Member Spotlight: Meet Space Opera Writers Matthew Snee and Gregg Chirlin

Posted by March 31st, 2014

Matthew Snee and Gregg ChirlinToday we’re chatting with Matthew Snee and Gregg Chirlin, longtime friends and collaborating writers who are working on a Space Opera series called TO BRAVE THE CRUMBLING SKY, Volumes 1 and 2.

LUCY: You’ve been collecting feedback on TO BRAVE THE CRUMBLING SKY: Volume 2, The Oldest War, for a little while now. What’s happening with Volume 1?

MATT: We realized after writing Volume 2 that Volume 1 needed desperately to be not only revised but rewritten. It’s not easy to begin an epic story (7 volumes are planned) such as this, and as you move along you realize a lot of changes that need to be made retroactively. Also, Volume 1 was the beginning of our collaboration, and so the writing is not up to par with Volume 2, written after we’d had more practice. However, we’ve just posted the first few chapters of Volume 1 to Book Country, recently revised.

GREGG: We’ve just about finished rewriting Volume 1, though, and are beginning the editing stages. It took us a while to get where we are with it because rewriting is just not as fun as writing, even if it is essential! But at the same time, we’re brainstorming and fleshing out the plot and characters of volume 3, which is a lot more exciting for us.

to brave the crumbling sky collageLUCY: According to your “About the Author” note, Matthew lives in Arizona and Gregg lives in France. How do you two know each other? How did you start writing together?

GREGG: We met in junior high school in Wilmington, Delaware. I had always lived there; Matt’s family had lived in other places previously. We became friends by associating with a group of kids who were interested in creative pursuits. Our collaborations also started at that time and we’ve worked on various projects together over the years ranging from poetry, music, movies, and even video games. After high school we were also housemates in San Francisco for a few years, but eventually our paths diverged. In any case, TO BRAVE THE CRUMBLING SKY has been our primary collaboration for several years now, as it’s probably the sort of project that’s easiest to collaborate on at a distance.

LUCY: Tell us more about the collaboration process.

MATT: It comes quite naturally to us as we’ve always collaborated on projects and so we know each other extremely well and trust each other completely, which is essential for this sort of endeavor. I am the primary writer but we collaborate on all the ideas for the story, and Gregg does the bulk of the editing.

GREGG: Generally, the way it works is we send tons of ideas back and forth over email, and then Matt will write part of the story and send it to me. Occasionally I’ll also write some fragments that he will incorporate or use for inspiration. This process repeats itself until a book is completed. Then I’ll edit it, changing or adding words, sentences, or sometimes even paragraphs, and I’ll also make comments about major things I want Matt to think about later. When I’ve gone through the final text, Matt will do some rewriting and check that he’s okay with all the changes I’ve made, and then send the story back to me for some final proofreading and polishing.

LUCY: Collaborating on a funny book like yours must be a blast. What else are you able to do as co-authors that might be less fun if you were working along? What is more challenging about being a writing duo?

MATT: You’re right, the brainstorming phase is really fun. We don’t always use all the ideas we send back and forth but we really enjoy surprising each other. Sometimes of course we send each other ideas that are totally ridiculous, just for a laugh.

GREGG: The major advantages to being a team are that we each have our strong and weak points but they balance out, and by being two brains working on things, it helps us avoid getting stuck with writer’s block! Also, as it’s said, we feel the sum in this case is really greater than the whole of its parts. We’ve often wondered why more people don’t collaborate on books like we do. But writing in general is perhaps a solitary art, and it might be rare for two creative literary minds to sync and get along in the way that we are able to.

The major challenges are logistical, I suppose… keeping track of different versions of the text and keeping up with each other’s changes and so on. We don’t really have any disputes about things. Matt is the primary writer and so I’m happy to defer to him in the end, but I know he always takes my point of view into consideration.

LUCY: What are your goals for this project—and how are you using Book Country to reach those goals?

GREGG: Our immediate goal is simply just to be read by as many people as possible. Continuing and eventually finishing the saga is also of course an important objective too, and knowing that we’re being read or getting feedback motivates us to keep on keeping on! Eventually, we’d also like to build up a sort of community around the books and the universe we’re creating, because we think it will lend itself to a lot of fan participation.

LUCY: Give us your best pitch for why Science Fiction fans—especially Space Opera fans—should read and review your book on Book Country.

MATT: We guarantee an original world and story unlike anything you’ve read anywhere else, and we guarantee it told in an exciting, engaging, and earnest way.  We care about our characters and hope to make others care about them too, and we believe that we have important things to say through them.  TO BRAVE THE CRUMBLING SKY might look like science fiction, but it’s more like spiritual speculation disguised as an adventure.

GREGG: Sci-fi used to ask “What if?”, now it usually settles for “What could?” We appreciate sci-fi that’s based on and set very close to contemporary reality, but what we really love is the utterly weird. That being said, we don’t write weird stuff for the sake of being weird. We try and take the weird and infuse it with rich characters, engrossing plot turns, and profound philosophy. That’s what you’ll find in the To Brave the Crumbling Sky series. Also, we want to create a universe that’s detailed, intricate, and vast, where we and the readers can really lose ourselves, and where the well never runs dry, which is why we position this story in the epic space opera genre

LUCY: What kinds of books do you like to read and review on Book Country? How do you choose?

MATT: Books tend to find me, whether it’s in real life or on Book Country. I pick books that just kind of jump out at me, or are done by people who have befriended me or reviewed our book.  The highlight for me was a book I read (can’t recall the title or author now) about a young female student of Merlin’s in the world of King Arthur.  It proved to me there are some great voices out there that are going unheard, except for on sites like Book Country.  I feel like Book Country provides something that authors need: a place to share.

Connect with Matthew Snee on Book Country and on Twitter, and be sure and check out TO BRAVE THE CRUMBLING SKY, Volumes 1 and 2 on Book Country!

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