Geoff Habiger & Coy Kissee came upon the idea for a book during a trip to Chicago - by their return to Kansas City, the basic premise of the book was fleshed out. They ended up co-writing it and started on a series. As our Authors of the Day, Geoff and Coy tell us all about Unremarkable and reveal what it is like to co-write books.
Please give us a short introduction to what Unremarkable is about.
Unremarkable is a story about an everyman who is, for all intents and purposes, unremarkable. Saul Imbierowicz is a postal worker who has been newly liberated from living under his parent's roof. He has a couple of friends, and a girlfriend, but there is nothing special about him. However, that all changes on St. Valentine's Day when events begin to spiral out of Saul's control and he has the two biggest gangsters in Chicago - "Bugs" Moran and Al Capone - needing something from him. If that wasn't bad enough, the Feds show up asking Saul questions about his girlfriend. As the story progresses, Saul learns that vampires are not just a myth. Essentially, the story is about somebody who is truly unremarkable having to deal with the supernatural.
What inspired you to co-author this book? Did you plan from the start to make it into a series?
We have been best friends since high school and are partners in a game company called Tangent Games that produces role-playing games, card games, and board games, so it was natural for us to partner together on writing a novel. We have talents and strengths that complement each other, and that makes the writing process so much easier. As to the series, yes, we did always plan on having Saul's story be told as part of a series. It seemed natural, as we wanted to show Saul's growth as a character throughout the series and that is best told through several books.
What was your greatest challenge when writing this book?
Making sure that the characters stayed true to themselves throughout the story, and that they didn't change unnecessarily. Also, it was difficult getting the voice down for a major historical figure - Al Capone - so that he came across as believable.
How hard is it to co-write books? How do you decide who writes what?
For us it wasn't too hard to co-write the book. As previously mentioned, we own a game company together so we were already used to collaborating together on a project, and we have talents that complement each other. Geoff has a lot of the creative spark and can put out a first draft, while Coy has the editing skills to pull everything together into a coherent whole. That's essentially how we wrote the book. We did a basic outline together, talking about the major points of the story, then Geoff wrote the draft, and then we went through the manuscript together and did our editing, making sure that characters stayed true to who they are, and that we didn't have any major plot holes. Plus, all the tedious, but necessary, grammar and spelling editing that Geoff doesn't do well and Coy excels at.
Do you plot out your books before you start writing?
Yes, although it was a rough plot for Unremarkable. We had a good idea of our major characters, and we knew how we wanted the story to end. We then did a basic outline for the stuff in between so that we had the flow and basic elements down. Though even with that we ended up making changes, adding and cutting scenes (and even whole chapters) until we got the story we wanted.
Tell us more about Saul's character. What makes him tick?
As mentioned earlier Saul is basically an average guy. He's certainly not special in any way; he doesn't have rich parents, he isn't connected to powerful or influential people, and he doesn't have any specialized skills or talents. He's basically like the vast majority of people in the world. Personality-wise, Saul is basically a nice guy; he's polite to his neighbors, he prefers to not get into trouble, and he is very protective of his family. But Saul is also a little slow on realizing things, even when they are standing right in front of him. Not that Saul is dumb, it’s just that he's a bit clueless about what is going on at times - especially when it comes to the supernatural, but who can blame him? It's not every day that you learn that there really are monsters in the world.
Your characters are interesting and real. Were any of them inspired by real people?
Not really, at least not by any specific person. Of course, some of the characters in the story are historical figures, namely Moran, Capone, and Eliot Ness, so we had to try to get them close to their biographic characters within the artists’ license we were taking. But for Saul, Moira, the Feds and the others, they weren't based on any real people. Saul's parents are a bit stereotypical and written a bit for comedic effect, and we knew we wanted Moira to be seductive and alluring, with an air of mystery about her.
What fascinated you about the time and setting? How much research did it require from you to get the details right?
Geoff has always found the 1920's to be an interesting period in American history, especially around Prohibition, whether through non-fiction writing or fictional stories and movies like The Untouchables and The Sting. We did a lot of research, mostly through books but also online, and we took a trip to Chicago. Geoff read several biographies of Al Capone in order to better understand his real life and how we could adopt him as a fictional character. We also read up on Prohibition and researched what Chicago was like at that time.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do each of you have?
As previously mentioned, we are game designers as well as authors, and we love to create new and fun games to play. Beyond that, Geoff can fly and Coy has the ability to move things with his mind, but really nothing special.
What inspired the supernatural angle?
Geoff and Coy had several conversations on trips to/from conventions to support our other company, Tangent Games, about using supernatural concepts to explain how/why certain historical events happened. One such conversation centered on why there seemed to be so much overkill at the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, which led to a longer conversation about Al Capone. Thus, Unremarkable was born.
Do you have any interesting writing habits? What does an average writing day look like for you?
There is no average writing day. We both still work full-time jobs - and not as writers, unfortunately - so we have to find time to write whenever we can. There are typically gaps of several days between writing on a story, depending on what else is going on in our lives. That's part of the reason why it took nearly 7 years for Unremarkable to get published. Once we had the writing completed and we were working on the edits, we scheduled a weekly Facetime session to read through the story and make our edits. Since Coy lives in Kansas City and Geoff lives in Albuquerque, Facetime was the best way for us to get together and collaborate.
Tell us more about the title of your book? Why unremarkable?
The story is about Saul, and what happens to him (no spoilers!), but he is a very unremarkable person. We wanted to highlight that aspect of the story and we hope that the reader can identify with him.
How do you make co-writing work when you live so far apart?
Through the wonders of modern technology! Email, texting, and especially live video chats through Facetime made it happen. Occasionally, we could get together in person, but that was rare, so we depend a lot on technology.
What are you working on right now?
We have several projects in the works. We are in the process of writing the sequel to Unremarkable, which takes place about 3 months after the events in Unremarkable. We hope to have it ready to publish next year. We are also working on the second book in our new fantasy crime series, and will start strongly marketing the first book in that series, Wrath of the Fury Blade, which comes out on April 10th of this year. Coy is working on the beginnings of a novel around ordinary people gaining super powers, and Geoff is dabbling with some short stories and other writings.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
The best way right now is through our Facebook page (Facebook.com/HabigerKisseeAuthors) where we post all of the stuff we are working on, upcoming events, and other random things. Geoff also maintains an author page on Goodreads that he updates periodically with some blog posts.