They say too many cooks spoil the broth? Writing books is supposed to be a solitary task and yet literary collaborations between authors are surprisingly frequent. We’re not talking about a celebrity making the most of their 15 minutes with a ghostwriter - this selection showcases legitimate writers pooling their talent.
Before you mention that Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett wrote together, and Stephen King and Peter Straub too, let’s venture back to 19th century Europe and the work of the Brothers Grimm. Jacob and Wilhelm set the standard for literary collaborations with Grimm’s Fairy Tales. This collection of stories, harvested from folklore, is one of the most influential works in Western culture and offers lasting proof that collaborations can be successful.
Zooming back to the modern era, the science fiction and fantasy genres are packed with collaborations where working together is deemed to be an acceptable method of creative writing. Anne McCaffrey wrote with Mercedes Lackey, and Marion Zimmer Bradley, Julian May and Andre Norton combined to write the first book in the Trillium fantasy series (but interestingly did not collaborate again).
The Gaiman and Pratchett combo probably worked because they are such good friends. They were in separate locations, corresponded by phone and exchanged copy sent through the mail on floppy disks. Pratchett acted as editor with the final say. Good Omens is still a favorite with many readers because its satire so rich.
American author Douglas Preston has made a career out of collaborations with at least a dozen of them. One interesting method of collaboration is to marry the other writer. Historical crime writer Michael Gregorio is the pen name of husband and wife writing team Michael Jacobs, an Englishman, and Daniela De Gregorio, an Italian. British fantasy author David Eddings also collaborated with his wife, Leigh, but she has not always been credited.
Now if you are a book nerd then joyful peculiarity is when a novel is attributed to a pen name but the real author is not one but two people who collaborated. The Ellery Queen mysteries are just such an example – they were written by cousins Daniel Nathan and Manford Lepofsky.
In terms of popularity, Ross and Norris McWhirter, co-founders of the Guinness Book of Records, may hold the record for most sales by collaborators. The first Guinness Book of Records compiled by the twins was published in1955. Ross was murdered by the IRA in 1975.
Non-fiction book from 2008 about 16 murders between 1968 and 1985.