie Collins, the play Jackie Collins Hollywood Lies, which is gearing up for a National Tour. In collaboration with The New York Times best selling author Michael Scott, she has just sold the thriller The Thirteen Hallows, to Tor/Macmillan, which comes out Dec 6, 2011.