When Two Authors Are Better Than One

Sometimes, two authors are better than one. It seems counterintuitive; writing style is so personal. And as Paul Auster wrote, “Writing is a solitary business.” How could two authors hope to collaborate and blend their work successfully? Who knows their secret, but some writing duos pull off the challenge with aplomb.

Here are five co-authored books packed with more awesomeness than any one writer could hope to channel.

Good Omens, by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
I can’t think of two authors more suited to collaboration. Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett are both masters of a certain kind of absurdist British fantasy. Gaiman tends to be the creepy one, and Pratchett a bit funnier. Together, they create a tale of a biblical apocalypse that’s scarier, weirder, and above all, funnier than it has any right to be.

The Talisman, by Stephen King and Peter Straub
Though Stephen King has eclipsed his occasional writing partner in the decades since, when he and Peter Straub jointly wrote The Talisman in the early ’80s, they were both top-selling horror writers publishing during the genre’s biggest boom era. As such, the dual-authored work, about a young boy braving a parallel world in order to save his dying mother, was a major publishing event—and was successful enough that it generated a sequel, Black House, more than a decade later. Supposedly, King and Straub are going to sit down one of these days to bang out the last book in the trilogy.

Sorcery & Cecelia: or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot, by Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer
This quaint little novel, an epistolary examination of Regency England with a sprinkling of magic, began as a writing exercise. Each author developed a persona, and they began writing letters back and forth in character, without a clear picture of where the story would go. The end result worked so well, they decided to publish it, eventually crafting two sequels in much the same fashion, The Grand Tour: or the Purloined Coronation Regalia and The Mislaid Magician: or Ten Years After. And with titles like those, how can you resist?

Freedom and Necessity by Steven Brust and Emma Bull
Similar in form to Sorcery & Cecelia but an altogether more ambitious affair, this dense, challenging work from Steven Brust (the Vlad Taltos series) and Emma Bull (War for the Oaks) combines German philosophy, a magical conspiracy, and real historical events of the Victorian era into a heady brew that basically creates its own genre (epistolary historical meta-fiction fantasy?). For fans of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell.

The Pendergast series, by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
Douglas Preston, a historian, and Lincoln Child, a former book editor, combined their skills and interests in the creation of FBI Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast, a modern-day Sherlock Holmes who has refined tastes, can speak a dozen languages, and, oh yeah, can solve any crime, whether it involves a serial killer or a supernatural creature. To date, the character has featured in a dozen novels (most recently Two Graves; a 13th, White Fire, is out in November), with plots that regularly jump genres from literal-monster thriller to sci-fi technobabble. The first in the series, Relic, was loosely adapted into a movie in 1997.

Who’s on your favorite writing team?

  • Jacqui Polk

    House by Ted Dekker and Frank Perretti was absolutely riveting! I would like to see them pair up again