Q&A with Clay Griffith and Susan Griffith: The Crown & Key Series
Clay Griffith and Susan Griffith are a married couple who have been writing and publishing together for a long time. Their latest project, the Crown & Key trilogy is set to come out this summer with the first book The Shadow Revolution releasing tomorrow. I had a great time with it, so if you haven’t already be sure to check out my review of this rollicking Victorian urban fantasy action-adventure! Clay and Susan were also awesome to stop by and chat a little about the series and their experience of writing as a team, I hope you enjoy the interview!
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Hello, Clay and Susan, and welcome to the BiblioSanctum. First of all, congratulations on your new trilogy, Crown & Key. How would you describe the series to your new and prospective readers?
Thanks. We shorthand CROWN & KEY as Charlotte Bronte’s Avengers. It’s an adventure story set in the pre-Victorian Era about heroes and villains capable of wielding supernatural powers. Simon Archer finds himself the last surviving scribe on Earth. He has the potential for incredible mystic power because of his command of runic magic, but he is inexperienced and unprepared for the brutal, immortal evils ranged against him. CROWN & KEY centers on a group of magicians and monster hunters who band together as a team and a family to protect the world’s innocents who are unaware of the growing menace of monsters and dark sorcery.
Book one The Shadow Revolution is kicking things off on June 2, followed by The Undying Legion and then The Conquering Dark, with approximately a month between their release dates. Happy readers will be able to enjoy all three books this summer, but how long did it actually take to write the whole trilogy?
From concept to plot to final drafts, it took close to two years to write all three books.
You two are also the authors of The Vampire Empire series (which I love – and how I first discovered your work, actually) an alternate history steampunk about the world being overrun by a plague of vampires. Now in The Shadow Revolution you’re writing about magic, mad science, and some really nasty werewolves. Maybe you can help shed some insight on a very important age-old question? Vampires vs. Werewolves, which of these classic monsters reign supreme? Inquiring minds want to know! Are you Team Fur or Team Fang?
We are on opposing sides of this question. Susan loves werewolves, while Clay loves vampires. Dracula is one of Clay’s favorite novels, so it was very formative. He thinks vampires are very flexible as characters; they can be anything from monsters to lovers. Susan, on the other hand, finds shapeshifters more intriguing. The ability to be a part of both worlds, human and animal/supernatural, has so many possibilities. Werewolves are driven by instinct and in their animal form they may not be responsible for their actions. So there is a sympathetic character there which is appealing.
From the list of your works, it looks like you two have been writing together for a long time. How did you first come to collaborate?
We had always been sounding boards for one another’s works when we wrote separately. But the first time we made it official was when Clay got a call from Acclaim Comics to write some Disney properties. He was asked if he had ideas for Beauty and the Beast, Toy Story, etc. He said he’d have pitches on the editor’s desk the next day. But he had nothing. As soon as he got off the phone, he came over to me, knowing I had watched every Disney movie there was, including The Castaway Cowboy. Together we worked on those comics and were delighted with the results. We have worked together ever since.
What is the writing process like? Do both of you tackle everything together or do you split some duties?
We do both. With a large project like a novel, we plot out the book thoroughly. We divide up the chapters and start writing. Sometimes we divide chapters along chronological lines. Other times one of us might want to take certain sections because they like particular characters or want to write the political sections or the romantic sections or so on. Then we hand pages back and forth for editing, rewriting, and to make sure the final voice is consistent. Of course, we talk all the time throughout the process because no plot outline can survive the writing intact. We find ourselves coming up with better ideas or new directions all the time. So we have to go over all the ramifications of changes, and make sure we both agree.
With a smaller project like a short story or comic book script, we usually plot together, but then one of us will write the entire first draft. Then the other of us takes it and edits/rewrites.
You probably get a lot of questions about the challenges of writing as a team so I’m going to give it a twist and ask, what advice would you give to other writing duos are who are just starting out, or new writers thinking about collaboration?
Check your egos at the door! It no longer is about my stuff and your stuff, but OUR stuff. Nothing that is done showcases one writer over the other. It’s all about showcasing the project you are working on, always. You have to decide what’s best for the story to make it shine. It may mean tossing aside a beloved character to make room for your partner’s. But you have to trust that the decision is for the best. And trust is key to any good collaboration. If you don’t trust your partner to write the scene or create the character then you shouldn’t be working with them. It’s like a marriage…seriously.
What are your hobbies, or favorite pastimes for when you want to have fun or take a break from writing? I read somewhere a few years ago that you two play World of Warcraft and other MMOs (my husband and I do too – a couple who games together stays together!) is that something you still do?
Susan still plays Warcraft religiously, while Clay only plays occasionally. Tabletop gaming is Susan’s new interest, though it’s difficult to get a good group of folks together. Her favorite games currently are Tsuro, Betrayal at House on the Hill, and Grave Robbers from Outer Space. Of course, we both read a great deal. Clay mainly focuses on research material, but he’s a historian, so that’s a given. He also reads classic comics, watches old movies, and sort of keeps up with sports. Susan reads more fiction, usually fantasy, alternate history, and paranormal.
Are there any other projects you’re working on currently or in the near future that you’d like to share, either writing or non-writing related?
We don’t have anything firm in place yet, but we have several ideas. We’re working on an outline for a new series we’d like to do. Of course, we still have stories in the VAMPIRE EMPIRE world we want to tell. And we’d certainly like it if there was more CROWN & KEY in the future. Plus, we’d love to write more comic books. It’s been several years since we worked in that field, and we really miss it.
That’s great, and I’m definitely looking forward to more Vampire Empire stories. Until then, I’m glad I’ll have Crown & Key books 2 and 3 to curl up with this summer. Thank you so much for the interview!
*** For more information about Clay and Susan and their work, please visit their website at http://clayandsusangriffith.blogspot.com! ***