5 Minutes with Carrie Ryan and John Parke Davis

Published on: 11 November 2014

We talk to Carrie Ryan and John Parke Davis about writing a novel with another person, building worlds, and writing routines, as well as their new children's book The Map to Everywhere.

The Map to Everywhere

First of all, can you tell us a little bit about the book?

Of course! The Map to Everywhere follows the voyages of Fin, a twelve-year-old master thief who literally no one can remember for more than a few moments, and Marrill, an 'ordinary' girl from Arizona racing to find her way back to her sick mother, across the Pirate Stream, a river of pure magic that touches an infinite number of fantastic worlds. Alongside a bumbling wizard, a way-too-young sailor, and a crew of living ropes and mutant mice, Fin and Marrill make their way through forests of gossiping trees and ice fields so cold words freeze on the tip of your tongue, in search of the legendary Map to Everywhere, the only thing that can show Fin the way to his parents, and Marrill the way back home. Of course, there's an insane oracle who wants that same map to help him fulfil his own prophecy, so that could get in the way, too...

How did you go about building this fantastical world - did you both have the same vision from the start?

We always knew we wanted to create the type of magical, imaginative adventure we used to read and watch when we were kids, so we had that backbone of common experience to draw from. It started with a little two-page short story JP wrote years ago which Carrie had always loved, so we had that already, too. From there, pretty much everything significant-worlds, characters, plot and what have you-evolved between the two of us, talking and dreaming and encouraging each other to think bigger. The great thing about the Pirate Stream is that literally anything can happen, so when it comes to worldbuilding, there's no saying 'oh that idea doesn't work.' Any place you can imagine is probably out there on the Stream, somewhere-it's just a question of whether our characters will visit it.

You wrote this book together, so what does your daily writing routine actually look like?

We do the primary drafting separately, then read and edit each other as we go. With two point-of-view characters, it's easy: Carrie usually writes Marrill chapters and JP usually writes Fin chapters, though by the time we finish editing we often can't tell who did what. JP has a day job, so during the week the only times he can write are early mornings, lunch, and evenings. Usually he'll get up first and do some writing before work, then Carrie will come in and start her writing around 8:30. If we're under deadline, we'll switch out midday so JP can write on his lunch break. Then at night we often find our way to a nice local spot where we can have a glass of wine and write together or talk about the plot. On the weekends, we get to do a little more side-by-side writing, and long walks are a must for figuring out major plot points.

Did you have any disagreements - and if so, how did you solve them?

Disagreements are a way of life when you have two authors each trying to assert themselves and their personalities through a single book. There's absolutely nothing worse than coming up with an idea that's awesome and makes perfect sense in your head - 'Honey, what if Fin and Marrill travel to a world made of pancakes, and they have to cover themselves in magic syrup to attract bees!'- and have the other person just sit there and stare at you like you're insane. But the thing about respecting the other person's opinion is that you then have to look at the idea critically, and nine times out of ten you realize they were right. We have absolutely no problem telling each other when something doesn't work for us. If we disagree over something, one of us has to convince the other, or we scrap both ideas and come up with something new. The rule is that it's our book-nothing gets in there unless we're both okay with it.

Do you have any tips for people who want to try writing with another person?

Respect each other as creators. Be flexible, but harsh. Care for the book more than each other. Care for each other more than the book. Everyone writes differently, so figure out the mechanics of writing together and stick to them, but understand when something changes for the other person. Accept that at some point, you will feel like the other person isn't carrying their weight, that they'll at some point feel that way about you. Recognize that you're writing on someone else's book, but expect them to give you the same respect.

If children enjoyed reading The Map to Everywhere, what would you recommend them to read next?

There are so many wonderful books out there; it's hard to narrow it down! For the kid who loves reading adventurous quests, we adored The League of Seven by Alan Gratz (Lovecraftian inspired steampunk adventure!). Diana Peterfreund also has a super fun Goonies-esque adventure coming out in 2015 called Omega City, and for those who want a dash more other-worldly fantasy in their adventure there's Jennifer Nielsen's The False Prince (which also has a young thief main character!). For the kid who wants all of the above, there's the beloved classic The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. And of course there's always Harry Potter, but we consider that required reading for all ages!

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