Boy, if we had a nickel for every time someone asked us, “how do you write together?” Well, let’s just say we could buy our way into the publishing world, like Ethan Hawke or Jewel. (Though there may be some sort of monetary penalty for using that terrible “nickel” cliché.) It’s a good question, though, and at some point we’ll sit down and write (together, of course) a long, truthful answer full of insight, war stories, and a-ha moments (I’m referring to epiphanies, of course, not the awesome Norwegian pop trio). For now, let me just generalize. We write well together because we’re wired the same way. We’re both pleasers. We both thrive on order and organization (some might say we’re obsessed with order and organization, and to those people I say, let’s make a color-coded list of the salient points in your argument and address them one by one). And we both have anxiety issues.
Truthfully, to say Kris and I have anxiety issues is like saying David Beckham is kind-of-okay-looking. We’re strung higher than a boy-band falsetto. It’s tempting to blame this facet of our personality on the years spent slaving away at a big law firm. And yes, the firm, with its deadlines, impossible billable-hour requirement, partner power plays, and litigation disasters (which, as Abby will tell you in The Pecking Order, “appear out of nowhere like Midwestern tornadoes”) can surely be blamed for at least one or two of my permanent frown lines. But there’s a chicken and egg dynamic at play, as well. I think we both can now admit (after years of collective therapy and a large dose of much-needed hindsight) that we were drawn to litigation in the first place partly because of our anxious nature. We understand stress. When we were working at the firm, we bathed in stress. Stress sustained us like a drug. And, like a drug, it affected the non-firm aspects of our life. The book was no exception.
When The Pecking Order was still in its infancy, all shiny and cuddly and new, unmarred by criticism and rejection, we created anxiety. We fabricated problems which, looking back now (battle-scarred and thick-skinned by four years of rewrites, critique, refusals, and stagnancy) can only be described as high-class. I wish-I-may-wish-I-might actually have such problems today. We worried about whether the firm would sue us when our book became a success, because the fictional characters somewhat resembled our bosses and colleagues. We rented a P.O. Box near the firm so we could check it together, because we worried if we used a home address one of us would have the pleasure of reading the inevitable acceptance letter before the other. Then we worried our co-workers thought we were having a lesbian love affair because we snuck off in secret to check the box every day. When two agents showed interest at the same time, we obsessed over what to do if and when both wanted to represent us. We stayed up until 4:00 a.m. for an entire week after work, because we convinced ourselves all was lost if Liza Dawson didn’t have the manuscript on her desk before Thanksgiving. Because, you know, obviously she was going to read it on her private jet to the Bahamas or wherever fancy agents go during the holidays. We answered our phones at all hours of the day and night, during dinner, and at the movie theatre, just in case an agent had to reach us right then! We stressed about whether to take our children on the book tour with us, and what to wear on The Today Show. We fretted over the sex scenes, concerned about the impact on our mothers when the book hit the shelves.
Seriously. Sounds crazy, but at the time, these issues seemed so important, so real. The book consumed our thoughts, and created strong, sometimes irrational emotions - like a new love affair. The idea of the book was exciting, but it wasn’t grounded in reality. Now, we’ve eased into a comfortable kind of anxiety – a long-term relationship with real problems, like Liza Dawson's phantom e-mail, and the teeny-tiny little fact that we still don’t have an agent. But even these problems no longer nibble away at our stomach linings. The book stands on its own, we’re proud of it, and we’re working to get it published. If the firm sues us, we’ll deal with it. If two agents want us, we should be so lucky. If an agent gets our voicemail, he or she will leave a message (though if it's Liza, that message will no doubt be left as she's driving through a tunnel and we will be able to make out only her name). As for the sex scenes . . . Shoot, at this point we’d write porn starring our parents if it would get us published.