I had a chance to interview Andy and Berk Washburn, the brain trust behind PITCH GREEN, the newest release from Jolly Fish Press. I reviewed PITCH GREEN here. If you like a good, spine-tingling read, these guys have a story for YOU!
First off, do you go camping? If so, which of you tells the best campfire stories?
We used to do a lot more camping than we do now, though we still do some camping with our church youth groups and with our grandchildren. We both still tell campfire stories, but Berk concedes that, around the campfire, Andy is the more practiced scary story teller.
If you’ve ever been Scout leaders: Estimate the number of Boy Scouts you’ve scared into wetting their sleeping bags over the years.
We both have been Scout leaders for many years, and though it would be unkind to accuse any Boy Scout of wetting his bed (though it has been known to happen), we have probably told scary campfire stories to hundreds of Scouts over the years.
PITCH GREEN. Is it your first novel? Give my blog readers an overview of the plot, would you?
Though we both have been working on other fiction novels, PITCH GREEN is our first novel to be published, and it is the first book in the Dimensions in Death YA horror series. Based on a scary story we used to tell our siblings and friends as kids, this book follows our protagonists as they battle against an unseen evil presence lurking in an old mansion in a desolate mining town, deep in the Mojave Desert. Camm and Cal are destined by their wit, pluck and luck (not always good) to become the balancing force in this world against monstrous predators that keep showing up around the strange, deserted mansion. They must make a stand against the mansion’s bloodthirsty guardian, any alien visitors who might want to come through the mansion in search of easy prey, and the forces of the U.S. Federal Government, who are using the mansion to access unlimited natural resources. Camm is the brains, Cal is the muscle and together they make a formidable team when they decide to work together. They are joined by FBI Agent Linda Allen, who is smart, resourceful and not easily intimidated by those protecting the government’s secrets. They barely have time to catch their breaths or scratch the surface of what is happening and do not understand the nature of what they are facing. By the end of the first book, they have left a doorway to horror wide open and unguarded.
Where did you come up with the idea for your “creature?” (It’s hideous, by the way. Well done.)
From the time we were old enough to sleep over night at a friend’s house or have a friend sleep over at our house, an important part of the sleep-over ritual was the late-night telling of scary stories, and there was no better scary-story teller than our own mother. Scary stories are a Washburn Family specialty, and from the time we were little, a family favorite was a story about a giant, vicious green rat. Variations of this twenty-minute story have been told to family, friends and complete strangers in many different settings over the years and were the basis for Pitch Green. There is more than one type of creature in the bigger story, but each new creature will be properly introduced as the series unfolds.
So, does this creature have a name? (I didn’t see it named in the book.) Or is it a secret? Or maybe you can’t agree…
We’ve been calling it the Guardian. We can only reveal so much in the first book.
My sister-in-law and I love team writing. How is it to team write for you two? Do you ever argue? If so, what’s the thing you disagree on most often?
As brothers, we get along well and have had no reason to argue so far. We are two old lawyers with a healthy level of mutual self-respect, so we can freely share ideas and challenge each other without worrying about egos. We are more creative when we are bouncing ideas off each other and discussing a general storyline, but we actually write separately, later conferring on what we have been doing. Though we sometimes disagree on specific wording, there is usually some friendly give and take as we consider alternatives, but we usually agree quickly on the final wording. We are different in how we approach a story. Andy used to be a planner (a habit from writing like an attorney), but in writing fiction, he no longer plans ahead. He likes to develop his characters, and then let them take the story where it is going to go. Berk is definitely a planner. He is always making lists and outlines for both the current story as well as future stories. Our mutual work product is better than anything we could have done separately, and we both appreciate the different skills and perspective that we each bring to the joint process.
Is Trona a real place? I have heard of a borax lake somewhere… Did you ever live there?
Trona, California, is a real mining town, located in a desolate area of the Mojave Desert, not far from Death Valley. Andy and I are part of a large family who grew up in that region in the 1960s and ‘70s. We spent many days exploring hundreds of square miles of isolated desert and high-mountain country around Trona. Our father was a dentist, who built up a practice in Trona, and while we were growing up, he was the only dentist in town. As the good citizens of Trona mined the minerals of Searles Valley, Dad mined their teeth.
When, in turn, Andy and I went off to college, we left the desert and never looked backed. We thought we were done with Trona forever, but couldn’t have been more wrong. After we each moved to Colorado for different reasons, we talked for some time about starting a business together. We have always been story tellers, first to our siblings, then to our own children, and now to our grandkids–scary stories are a specialty. A few years ago, I started writing a young adult science fiction series, so when Andy also tried his hand at writing fiction, it didn’t take long for us to come together as The Brothers Washburn on a young adult horror series. The tale is of course set in Trona, California, the perfect setting for a horror series.
I loved Cal and Camm as hero/heroine of the story. Talk a little about what their personalities are like so my readers will get a glimpse of these two.
Camm is the story’s main character. She is caring and good hearted, but at the same time, tends to quickly assess new problems, decide on the best solution, and rarely doubts her choices. She is smart, brave, knows her own mind and has the highest GPA in the senior class. Nobody is smarter than her, and she knows it. Cal is a few months older than Camm, and the two grew up together. They have been close friends since they were very small children. As a senior, Cal is strong, tall and fast—he is a star on the high school football team. Unlike Camm, he is caught up in what the other teens are thinking and doing at school, in what is cool. While he is popular with many of the girls, he thinks Camm is beautiful and would like to have a romantic relationship with her, but she insists they are just friends and have always been just friends. Camm has no use for a boyfriend or any kind of romance. All his life, Cal has been taking orders from Camm, but he resents her always bossing him around and is feeling like he should have a girlfriend. Over the years, each has learned a lot from the other, and they really are best friends, but now, the question is, where do they go from here?
The book ends a bit open-endedly. Do you have plans for a sequel in mind?
The general outline for Pitch Green, the first book of many in our horror series, is based on the basic elements of a favorite childhood scary story that we expanded into a full-length novel. Andy wrote the first rough draft, and then, in our typical tag-team effort, I took that draft over to edit and expand the tale. In the writing of the first book, the ground work was laid for many sequels and prequels in that series. The whole tale that will unfold in the series is both long and complicated. However, writing as The Brothers Washburn, we are having more fun in the spinning of the tale than should be legally allowed, but we’re not worried, we know some good lawyers.
I think I remember your saying you explore old mines. My husband and I had a prenup (lawyer talk, as he’s one too) about that. He could explore old mines, and I never, ever had to iron his shirts. How do your wives feel about a) your mine interests? b) your being book writers? Which is more dangerous, in your opinion?
We’ve been exploring old mines since our youth, and early in Berk’s marriage, he took his wife on some old mine adventures, but that kind of thing is really not interesting to either of our wives. While we continue to look for old mine adventures, we now go with sons and grandsons. Our wives (and sons’ wives) tolerate it, but don’t encourage it. On the other hand, our wives actively encourage our book writing efforts and have participated in the writing and social media effort. We couldn’t do it without them. While mine exploration and book writing both have their respective risks, our wives view the mine exploration trips as a thrill ride without a purpose, and the book writing is seen as more an investment than a senseless thrill. Like Camm, our wives are both smart and practical in their approach to life.
I loved the book, even though I’m usually what guys your age probably termed a ’fraidy cat back in your schoolyard days. Who do you see as your audience for the book. (I might argue with you about this, counselors.)
We have spent our whole lives telling scary stories to youth (from 8 to 28, both male and female), so we have targeted the youth and young adult market in our horror series, and we’re hoping this will also include adults who are young at heart.