Interview with RJ Keller

As you may, or may not know, I am working on a romantic comedy with my dear friend, RJ Keller. We got the idea to work together over the summer and as we near the completion of our first draft, (our goal is to finish by Dec. 31) I thought it might be fun to interview her on the process thus far.  

Danielle: This summer, we got together and decided to write a book together. What was that moment like when the idea was first tossed out to you? Be honest. You’re on board now, but were you a little hesitant at first?

RJ: I always assumed I would never be able to write a book with another author. My writing process doesn’t really lend itself well to collaboration, as you now know. And it was quite challenging at first, because we tried writing alternating chapters. Gah! That definitely didn’t work. Once we decided to divide the writing by sections, I knew we’d be okay.

Danielle: It might have worked out if we hadn’t given ourselves such a short turn around for draft one. I am a fast first draft writer but a painfully slow second draft writer, so I think that will work to our advantage. Playing off each other’s strengths. Okay, next question. What has it been like working with someone as annoyingly organized and linear as me?

RJ: Much easier, I’m sure, than it is for you, working with someone as annoyingly disorganized and scattered as me. I think the only really challenging part is when you’ll randomly message me with, “What day/month/season does chapter [X] take place?” And I’m like, “Beats the hell out of me.” That’s when I throw you a random day of the week and hope I’m close. I usually worry about that kind of thing in later drafts.

Danielle: Ha! I ask those questions because I struggle with timeline myself! And you aren’t disorganized. You just have a different process than me, which is totally okay. There is no one right way to do this writing thing!  What has been one frustrating thing you’ve learned about coauthoring?
RJ: I learned how very insecure I am about sharing my writing, especially at the first draft stage. Ernest Hemingway said that first drafts are shit. And, like shit, no one should see my first draft. But that doesn’t cut it when you’re writing with someone else. They’ve got to see your shit, too.

Danielle:  It is helpful to see what you’re thinking, even if it’s just notes about what you want to accomplish in a chapter so that I know what to cover and what not to. I wonder, what is one surprising thing that you’ve learned about coauthoring? Aside from a newfound love of Paul Rudd gifs?
RJ: I’ve learned that there are a lot of Paul Rudd video clips on YouTube, too! Who knew? Seriously, I was surprised at how much I loved working together on the story. Especially when we started plotting out the story via Google Drive, when I could actually see what you were writing as you were writing it, and vice versa, and then one of us would cut in and say, “Hey, what if Cori says this instead?” or “Oh, and then Ian could…” I don’t think I’ve enjoyed anything in my writing life more than that. Also, I’ve learned that Pinterest is just OVERFLOWING with Paul Rudd pictures. It’s awesome.

Danielle: Yes, it was fun bouncing ideas off each other. We seemed to feed off each other’s ideas, instead of dismissing them we enhanced and found a way to make them work. THAT is co-authorship to me, when there is no one main person running the show. I think we balance each other well. Having said that, I can’t help but ask…What did you honestly think about my ridiculous outline planning session? (I taped lines on my floor like the image below.)

RJ: I’m not going to lie, it was a bit overwhelming when I saw the entire thing laid out on your living room floor. I have never outlined anything that extensively. But it ended up being super helpful. It keeps me focused as I’m writing, something I desperately need. I’ve always been a write-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of author. I don’t imagine I’ll ever be quite as plan-aheady as you, but I’ve learned how more deliberately organize my ideas. I even made an outline for the other novel I’ve been working on and it’s helped tremendously.

Danielle: I never used to be like that. And some stories I don’t outline at all. If they are flowing well, I let them fly, but if I start to get stuck, out comes the outline so I can figure out where I went off the rail. But if I co-author, I have to outline. It’s crucial so we both know what page we’re on. Okay, next question. On a scale of one to I want to stab my own eyes out, how much do you enjoy writing first drafts?

RJ: Negative 73. There are moments when I love it, when my mood and muse are just right. But most of the time I’d rather be doing literally anything else. I’m more of a second draft gal. I love tearing an existing manuscript apart and putting it back together again. The second draft is where I figure out what the book is really about, where I discover connections I didn’t know existed, then build on them.

Danielle: See, and I LOVE the first draft. That’s where the magic happens. Everything is gold. I can do no wrong in a first draft. There is no editor, no going back to review, just full steam ahead. It’s the second draft that I loathe. So, the fact that draft two is where you shine, is a bonus for me.  Now, final question. Without revealing the actual title, what are your thoughts on the title we finally came up with?

RJ: I love it! We’re pretty smart, Danielle. We really are.

Danielle: We kind of are. And we’d LOVE to tell you the title, but we’re gonna wait until we do a cover reveal. Because we’re evil. 

Before I let ya go, RJ and I wanted to let you know we’ve started a Facebook Page for our live broadcasts, Between Two Couch Cushions. We literally started it yesterday so the only thing on it so far are the past videos we’ve done. We’ll be posting stuff about out book there and doing our live feeds there too, so if you wanna check it out and give it a follow, here is the linkypoo.


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