A Friend in the Dumps

Josie Leavitt - June 30, 2011

It’s not every day when you open displays and they’re full of books your friend wrote. On Monday it was my very happy pleasure to unbox several cartons of Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life,  written by James Patterson (this is his first foray into middle-grade realistic fiction) and Chris Tebbetts.
Chris has been a customer of ours since 2005 when he quickly became a friend. He and my partner, Elizabeth Bluemle, often run into to each other at various writing retreats. After talking about playing tennis for the past two years and not ever making it to a court, Chris and I finally began playing this year.
It’s a lovely thing when someone you know writes a book. Chris had already been a published author when we met him, but this feels like a BIG book. I put together the display dump with a smile on my face.  I can say, that after 15 years of setting up displays I have never filled it with books co-authored by a friend.
As soon as I was done with the display I was full of questions for Chris, so I sent him an email. The first question was really simple: How did you get hooked up with James Patterson?
He got my name from a book packager where I did a fantasy adventure series (The Viking) several years ago. He asked to see some sample chapters from me, and this project was the eventual result.
My second question was one that I’ve often wondered with co-authored books. Just how did the collaboration process work?
Jim wrote a detailed chapter by chapter outline of the book, along with some beginning chapters to establish the tone and the voice of the whole thing. I then took that outline and started drafting the rest of the story, in consultation with him each step of the way. Then, at the end of that process, he took the manuscript and wrote the whole thing to completion. Also, in this case, there was an illustrator, Laura Park, who created the visual world of the story once it was written.
And my final question was purely of self-interest, as I’ve sold half of my display already: will you two be writing another in the series?
Happily, yes! We’re right in the middle of working on Book Two in this Middle School series.
I guess the new deadline for book two is why we haven’t played tennis lately. As sad as I am for that, I’m thrilled for the success of the book, and  for now I will content myself with keeping Chris in the dump.

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