Laura Blackett is a woodworker and writer based in Brooklyn.
Eve Gleichman’s short stories have appeared in The Kenyon Review, Harvard Review, BOMB Daily, and elsewhere. Eve is a graduate of Brooklyn College’s MFA fiction program and lives in Brooklyn.
In this post, Gleichman and Blackett explain why treating your writing as a collaboration will elevate your work and much more!
Names: Eve Gleichman and Laura Blackett
Literary agent: Faye Bender, The Book Group
Book title: The Very Nice Box
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Releaste date: July 6, 2021
Elevator pitch for the book: The Very Nice Box follows a queer, closed-off, and grieving engineer at a Brooklyn furniture company whose life takes a surprising turn when she gets a new boss who is young, underqualified, charismatic, and romantically interested in her. Behind the romance are layers of suspense and satire around corporate office life, male entitlement, and millennial self-help culture.
How long did it take to go from idea to publication?
We started writing the book in the fall of 2018, so from the first sentence to publication date, it's been nearly three years. We knew we wanted to write about male entitlement, and we knew the vague outlines of Ava's personality—and Mat's—but the plot was constantly changing during the process, and we were very flexible about how we'd get from point A (the beginning) to point B (the end). That flexibility was absolutely vital to our writing process. The novel changed substantially as we wrote it. New ideas we chose to develop changed the trajectory of the novel but also the chapters we’d already written. We trusted one another to make decisions that felt true to the characters, even if those decisions deviated from our original plan.
Were there any surprises or learning moments in the publishing process for this title?
One surprising moment for us was how quickly we got an agent. We hadn't really shown the book to anyone, and although we liked it a lot, we had no idea how anyone else (especially agents) would find it, especially because of the unusual co-written aspect. It was extremely exciting when our now-agent Faye Bender got back to us within a couple of days to offer to represent it. I think the lesson there was that we could trust that our instincts were good.
Another surprise: We had initially planned to publish the novel under a pseudonym because we thought that the fact that it was co-written would feel strange or distracting. But our publisher encouraged us to use both of our names and thought the collaboration was an interesting asset. The lesson was about embracing what makes this project unique and unusual and realizing that people might be excited to broaden their ideas about what authorship looks like.
Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book?
The writing process was full of surprises, which is what kept it so fun. We alternated writing each chapter, and I (Eve) loved receiving Laura's new chapters, because of the surprises: new characters, departures from our plan, laugh-out-loud dialogue, incredible descriptions of the corporate offices—every sentence I didn't write myself was a surprise, and many of my own sentences were surprising too.
I (Laura) felt the same way about receiving Eve’s chapters! It was so fun to see the plot unfold organically and to see what our characters got up to under Eve’s supervision. So many important parts of the story started off as small ideas that we tried out in a chapter and decided to develop.
What do you hope readers will get out of your book?
We hope readers will feel like they went on an exciting ride with a satisfying conclusion. We also hope the satire speaks to parts of our readers’ lives that feel cringey or frustrating. Maybe most of all, we hope readers find warmth in the book—we tried to treat all the characters—even the “bad” ones—with tenderness, and we hope that comes through.
If you could share one piece of advice with other authors, what would it be?
Our first piece of advice is to treat writing like the collaboration it is. Even if you’re writing alone, you’re in conversation with things you’ve read and watched and listened to. Our second piece of advice is to be as flexible as possible when writing, even if you’re writing alone; if you’re willing to change your mind about what’s going to happen with/to/for your characters, so many possibilities open up. It’s exciting for you and your readers when characters end up doing things you didn’t plan from the get-go.