Thursday, October 4, 2012

Author Robert Anderson: Collaboration in Writing

Several weeks ago I highlighted a book I had discovered from a ‘new-to-me’ author and today I’d like to welcome that author here to talk about how that book came to be.

Author Robert Anderson’s latest release is CONTRAILS, a contemporary/literary fiction novel. Here’s a brief synopsis of it:
Sam Claymore works for Civil Airlines, sleepwalking through the highs and lows, the ups and downs of being a pilot. He survives working alongside a wacky cast of captains, turbulence scares, even being estranged from his father. Nothing fazes him until one day he is unexpectedly furloughed. What Sam will do becomes the new route he must navigate.

Enter Nate McFadden, a childhood friend living in Miami. Nate contacts Sam at the right time, a time when his moral compass may be susceptible to manipulation. Nate moves Sam in, getting him a job where being furloughed is the least of his worries. Follow Sam as he descends deeper into a world he could’ve never imagined. CONTRAILS is a story of real people faced with extreme decisions, the consequences of which could mean their lives.

Robert joins us now to tell how this book came about.

I started writing when I was seventeen. A little late to the party, I know, but I’ve always been a bit of a late bloomer and I look back on it now as a blessing because it gave me time to get all those juvenile preoccupations out of the way before getting down to work. Twelve years on, I feel like I’m hitting my stride. 

Malcolm Gladwell (Blink, Outliers, et al.) claims that it takes somewhere in the neighborhood of ten thousand hours to master a craft (that’s five years of fifty forty-hour weeks for those of us who abhor math) and although I do not claim to have mastered anything, I can say that I’ve made at least a dent in this timetable. The words are coming now with less force, more grace. I just published my second novel, CONTRAILS, and am two-thirds into its sequel.  

Now CONTRAILS had an interesting birth and it’s the topic of my sermon (just joking) today. Its conception is an example of the power of collaboration, of friendship, of the value of having people you trust to read your work. The most amazing and creative things can happen when an open environment exists to foster their growth. 

79194_FrontCover_2Quick flashback. The year was 2010. I had just finished my first novel, THE UNACCOUNTED FOR. It’s an eighty-thousand word, semi-autobiographical account of my time working as an accountant in the city of Detroit during the recession of 2008/2009. Hard times indeed. Anyway, I gave it to my best friend to read (we’ll just call him Pilot X for now). 

He’s read most of my short stories from the time I spent toiling in the creative writing workshops at the University of Michigan. He always gives unbiased criticism (a valued trait in a reader/friend). He’s also an airline pilot and devoured the book in three days on a cross-country trip. He loved it, I thought, judging by the short time it took him to read it. Then he told me he loved it. He said, “Bobby, I loved it.” I’m currently in the process of publishing it (but we’ll discuss that book in a future post, if I’m invited back).

But the magic took place afterwards. Somewhere along the way his right-brain began turning, subconscious burgeoning with material. Nine months later he emails me a ten-thousand word document which would ultimately become the beginning of CONTRAILS. I was blown away. As a writer, I know firsthand the difficulty of producing ten thousand words with a unified, coherent theme. It takes time, effort—no easy feat. So I ask him, I say, “Why’d you do this?” And he says, “We’re going to do the same thing you did.” And I say, “Huh?” And he says, “I’ll give you the juicy ins-n’-outs of my job and you’re going to write it.” And I say, “I am?” And he says, “Yes.”

And there you have it, folks. Seven months later, CONTRAILS was born. The power of collaboration, the beauty of friendship. It’s been Kirkus reviewed, is available on all the major sites. I couldn’t be more proud of my writing, his contribution, our teamwork. 

We all have a book inside of us, but oftentimes we become isolated, myopic, alone in our endeavors. CONTRAILS is a true example of what you can do when you open yourself up and share your story with others. Whenever I look up and spot a contrail splicing the sky now, I smile, thinking of my own.    

Robert, thanks so much for joining us today and sharing this insight into the creation of CONTRAILS. You also grabbed my attention with the mention of  THE UNACCOUNTED FOR (so you’re definitely invited back).

For more on Robert and his writing, visit his website, check out his Facebook page and visit with him on Twitter.

Has a friend or family member collaborated with you on a project? Have you ever contributed to someone else’s work? Thanks so much for visiting today. Have a great day and remember to share a book.


  1. Robert, thanks again for visiting today. It's always interesting learning how a story came to be. Wishing you much success.

  2. Mason - Thanks for hosting Robert.

    Robert - Thanks for reminding us of the power of exchanging ideas. It's a real source of inspiration, as your own story shows. I wish you much success.

  3. Likewise, Margot. Thank you for the kind words and thanks to Mason for giving me the opportunity to share my story with you all. Never forget about the people around you.


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