In Trace Yulie and Rachel Swirsky’s story—in the current issue on sale now—you’ll find a determined woman who is “Seven Months Out, Two To Go.” Collaborative stories are exciting, because each team approaches their creation differently. Luckily, Trace & Rachel agreed to chat about their process!
Asimov’s Editors: Trace and Rachel—it is always a treat to publish a collaborative story. Every collaborative work seems to have its own process and style: How did you two approach coauthoring this piece?
Rachel Swirsky: In this case, I was having a lot of writer’s block where I just couldn’t generate the foundations of a story. My editorial/rewriting skills were still working, though. I asked Trace and some other friends of mine if they had short stories that they had a foundation for, but couldn’t wrestle into a form they felt satisfied with. Trace handed me this one, and I took a few months revising it, and then we passed it back and forth for a while after that to polish it up.
Trace Yulie: Collaborating is kind of a scary delight. Rachel saw the gaps in this idea of a grieving rancher who has a strange encounter, which wasn’t much more than a few solid scenes with imagery and a feeling when I passed it on. I’d felt that something was missing that made my draft unsatisfying. Our back and forth served to stitch things together thematically, in ways I couldn’t see when she began, and character interiority deepened. Rachel has a gift for that. More concretely, we worked on a shared document and talked through the draft periodically over the phone. The process taught me a lot about stepping back from the vision in my head to see what a story can become.
AE: Have either of you worked with another author (perhaps each other) before? In what ways was this experience different?
RS: I’ve published two stories with my former student, An Owomoyela, using this process where they wrote the foundation, I did heavy rewrites, and then we polished together. “Between Dragons and their Wrath” is up at Clarkesworld Magazine, and “Whose Drowned Face Sleeps” is online at Nightmare Magazine. I’ve also published stories with Katherine Sparrow and Ann Leckie.
TY: I’ve started a couple of collaborations with other writers, but this is the first to result in a finished product. It helped that we both seemed to know what we were going for.
AE: What is the story behind this piece?
RS: Trace and I will have really different answers to this because of the way we collaborated. Trace was with this story from the beginning when it was just germinating, but I only came in after there was a complete draft. My process began when I read Trace’s draft of the story and considered how I could help shape it. The story was already beautiful, with all its themes about grief and alienation. I got to work on structure and plot, trying to create a slightly more robust framework for Trace’s concepts and images. Continue reading “Q&A with Rachel Swirsky & Trace Yulie”