A Recipe for Author Collaboration

A Recipe for Author Collaboration

Posted on August 24 by Mark Leslie in Non-fiction
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It’s funny how one or two statements uttered in a casual conversation can lead to the genesis of an entire book project. I suppose that’s both the curse and joy of those who continually court the writing muse. Everything is fruit for a story or writing project. In fact, I find that there are days where I might often toss out as many as a half dozen ideas.

“Where do you get your ideas?” is a question I am often asked.

I’ve always found it challenging to answer that, because, for me, the answer is simple.


It’s true, ideas come at me from virtually any everyday experience. They hit me when I’m driving, putting on the morning coffee, in snippets of overheard conversation in a public space, when I am listening to a news update on the radio or perhaps via a casual remark or comment read in social media.

The entire world is a mass petri dish of ideas for a writer.

It’s not about finding inspiration; it’s often about sorting through the multitude of ideas or about finding the right inspiration at the right time.

So, when Rhonda Parrish and I were sitting around a table one evening at the When Words Collide conference in Calgary, Alberta, and casually talking over drinks the way writers often do, there was a particular line she threw out that proved to be the genesis of a wonderful writing project.

“I live near a haunted hospital,” she said.

“Oh?” I said, immediately interested, and leaning forward as if she were sharing some top-secret conspiracy theory with me. “Tell me more.”

She shared her tale about the Charles Camsell Hospital in Edmonton, then I shared one about a haunted asylum on the Hamilton Mountain formerly known as Century Manor. Then we continued to share a few other locations we had both heard tales about.

We explored the theme of haunted hospitals and asylums, and, as the two of us descended down the inevitable conversational path we found ourselves on, suddenly focused in on this topic area, we realized this was a book project in the making. Agreeing to take the ideas away and then returning to revisit them at a later date to see if the idea had staying power, we parted, making separate notes. And, as we connected over the next year, in a series of in person meetings and email exchanges, Haunted Hospitals was born.

Of course, the project wasn’t just being able to find interesting stories about various hospitals in Canada, the United States, and the rest of the world. It was about stringing these separate eerie tales together into a cohesive whole. It involved acknowledging some of the seemingly barbaric medical procedures that were common-place and normal at the time they were implemented, but appear horrifying for us to consider now. It was discovering the intriguing blurring of lines between hospitals, insane asylums, sanatoriums, and prisons. And it was, interestingly, combining my own wide-eyed embrace of the supernatural with Rhonda’s more skeptical take on the subject matter and hopefully delivering a well-balanced approach that offers something for both believers and non-believers alike.

One thing, though, that we consistently harkened back to throughout the book was the fact that, of all the possible locations for potential paranormal activity, hospitals are ripe with the required energy, emotions, and experiences to provide fuel for those tales.

And those elements are not all that different than the elements that came together for the creation of this book. Or, if you will, the recipe for the book to actually happen.

In much the same way that fire is created from the combination of the three elements of oxygen, a fuel source and heat, the ingredients necessary for a writing project are Inspiration and Commitment and Timing.

It’s not enough to have a great idea. It needs to be supported by a commitment from the author (or, in this case, the authors) to follow-through on the work involved in making it happen. And, of course, like anything else, it does include proper timing; If Rhonda and I had been in the midst of just one more project at the time this occurred, it is possible neither one of us could have taken on the extra work-load. But it worked out that, in the ongoing onslaught of writing projects that we each had on our plates, this particular project managed to fit in just wonderfully.

Taking on a book project on your own is interesting and satisfying enough; but taking one on with another writer can prove to be that much more challenging, and yet that much more satisfying in the end. Even though I had written several books on the paranormal (including another co-authored title: Spooky Sudbury), I learned new things about the process from Rhonda, both from her great questions as well as her suggestions and insights that came from her own writing and editing experience.

I think that’s what made co-authoring Haunted Hospitals with Rhonda such a pleasurable experience. And, if the experience of reading the book is even half as enjoyable as the experience of creating it, then I’m certain that readers are going to enjoy the result of this unique and intriguing collaboration; perhaps, much like the authors, learning a few interesting things while enjoying some eerie chills.

Mark Leslie

Posted by Kendra on October 30, 2014
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Mark Leslie

Mark Leslie is the author of Creepy Capital and Tomes of Terror as well as many other books on the fascinating and paranormal. He is also the editor of Campus Chills and Fiction River: Feel the Fear. Mark lives in Waterloo, Ontario.