At Dragon Con this year, I caught up with YA author (and personal fave) Rebecca Moesta, best known for her collaborative novels with her husband Kevin J. Anderson. Together they also own publishing house WordFire Press, which prints their older work, out of print work from classic genre authors such as Frank Herbert, and more. We chatted about current YA trends, Young Jedi Knights, and how romance is a different beast than sci-fi. I started off asking her about her stint as an editor of Sparks, Issue #17 of the original fiction anthology Fiction River.
What trends in YA are you really digging right now? Are there some trends you want to get into, as an editor of a YA anthology?
Well, what I look for is not always what other YA editors look for. I have certain things that are off-limits in writing for me, but Sparks in particular was supposed to be uplifting. I like it when somebody is faced with horrible problems and they have to kind of dig their way out of it. And usually for me, I like it when somebody makes a bad decision, and they have to kind of weather the consequence of that bad decision, not that they make a bad decision and everything goes great. That’s kind of what I was looking for in this book, positive ways to get through bad circumstances. That’s kind of my flavor. I like that it’s edgy now. I enjoy a lot of YA TV shows. I just watched the new adult show The Bold Type. I’ve really been enjoying that and the type of situations they get themselves into, My mouth falls open and I think oh my god, they didn’t!
You know I like that show it a lot more than I thought I would.
Yeah, I was looking for more of a high school show and that’s like you’re just out of college in the working world, but oh man, the decisions they have to make. I think, I just did not face that when I was that age, but it’s kind of fun to look at! Especially romantic relationships nowadays, it’s so much more complicated I think.
I think YA has kind of opened up the options of what kind of romances can be shown right now, too.
Can you tell me a little about your collaboration process with your husband?
Collaborating, there’s a lot of different ways to collaborate. And, as chance would have it, Kevin and I are writing a book on collaboration together right now.
In our fiction, the way we almost always do it is, if we’re writing a novel together, we brainstorm the whole thing together, and then we flesh it all out until we’ve got like pages of what’s gonna happen in this book. Then we chop it up into chapters, then we each pick what chapters we want to write the first draft of and usually it goes by character, or maybe planet or kind of a storyline that we’re following that weaves in together with the other one. And then we split them in half and go to our corners and we each write our first draft. And then one of us has to piece everything together and edit it for the first time. And then the other one gets to do a full through edit, and we continue the edit-edit as long as the deadline will allow, which is usually only a couple of edits.
And it’s polished and I take out all the expressions and things where I go, I would never write anything like that. And Kevin takes out all the things where–he thinks I use pompous phrases or something, which I just have a tendency to do. And so he’ll put out that, so we just get a much better flavor with the two of our voices combined together.
But, on short stories we’ve tried to do that, and it doesn’t work as well. What works better for us is to brainstorm the story and then one of us does the first draft and the other one does the second draft, you know, polishes it and adds stuff and moves stuff around.
I’ve often wished I had a writing collaborator like that!
In our collaboration book that we’re doing we have a whole list of reasons to collaborate and a then reasons not to collaborate.
Oh, what would be a reason not to collaborate?
One reason not to collaborate is because you think it’ll be easy, ‘cause it’s not. And if you think It’s half the work, no. It’s about…depending on your collaborator and how you work together, it’s about 80%-80% of the work. So if you think it’s just going to chop your workload in half, it doesn’t. Plus, there are usually other things like the publicity, the proofreading, the editing and stuff and usually, both of you have to do that, and so it’s really not half the work. Also, if your words are precious and you cannot be edited, do not collaborate with someone.
I do appreciate a harsh editor.
That’s one positive reason to collaborate, you have a kind of built-in editor, and a sounding board if you get stuck!
These are kind of spread out questions, but Star Wars is really what introduced me to your writing, so I was wondering if you were following any of the new stuff, if there any characters you’d really like to write, or if you’re done with it.
I’m not entirely done, no–I love Star Wars, but my deadlines right now don’t allow me to do much reading for fun. When I read it’s almost always because I need to know the information for my next book. And right now I’m novelizing a romance for the Hallmark Channel, so I have to read romances. [laughs] Which is, I did not realize what a different genre it is from science fiction and fantasy–you have to spend so much more time thinking about the other person. So that’s kind of a shock to my system.
And so I haven’t been reading, to answer your question, I haven’t been reading the Star Wars books. I’ve been watching the Star Wars movies, obviously, but I haven’t had a chance to keep up on the books.
Is there anybody you would write if you could?
Rey. Shocking. But I’d need to know a lot more!
A follow-up question–are there any stories you wish you could have gotten into Young Jedi Knights? Young Jedi Knights are some of my favorite Star Wars novels–
Oh, thank you!
Yeah! They really got me into the EU, so I wanted to know–were there any stories or backstories that you didn’t manage to get in the books that you would have liked to?
We ended up writing 14 books, every three months, one of them was due. We were kind of pulling out all the stops putting things into those. I’m sure I could come up with a lot more in truth, but we really did get to do most of the things we wanted to do. I think I would do some edgier stuff where, well. One of the things I liked about the Young Jedi Knights is they’re not just sitting and watching the grown ups do all the interesting stuff. Because even though they were students they were facing life and death situations and so I liked that.
We think of an adult being in their twenties perhaps, but really historically you were an adult when you hit your teens, you had to do, you had to provide at least in part for your family if you weren’t married yet. You had a lot of responsibilities that we don’t expect our kids to take. And so when I write teenagers I like to write teenagers that actually have responsibilities and have to face those kind of situations.
Alright, my last one to wrap this up. So what are your projects coming up on the horizon? You mentioned There’s the Hallmark Channel stuff…
And the collaboration book, which I have to have in in less than a month. Right now it’s called Collaborating: Writing as a Team Sport, I think that’s how it’ll come out.
Any fiction or sci-fi projects?
I want to, right now because we’re publishing–WordFire is a publishing house and we have five or six titles out every month. We have a pretty big schedule as it is.
Are you editing any of those?
I have edited a couple of the books, but I don’t edit them all, no. And Kevin has edited some. I mostly do the business end of things. So I have not gotten back to a lot of the science fiction that I’ve wanted to write. I do have a couple ideas though!