A couple weeks back, Gavin Kovite and Chris Robinson, authors and best buddies, stopped by the bookstore to say hello. The two graciously signed a stack of the novel that they wrote together, War of the Encyclopeadists, and then posed for some pictures with synchronicity and panache.
Gavin and Chris are both originally from Seattle, Washington, but they’ve been in Detroit for the last month researching their next project, a novel which they plan to write together, again.
The short answer, Chris, told me is that he and Gavin find Detroit to be the most fascinating city in the United States. The longer answer, has to do with the rich history of innovation and automation in the city, which makes Detroit the perfect setting for this project.
What’s the book about? Well, industry, mechanization, race, class, art, history, propaganda, resistance, progress, America, a mega-corporation not unlike Amazon, you know. At least two things that may or may not be turn up in the finished novel: a rise of drones, and a bland, but nefarious executive goes on a weird OKCupid date.
The novel is yet to be written. Right now, the writers are soaking up information, building character profiles by envisioning a fictional cast as critical stills, washing their writing brains clean by making and engaging with music, visual art, and poetry.
Gavin and Chris met me at Astro coffee in Detroit’s Corktown to chat about drones, Amazon, and what it’s like to write a novel as a pair. They had spent the morning at the Detroit Institute of Arts studying Diego Rivera’s mural in the courtyard, and the two told me what else they’ve been up to during their residency: sitting in on neighborhood committees, sitting on their new neighbors’ stoops, visiting Baker’s Keyboard Lounge, and making friends with network of graffiti artists. They’re curious about this place, interested in examining what Chris described as “a stark industrial divide” in Detroit.
After our coffee, the two were off to a meeting of police oversight committee, followed by a visit to one of the ubiquitous urban farms in Detroit.
Skip down below to read a transcript of our conversation…
Kovite and Robinson read at Literati Bookstore’s Event Space, upstairs at The Espresso Bar, Wednesday evening, July 29th, at 7pm.
Q: What do you love the most about writing fiction with each other? And what’s the most difficult thing about writing fiction together? You had mentioned that musicians collaborate like this all the time, and no one’s like, “Oh my god, how did you guys compose a song with more than one person?” It’s unusual — I can’t think of any other novelists who write together.
It’s confusing to us, why it’s so rare. Because it’s so much more fun. Writing can be so lonely. It’s entertaining to develop ideas not in a vacuum.
It’s dynamic, right?
Yeah. My best guess about the reason it doesn’t happen is because you can do it solo. That’s the tradition. Whereas in cinema or in music, you cannot make a symphony by yourself. A big movie requires many artists, crew, actors, directors… no one has an ego thing about collaboration.
On a more micro level, we have built-in editors for each other. I definitely know people who don’t want feedback about projects they’re working on until they’re far along. Gavin doesn’t feel like an outside voice. Gavin’s going to see everything a second after I write.
Just to be clear: You write something, and Gavin’s reading over your shoulder?
Not always. We do that for crucial scenes — intros, big deal scenes. But when we draft out scenes, we write outlines and notes then divvy it up a little.
Do you ever take difficult scenes and write your own versions of it, then come back together?
We have done that. We’ll take the best of each or melt them together and reassemble them and mold them into something cohesive.
We figure out what our interests are before we start writing. Which is really nice, because it makes us more humble in terms of working with an editor or an agent or a reader. We want to write things that are going to matter to other people.
You get that feedback.
Right. I know at least one other person cares about what I’m writing.