Friday, September 18, 2009

Meet new SF writing duo Dani and Eytan Kollin

I met brothers Dani and Eytan Kollin at BayCon in San Jose last year. We were fellow panelists on a panel about remakes of our favorite shows from our childhoods. They were a dynamic duo indeed, bursting into the room and scuffling over the one empty chair on the dais.

The premise of their book, The Unincorporated Man intrigued me so much that I asked him for a review copy. You can read my review at Mostly Fiction.

I didn't get much opportunity to get to know either brothers at the convention. Further their bio on the jacket flap reads: Dani Kollin lives in Los Angeles, California, and Eytan Kollin lives in Pasadena, California. They are brothers, and this is their novel.

What better candidates for an interview? I invite you to get to know them with me.

AW: Whose idea was it to write books? Who came up with the premise for The Unincorporated Man?

It was my idea to write the books but it was Eytan’s premise. I’d been bugging him for years to get off his duff and write something (to fruition) because he was always presenting me with “what if” scenarios, they were always really cool but they were rarely followed through on. We both happened to be unemployed at the same time and so, with nothing better to do, we decided to put out heads and complimentary skill sets together and write a book. Eytan tossed me a bunch of ideas he’d written down, some of which had been collecting dust for over a decade. The second I saw the concept for The Unincorporated Man I knew it was a winner. I yanked it from the pile and said, “This is what we’re going to write.”

AW: I understand you've written three books together. Have you ever worked together on a project before the books? Who wins all the fights?

DK: Nope, we’ve never done any other projects together prior to this¬ one (done on a lark, mind you). Eytan won’t like it but I mostly win the fights and not because I’m a bully but because one of my main roles in the partnership is to separate the chaff from the wheat. Eytan knows the worlds, lives in them in fact. I know how to extrapolate on them in such a way as to make someone want to turn a page. Because our roles are so clearly defined there’s rarely if ever any of the competition or even emotional tiptoeing typical of other collaborative partnerships.

AW: What was the funniest thing that has happened to you at a convention?

DK: We were once guests at a conference up in Northern California’s bay area. One of the panels we were scheduled to give was called collaborative writing and our names were listed on the sheet as Dani & Eytan Kollin. Now if you’ve ever seen the two of us you’ll know we look nothing alike. At 6’4”, cutoff black t-shirt, scorpion laden doo rag, and biker glasses, Eytan looks like he could be a bouncer. While I’m 6’, wiry and own more shoes than my wife. Before the panel even begins a demure woman in the front row raises her hand and says, “Do you mind if I ask you a personal questions?” To which we both say, “Sure.” She then proceeds to inquire as to whether we’re a couple. To which I reply, “If it sells more books, we are.”

AW to DK: Has your background in the advertising field helped with promoting the books? Has it caused any head-butting with the publishers or their publicist?

DK: My advertising background has helped immensely because it’s a discipline that insists on strategic thinking, novel ideas and targeted messaging--from cover letters to email bursts, to website callouts to business cards. Not to mention that copywriting teaches economy of words, a skill set perfectly suited for my life as an author.

Re: head butting. There has been no head butting whatsoever with our publisher nor our publicist because A, they’re friggin’ Tor. You don’t get to be the biggest publisher of SF in the world without having a keen sense of what sells and how to sell it. B) Our editor is 3 time Hugo Award winner, David Hartwell so you tell me, what are we really going to argue with him about? Would Luke tell Yoda how to swing a saber? I think not. And C) There’s a huge difference between the disciplines of publicity and advertising. Since I know nothing about publicity there’s really nothing I feel I could offer. The bottom line is that Eytan and I are awed to be where we are and eminently grateful to everyone who’s worked so hard to get keep us here. That’s the difference between getting a book deal in your 40’s as opposed to getting one in your 20’s.

Do you still have the day job? Do you hope to be a full time novelist or do you enjoy the day job too much?

DK: I have day job as a freelance copywriter primarily in the broadcast entertainment field (I write movie trailers) and in the toy-packaging field (I name toys and write the copy that goes on the box). I would love to one day be a full time novelist. Not only because it’s less stressful but because my writing partner is my brother who also happens to be my best friend. Hanging out in an office all day getting paid to be dooberheads would be a dream come true.

Eytan sold his house in Stockton, California a few years back and moved to Pasadena in order to finish writing the trilogy. That task, for now, is his full time job (at least until the money runs out).

AW: Do you have other brothers? Any sisters? Does creativity run in the family?

Eytan and I have an older sister who lives in Irvine. Creativity certainly runs in the family but I’m pretty sure that Eytan and I are the first to have made inroads into the literary arts. Both my sister and I have Bachelor degrees in graphic design and our parents are both musically and artistically gifted. Our love of books and intellectual banter was inculcated from birth.

AW: What's the one question you wish an interview would ask you? What's the answer?

DK: Question: What is the best thing about being an author? Answer: The knowledge that ideas you created and stories that had meaning to you resonated with others to such a degree that even after our deaths our lives will continue to have meaning for people we have never met and who may not even be born yet.

AW: I love the character Omad in The Unincorporated Man. Do you use real people or composites of several to come up with these well-rounded characters?

Most of the characters are composites. We will see little pieces of ourselves and others we are familiar with. Rarely is any character taken whole cloth; with one exception. There is a character in book two who was taken from a friend of ours. Not only his mannerisms, but his personality and appearance is as accurate as Eytan could make it.

What do you do when you're stuck?

DK: Play computer games and watch lots of science fact and fiction television. Something usually gets jogged free after a couple of days. Plus it’s a great excuse to watch tv and play computer games, (hey, I’m working over here!)

What do you like most about living in (LA/Pasadena)?

DK: Although Eytan would be very happy living in a cabin by a lake, right now he prefers to be with his parents so that he can help out.

As a surfer I love that I’m ten minutes from the beach, as an endurance cyclist that I’m minutes from steep gradient hills and as a people watcher that I’ve got a plethora of characters to be inspired by. Also the air is such a pleasure to breathe.

AW: If you could live anywhere on the planet in any kind of house, where and in what would you live and why?

DK: Eytan would either like the cabin by the lake or a condo in a culturally worthy city, like New York, Boston, London, San Francisco or Haifa.

There are two places that come to mind for me.

A beach house in southern California parked right in front of a point break and an apartment with a stunning view in the greatest city on God’s green earth, New York City.

I’d choose the beach house for the easy and immediate access to fun, rideable surf and because there’s nothing quite like waking up to the sound of waves splashing against a shoreline.

I’d choose New York City because you can’t help but feel energized and alive in an epicenter of so much passion.

AW: Can you tell us anything about the other two books? What are you writing now?

DK: Our second book, due out in May of 2010 is called The Unincorporated War and takes the story of The Unincorporated Man to the next level. Whereas The Unincorporated Man deals primarily with the idea of freedom as viewed through the twin lenses of economics and sociology, the second switches over to viewing the idea of freedom through politics and military. We also delve quite deeply into the resultant byproduct of most wars--a renewed interest in religious faith. However, in our case we get to view said faith from the perspective of its having lain dormant for over 300 years. As such we get to ask, what for the both of us, is a wonderfully tantalizing question: What would a newly emergent Islam, Christianity and Judaism look like and how would it be received?

The third book deals with the issue of how far should a civilization go to secure their right to freedom and more importantly how far is too far?

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