Good Omens by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett
Good Omens by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett
by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett

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.

 

A Selection of Literary Collaborations

The Talisman by Stephen King & Peter Straub
The Talisman by Stephen King & Peter Straub
Author

A popular reworking of a Walter Scott novel. The 2001 sequel is called Black House.
The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston & Mario Spezi
The Monster of Florence
by Douglas Preston & Mario Spezi

Non-fiction book from 2008 about 16 murders between 1968 and 1985.

The Roman Hat Mystery by Ellery Queen
The Roman Hat Mystery
by Ellery Queen

Published in 1929, the first Ellery Queen thriller written by two cousins from Brooklyn.
Inferno by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
Inferno
by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle

Science fiction from 1976 - nominated for the Hugo and Nebula Awards.
Wolfbane by Frederik Pohl & C.M. Kornbluth
Wolfbane
by Frederik Pohl & C.M. Kornbluth

Classic science fiction novel from 1959. Humankind is dying out after the Earth is kidnapped.
The Forever Machine by Mark Clifton & Frank Riley
The Forever Machine
by Mark Clifton & Frank Riley

More sci-fi, also published as They’d Rather Be Right. Won a Hugo for best novel in 1955.
The Difference Engine by William Gibson & Bruce Sterling
The Difference Engine
by William Gibson & Bruce Sterling

An alternative history or steampunk novel set in Victorian Britain with a mechanical computer.
Black Trillium by Marion Zimmer Bradley, Julian May & Andre Norton
Black Trillium
by Marion Zimmer Bradley, Julian May & Andre Norton

First of five books in the Trillium series. Each author contributed a story about a princess.
The Ship Who Searched by Anne McCaffrey & Mercedes Lackey
The Ship Who Searched
by Anne McCaffrey & Mercedes Lackey

Science fiction. It is the third of seven books in the Ship Who Sang series.
Gettysburg: A Novel of the Civil War by Newt Gingrich & William R. Forstchen
Gettysburg: A Novel of the Civil War
by Newt Gingrich & William R. Forstchen

by Newt Gingrich & William R. Forstchen
The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today by Mark Twain & Charles Dudley Warner
The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today
by Mark Twain & Charles Dudley Warner

Twain’s only collaboration. A famous satire of greed and corruption from 1873.
The Mote in God’s Eye by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
The Mote in God’s Eye
by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle

More science fiction double-teaming from 1974 – humans and aliens meet in a distant universe.
Letters from Iceland by W. H. Auden & Louis MacNeice
Letters from Iceland
by W. H. Auden & Louis MacNeice

by W. H. Auden & Louis MacNeice
Caverns by O.U. Levon
Caverns
by O.U. Levon

Experimental novel written by Ken Kesey and his writing class at the University of Oregon.
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan
Will Grayson, Will Grayson
by John Green & David Levithan

Novel about two boys with the same name. The authors alternated on writing chapters.
The Floating Admiral by the Detection Club
The Floating Admiral
by the Detection Club

Detective novel. Each author, including Dorothy L Sayers & Agatha Christie, contributed a chapter.
Three Weeks in Spring by Robert B & Joan H Parker
Three Weeks in Spring
by Robert B & Joan H Parker

Non-fiction account of Joan’s bout with breast cancer and its effect on the Parker family.
The Dog Beneath the Skin, or Where is Francis? by W.H. Auden & Christopher Isherwood
The Dog Beneath the Skin, or Where is Francis?
by W.H. Auden & Christopher Isherwood

A play from 1935. First of three Auden-Isherwood collaborations.
Interface by Stephen Bury
Interface
by Stephen Bury

Bury is a pseudonym for Neal Stephenson & J. Frederick George. A techno-thriller.
Relic by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child
Relic
by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child

Museum-themed monster book from this long-running writing partnership.
The Space Merchants by Frederik Pohl & C. M. Kornblut
The Space Merchants
by Frederik Pohl & C. M. Kornblut

A short novel from 1953 about a man selling a trip to Venus.
A Visible Darkness by Michael Gregorio
A Visible Darkness
by Michael Gregorio

Historical crime writer Gregorio is really husband and wife team Michael Jacobs and Daniela De Gregorio.
Sugar Changed the World: A Story of Magic, Spice, Slavery, Freedom and Science by Marc Aronson & Marina Budhos
Sugar Changed the World: A Story of Magic, Spice, Slavery, Freedom and Science
by Marc Aronson & Marina Budhos

Another husband and wife double act. This book is a globe-trotting history of sugar.
Marked by P.C. Cast & Kristin Cast
Marked
by P.C. Cast & Kristin Cast

First novel in the House of Night fantasy series penned by a mother and her daughter.
Traveling with Pomegranates: A Mother-Daughter Story by Sue Monk Kidd & Ann Kidd Taylor
Traveling with Pomegranates: A Mother-Daughter Story
by Sue Monk Kidd & Ann Kidd Taylor

A dual memoir detailing their travels around Greece and France.

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