Norman Prentiss and Michael McBride:
Collaborating on The Narrator
The Narrator, written by Norman Prentiss and Michael McBride, was first released by Cemetery Dance in 2014 in a trade paperback edition. Now it’s back in a new digital edition, and the authors took this chance to sit down and look back on their work together.
The Narrator: The children in Julia Linder’s sixth grade class have grown increasingly agitated. The symptoms are spreading and the source seems to be stories that seize upon the children’s deeply seated fears and intensify them….
NORMAN PRENTISS: Since our collaborative novella, The Narrator, is coming out in its first eBook edition from Cemetery Dance, I thought it might be fun to interview each other about the book. Whose idea was it for us to work together, anyway?
MICHAEL MCBRIDE: I don’t remember! I think we messed around with the prospect for several years before either of us really took it seriously. I’m sure there must have been some sort of watershed moment in the process, but it eludes me. What’s your recollection?
NP: I remember we kicked around several ideas (and you wrote The Event, I think, that riffed off one of them–and I got a dedication in the deal). I know for sure that I suggested a school setting, since that was my day gig at the time. And we both agreed that the kids should go crazy, for some reason or another. What are some of your memories of the writing process?
MM: It was really very cool watching the story take form. You sent me the central storyline a chapter or two at a time, with a general theme and framework for what you hoped to express during my sections. I thought of my interludes like the Canterbury Tales and treated each as a psychological journey for the corresponding character, who would ultimately be changed by the experience in ways that made him or her more susceptible to manipulation. How about you?
NP: It was fun to send you my segment, then wait to see what you came up with. A key student in the story, Abbie, is always bringing fantasy or horror novels to school, and I’d “plant” some cover descriptions into the chapter to hint at the kind of story you could write. I loved how you always came up with something better than my suggestion. I’d have to go back and adjust what I’d written earlier, but it helped stretch the ideas in the story so it was worth it!
MM: You’re too kind. I always felt nervous when I sent the story back to you. I felt like a newbie submitting to an established editor. The hardest part for me was relinquishing a certain amount of control over the course of the work, which lent a considerable amount of nervousness and uncertainty I hadn’t felt in years. What was the greatest challenge for you?
NP: I’m a slow writer, so I’ll say just sticking to a schedule. When you have a co-author, somebody always knows when you’re taking too long with your segment!
What are you working on right now?
MM: I’m about halfway through a novella I hope will find a home at CD and preparing to start my first contracted novel for a mass market publisher. A senior editor tracked me down after reading my novel Subterrestrial––which was selected for publication by Kindle Press as part of Amazon’s reader-powered publishing initiative, Kindle Scout—and offered me a sweet deal that will get my books into every conceivable retail outlet if I’d be willing to write more stories in that same vein. I jumped at the opportunity, of course!
NP: Subterrestrial is a great thriller, with your characters confronting terrifying creatures in underground tunnels outside Alaska.
I’m actually trying to follow in your Kindle Scout footsteps right now, with my first solo novel, Odd Adventures with Your Other Father currently beggin’ for reader nominations.
MM: Having read your novel, I can’t imagine you’ll need to waste any energy begging for nominations. I have no doubt it will be selected for publication and your work will reach a wider audience, which means you’ll have to buckle down and start cranking out the words! I don’t know how you’re going to keep up with your writing, teaching, and editorial duties at CD…
NP: There’s not enough hours in the day, because I love all my part-time jobs! It’s especially an honor to work with Cemetery Dance: fantastic people, and fantastic books.