Great author partnerships

by | Jul 22, 2018 | Karna Small Bodman, KJ Howe, Gayle Lynds | 4 comments

By Karna Small Bodman

When I attended ThrillerFest at the Grand Hyatt in New York last week — the annual conference of our International Thriller Writers organization — I had the pleasure of seeing and chatting with  many of my favorite authors. When I thought about their careers I realized that many have had the opportunity to partner with and learn from some of the best in the business.  I’m sure you have seen novels on the bestseller lists with two names on the cover page. Did you ever wonder how these authors got together to create such terrific thrillers?

The first one I ran into was Andrew Gross who came to the attention of one of the most prolific writers in the business, James Patterson, an author who has helped launch and enhance, many careers. 

Author Andrew Gross

Andy tells the story about how Patterson read some of his work and was impressed that a male author could write “a woman’s point of view” so well – and he wondered how this fellow could do that.  Turns out Andy spent the first 20 years of his career in the fashion business, selling women’s lingerie. Voila – an expert in “what women want!” Patterson signed him up to co-author a number of stories that became bestsellers including Judge and Jury and Lifeguard. Now, writing under just his own name, Andrew Gross has turned to historical thrillers and has a new one coming out in September, Button Man (I wonder if that title harks back to his fashion days?) and Andy has accepted our invitation to be a guest blogger here on September 21….so be sure to check out this page on that date to hear more of his writing adventures. 

At the ThrillerFest Awards Banquet, where our own K.J. Howe WON the award for BEST FIRST NOVEL with her terrific thriller, The Freedom Broker, I was delighted to meet and sit with author Parnell Hall. He was a most amusing dinner partner who has had a rather unique career including work as a stand-up comic, song writer and author of some 40 books.

Karna with Author Parnell Hall

Evidently Parnell’s editor had a conversation with the editor of the NYT bestselling author of over 60 books, Stuart Woods. A discussion ensued about how Woods, for the first time, was looking for a  co-author to write separate stories about some of his characters.  He asked Parnell to write a few  sample chapters, so Parnell told me he went back and read a ton of Stuart’s novels, was able to “identify” with those characters as well as write in what he hoped would be the right “voice.” He snagged the contract.

I had already read the first of these stories, Smooth Operator, and must pick up Barely Legal that came out in May.  Then I’ll make a note to pre-order their  newest endeavor The Money Shot, a tale about a race to stop a scheme of extortion and a hostile takeover.  I see that these writing partners have another one coming out next March, as yet untitled.

I have read many of Stuart Woods’ books over the years — and it will be great to have many more to enjoy in the future.

A good friend who was not able to attend this year’s ThrillerFest, but must be included in my list of favorite “co-authors” is Kyle Mills, who, like Andy Gross, began his career in the business world – for him it was banking. But what he really loved was hiking, rock-climbing and skiing, so he took a job with a local bank in Jackson, WY. That’s where I met him as we had a home there for many years.  He also had a love of writing. Since his father was an FBI agent, the family had lived all over the country (and abroad) and Kyle had grown up hearing stories about agents, the CIA and Special Forces.  Talk about inspiration to write thrillers.

After penning several of his own NYT bestselling novels,  he came to the attention of the heirs to the Vince Flynn estate. I’m sure many of you remember Vince – what a fabulous author of the series featuring agent Mitch Rapp.  When we lost Vince to cancer several years ago, the family wanted to find someone to keep the character of Mitch Rapp alive and decided that Kyle had the talent to do just that. The new thriller, Red War will be out on September 25 — the same day my own new thriller Trust but Verify will hit the bookstores.  Both Red War  and Trust but Verify happen to feature Russians. Talk about a marketing challenge to be up against a Vince Flynn/Kyle Mills novel — then again, I am indebted to Kyle for graciously giving me a wonderful “blurb” so his name will be on both his and my book jackets.

Finally, one of the most famous late authors, Robert Ludlum created a unique character who was “carried on” by our very own Rogue, Gayle Lynds.  She was the co-founder of International Thriller Writers and  did a brilliant job penning several novels featuring the covert agent, Jon Smith — beginning with The Altman Code where this operative must race to uncover the truth about a Chinese cargo ship that is transporting chemicals to another country that could use them to create new biological weapons.  I remember reading that story some time back, but with all the news about the Chinese selling to rogue nations (including North Korea), this book almost parallel’s today’s headlines.

Gayle went on to write several other Ludlum thrillers including The Paris Option that centers on an investigation involving DNA computers (was she prescient or what?). This was followed by The Hades Factor about a doomsday virus and once again agent Smith is on a quest that leads him to the highest levels of power and the darkest corners of the earth (this guy really gets around).

Even though the hardback versions of all of these novels came out several years ago, the publisher released paperback versions more recently and I recommend them all!

Now, if you are a writer, have you ever thought about hooking up with another author (well known or aspiring)? If so, how would you work together? Would one write the outline, the other the actual chapters? Or would each one write alternating chapters and then edit each other’s words? I’ve always wondered how that works.  Do leave a comment — below here (or on our Facebook page) and let us have your thoughts.  Meanwhile, I hope you will check out all of the great thrillers I’ve listed in this post and thanks for visiting us here on Rogue Women Writers.

. . . Submitted by Karna Small Bodman 

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  1. Lisa Black

    I counted it up recently and realized I know, as in on a first name basis with) seven authors who are co-writers with giants of the industry. So cool!

  2. Robin Burcell

    Being a fairly new co-writer myself, I find the whole concept fascinating! It's a small club, but it seems to be growing as more major authors or their estates realize that the reading public has a voracious appetite for books centering around their favorite series characters.

  3. Karna Bodman

    Yes, you are both so right. and Robin, I have to say I'm curious how you happened to meet your co-author Clive Cussler and work out a partnership…one that has produced such great NYT bestselling novels?

  4. KarnaKid

    Very cool. And to think it all started with those crazy grocery lists you used to write back in San Francisco. As a young child, who knew that Milk, eggs, sourdough bread, FOBS & EMP manual, and Cheerios would lead to all this………Great job