Prentice & Weil Question Each Other
What’s the best thing about your writing partner?
Jon: He is much more self-disciplined than me, which keeps my own laziness in check. It’s much harder to put off a difficult piece of work when I know that Andy is plugging away at one of his own.
Andy: Jon is a finisher. I tend to be alright at starting ideas off, but lose interest quickly and want to be on the next thing. Once Jon has started, he has the patience and drive for perfection to make sure that a job is done properly.
What’s the worst?
Jon: Andy is much more self-disciplined than me… etc.
Andy: I sometimes think that Jon doesn’t believe in mornings.
If your writing partner was an animal, how would you hunt him down?
Jon: I would dig a pit, fill it with sharpened stakes, cover it with twigs and leaves, then stand on the far side of it waving a sheaf of previously unreleased Neil Gaiman comics. The Andibeast would come running…
Andy: Jon has native cunning and startles easily. He has a keen sense of smell, so you’d be well advised to mind the wind. You also have to stalk him early, while he’s still groggy and before he’s had his breakfast. Once the coffee is down, he’s gone, so you can’t miss that first shot. And remember, when you’re shooting from over half a mile away, you have to mind the curvature of the earth. Don’t aim for his head, but for the steam rising above it.
What’s your favourite cheese?
Jon: Ever since I took up being a highwayman in my spare time, I have found that the greatest difficulty is not so much disguising my own identity, as that of my plucky little steed, who has a distinctive pink and white blaze on his nose. So for purely practical purposes I’d have to say my favourite cheese is… mascarpone.
Andy: My favourite cheese is called giallino. It’s made by a cheese shop in the Jewish quarter in Rome called Beppe e i suoi formaggi. It tastes like a perfect marriage of parmesan and cheddar. Full flavoured, confident, delicious on its own, but extraordinary with spicy tomato chutney.
If you could pick a famous writer to replace your writing partner, who would it be?
Jon: Andy is of course irreplaceable. If I couldn’t write with him, I wouldn’t write with anyone else. So his replacement would be someone to hang out with. Butterfly-hunting with Nabokov, drinking my way around Europe with Hemingway, joining Stephen King’s rock-and-roll covers band… all these are attractive options; but what I’ve always wanted most of all is to discover new lands, barely survive terrible dangers, and circumnavigate the world in a square-rigged sailing ship: so I’d probably have to go for Antonio Pigafetta, who accompanied Magellan on his epic voyage and wrote the only first-hand account of it…
Andy: I think I’d like a writer’s room to finish off my ideas while I eat giallino. I’d have Tina Fey for jokes, Joe Hill for the scary stuff, Ian Banks because I love him, Rosemary Sutcliffe for her worlds, Ursula LeGuin to handle magic and George Saunders and David Foster Wallace for style. We’d write amazing stuff together.
If your writing partner was a historical figure, who would they be?
Jon: Andy would be Prince Rupert of the Rhine, Charles I’s erratic cavalry commander in the English Civil War: a strong sense of honour and duty, a swashbuckling approach to life, combined with a tendency to disappear off over the horizon in an over-enthusiastic ‘CHAAAARGE!’ moment, all remind me of Andy.
Andy: Jon’s favourite books are the Patrick O’Brian Aubury-Maturin novels. As he can’t be a fictional character, I think he’d love to be Thomas Cochrane, whose exploits inspired O’Brian. He was a dashing captain in the Napoleonic wars, fled England under a cloud and played a crucial role in the Greek, Brazilian and Chilean revolutions. He was courageous and cunning, a brilliant sailor and he led a truly adventurous life. I can just see Jon on the quarterdeck of a ship of the line, raising his glass to his eye, and ordering on more sail.
Who’s your favourite character to write?
Jon: Beth, probably. I seem to know her best, which makes writing her dialogue and thoughts easy and pleasurable. Interestingly, when you’re writing a scene featuring a character you love, everything else – the details of the world around them, the other characters, the way you put your sentences together – comes alive too.
Andy: I like writing Kit. He delights in words for their own sake and has hardly said a serious thing in his life. Being naughty is always more fun. The problem is I always get carried away, and have to cut three quarters of what I’ve written for him - or Jon does, the poor lamb.
What did you find hardest about writing the last book?
Jon: Writing the last book was a lot less hard than the first: we learned a lot over the nine-plus drafts of Black Arts. Not to say that we didn’t encounter the usual difficulties – keeping the plot under control; delivering information without writing stilted dialogue; occasionally fighting like two weasels in a sack full of pepper… but maybe the hardest thing was the fact that we don’t know at this point whether there will be a third book. Over these first two, we have built a world that we love to inhabit – the perfect place to escape to and have fun in – and having that as your actual job is, despite all the difficulties, an enormous privilege. We have plenty more stories to tell in it: the thought that the end of Devil’s Blood might possibly be the end of Jack and Beth’s adventures is pretty hard to swallow.
Andy: I like it when Jon writes an answer like that, which basically does my job for me. The hardest thing is when he doesn’t, and I actually have to do some work.