Posted on 03/07/2017 at 12:00 AM by Sadye Scott-Hainchek

Some people can’t even remember their dreams the next day. Fortunately, Kristy Makansi isn’t one of them.

One particular subconscious vision went on to become the groundwork for a well-received YA dystopian trilogy, which she wrote with her two daughters, Amira and Elena.

The three women are thriving on their own — Kristy as owner of Blank Slate Press; Amira as a winemaker and full-time author recently signed by a NYC agency; Elena as a designer, editor, writer, and vegan blogger — but  we couldn’t help focusing on the incredible teamwork they’d done as the K. Makansi writing trio.

So, if you ever wondered how to produce three novels with two other writers, here’s how K. Makansi did it.

SADYE: How did you all decide to start writing together?

KRISTY: Seven years ago, I had a dream. The next day, I told Elena, at the time a high school senior, all about it, and we cooked up a basic plot outline for a story based around that scene. ...

The original story outline was abandoned for two years, and then, as fate would have it, I had a version of the dream again! I couldn’t get it out of my head. I told Amira, who had just graduated from college, and she said, “Let’s write it.”

So we put our heads together and got started.

SADYE: How does your collaborative process work?

KRISTY: For us, as close family members, we felt comfortable upfront being blunt and critical about all ideas and written drafts. “This is dumb,” was not an uncommon phrase. “Way too cheesy, Mom!” was another.

It is important for collaborators to freely share honest thoughts and opinions but also to be flexible and realize the entire process is one of (sometimes agonizing) collaboration. Also, as a trio, we always had a “tie-breaker”—which was always helpful! ...

Writing the Seeds trilogy was a four-year process. During that time, Elena and Amira moved around due to being in college, graduating, changing jobs, traveling, etc. ... Because of this, we relied a lot on digital tools such as Google Docs, Microsoft OneDrive, Scrivener, Dropbox, Skype, and of course many phone calls.

When were together, mostly during holidays, we would always set aside writing and brainstorming time to develop ideas in person. Amira and Elena generally worked on the “shitty first drafts” (as we affectionately call them), Elena as Remy and Amira as Vale, and then I went through with my editor’s touch to cut, add, revise, and put my writerly stamp on the manuscript.

After we had a complete first draft, we each went through with (figurative) red pen and tore the manuscript up, often reading aloud to each other when we were together. We made it a point to have Elena edit Vale chapters and Amira to edit Remy chapters, while still retaining the original character’s voices.

I (with years of experience as an editor under my belt) was in charge of making the manuscript feel streamlined and cohesive, like a single author wrote the books, a comment we’ve received many times.

SADYE: Your cover art collaborator is a teen — how did you end up using him?

KRISTY: Elena had been a fan of the website DeviantArt.com for a long time and shared it with all of us, often oohing and aahing over the talented artists. Amira started browsing the site and came across Kevin’s account.

He was a huge fan of popular dystopian books such as Divergent and The Hunger Games and had a nice portfolio of alternative posters & book covers for these and other books. We all liked his grungy, artsy style and appreciated how talented he was for being so young, and so asked him if he’d be interested in working with us.

He was enthusiastic from the beginning. He read our books and then worked hard to come up with many ideas for us. We are forever grateful to Kevin for being so wonderful, and we wish him the best!

SADYE: What are your proudest and most challenging moments of being a writer?

ELENA: Um, writing? It has always been difficult getting enough words out of my brain and onto paper. I love writing and I am passionate about words, but it is hard for me to actually write words in disciplined manner. It’s an arduous and emotional process. Deadlines help, but I also had trouble meeting deadlines. ...  Kudos to my team for dealing with me and my constant feelings!

I was honored to write the prologue to The Reaping, where we experience the events at the end of The Sowing from Brinn’s perspective. It was minimally edited by Kristy and Amira. After writing it, I found out that it had made some people cry, including my co-authors. I made people cry with my writing?! What?! This was definitely my proudest moment.

AMIRA: The biggest challenge I faced as a writer was the same as Elena’s: writing the dang words. Finding the energy to go to a coffee shop and pound out one thousand or two thousand or even three hundred words after working an eight- or ten-hour day is always a challenge. ...

The proudest moment I’ve experienced as a writer was attending a book launch and signing event for our third book, The Harvest, where our film producers, with whom we had very recently signed a contract to option the rights to The Sowing, were in attendance. Reading from my favorite section of that book and seeing the audience’s reaction was an unparalleled experience.

KRISTY: The most difficult part of writing the Seeds trilogy was, as both Elena and Amira indicated, actually sitting down to do the writing and editing, just making the time in our busy lives to do the work. When we set deadlines, it could get stressful for each of us as we navigated the other parts of our lives and yet knew that our collaborators were depending on us to get our work done so the project could move forward.

My proudest moment is all of it. As a mother, being able to work so closely with both my daughters on such a project will always be one of the shining joys of my life. Now, every time we hit a sales milestone or get a new five-star review, I reflect on how lucky I am to have such talented, hard-working, and creative daughters. I am thankful to them — and for them — every single day.

* * *

Learn more about the Seeds trilogy on its website, where you can also purchase the books, and like it on Facebook.

Know an author you'd like to see featured? Email sadye (at) thefussylibrarian.com with a recommendation!

Categories: Author Interview

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