Cris and Clare Meyers are married co-authors of urban fantasy. Their current project is an adult urban fantasy heist series that features a band of supernatural criminals.
Born and raised in Illinois, they still make the Midwest their home. They met in college, where they were both majoring in English. They both wrote a few short stories on their own, but then two years ago, they decided to combine their efforts and see where it led.
Why storytelling? What made you yearn to tell a good story, and how long was this story within you before it came out?
Storytelling has always been our outlet for creativity, even before we knew each other. Cris remembers writing what he calls ‘bad Star Wars fanfiction’ when he was little, and Clare too had a few amateurish stories she wrote as a kid. Luckily, we got better.
As for Playing with Fire, we actually had the character concepts before we had the story. Once we had Renee and Stone, we wanted to write a story that truly did them justice. The story itself was probably bantered back and forth for about two months before we sat down and started writing.
What character from your book fills you with hope?
Our characters are criminals—not traditional heroes—so ‘hope’ isn’t exactly common currency in their world, nor is it something they go out of their way to inspire. They simply aren’t those kind of people. But loyalty, an admittedly unique sense of honor, and trust, those are the qualities they value. And once you’re in the ‘inner circle,’ they will defend you to the death.
Playing with Fire is the first in a larger series, so our darker elements are still more nebulous presences at the moment. We’ve also left some of the evil in our world purposely vague, knowing that what is imagined is often far worse than spelling things out. There’s a fine line between showing real evil and going too far. But as the series progresses, the reader will get to see for themselves the kind of evil that might make criminals hesitate to tangle with.
Your main character walks into a bar. What happens?
Renee and Stone would spend the night in a corner, backs to the wall and eyes on the patrons: sizing people up, assessing threats, and casing the place. The real fun would come a few nights later when several patrons realized they’d been ‘relieved’ of their valuables.
How do you police your production? Do you have a word quota, or a page goal, maybe you work for a set amount of time? Do you place demands on yourself when you’re working? How do you meet those demands?
We set ourselves goals—usually “we want to finish X scene” or “we need to answer Y question.” We find that works better for us than “we need to write X number of words.” That being said, we do tend to look to see just how many words we did write before shutting down for the night. We have also been known to designate certain weekends (usually scheduled a few weeks out) as ‘writing weekends’—where we shut out the world and just write.
A publishing house gets ahold of you and wants you to take over writing an established character. For instance, DC Comics calls you and tells you they want you to take over writing Batman. What is the dream? What established character would you love to write?
Honestly, we’d rather explore our own characters than take over someone else’s. Even if we are writing them, Batman is still Batman, Superman is still Superman, and so on. To us, it would always feel like us writing someone else’s character, someone else’s story. Maybe it’s just a personal preference—because sharing the honor of writing a certain character is becoming more popular (for example, sharing the directing of the newest Star Wars movies between multiple directors) and a lot of people would jump at the chance to be a part of such an established franchise—but we prefer working with our own characters, our own worlds.
Everyone has at least one specific challenge that holds him or her back. What is that challenge in your work and how do you overcome it?
Aside from the occasional bout of writer’s block, the biggest challenge we face is merging our two—potentially conflicting—visions for the same story. Co-writing requires more compromise than if the work is solely one author’s. But for all that that’s our greatest challenge, we believe that it’s also our greatest strength. We are able to draw from two sets of ideas and find the best one.
Without giving any spoilers, what is your favorite thing about this book?
The characters. They are the life’s blood of the story, and playing with them is what we have the most fun with. They are much more than the so-called ‘bad guys’ that their choice in careers define them as. And the combination of criminal and magic user means walking a line so that one doesn’t overpower the other.
Let’s talk about tools. Do you have a word processor that you would tell us to use? Is there a certain computer that has become your favorite? What do you look for in a keyboard? What would you absolutely have to have if you were to sit down and write your next book?
We use a computer, but we don’t have a favorite. We’ll use whatever computer is at hand. Desktop, laptop, tablet… Word, Open Office, even Notepad… We’ve used them all and have no real favorite. Our ‘necessities’ are more caffeine and background noise. And at least some of the time, some variation of liquor…
Your main characters possess supernatural powers in this book. Is this a rare thing for only these characters or is your world suffused with powerful people and extraordinary talents?
The Talent, as it’s called in our series, is not extremely common, but our main characters are far from the only people with powers or abilities. In Playing with Fire, we also introduce characters who are shapeshifters. And there are still more abilities out there that don’t appear until Fly by Night.
But the world of the Talent remains one hiding in plain sight, much like the criminal one. And the truth is that most people don’t see near as much as they think. And believing something ‘normal’ is much easier than accepting that there are people out there who can start fires or summon lightning with a thought. Even among Talents, the ins-and-outs of just what’s possible isn’t exactly an open book.
When writing the main characters, a thief and an assassin, did you have to do much research? What did that research process look like and how long did it take?
Seeing as neither of us is a thief or mercenary, yes, we had to do our homework. Our book purchase history and browsing history looked pretty interesting at the time. Pickpocketing, guns, lock-picking, hand to hand combat, con artistry, and that was just the start. The good thing was that we could research as we went along.
This book sounds pretty dark. What led you to take on such grim themes and is this a trend in your writing or business as usual?
Our characters are not traditional ‘good guys,’ but the book isn’t an either/or proposition. Playing with Fire has shades of darkness in it, but we don’t personally consider this book, or the series as a whole, to be dark. In fact, the presence of some darkness in both the story and the characters actually serves to highlight the opposite in them as well. The themes aren’t all sunshine and rainbows, but neither is Playing with Fire grimdark.
Personally, we gravitate toward characters that are not traditional heroes. We feel that it humanizes them and gives us more things to explore.
If we read your work and crave more, can we find more that you have written? Will we ever see another book by you? If we fall in love with your work, how can we find you and everything you have done?
Not yet. But we have a completed draft of Fly by Night, the second in this series, and we’re looking to release it March 30, 2017. We just have to finish the final round of editing. There’s a sneak peek in the end of Playing with Fire. We’ve also starting on Shifting Identities (Book 3) and have the first few chapters written.