Back in 1995, while I was waiting for the first of my two anthologies with illusionist David Copperfield to hit the shelves, I was having dinner in the coffee shop at the old Maxim Hotel here in Vegas. On my way to the bathroom, I passed by an area where they were shooting a commercial with Evel Knievel (who was part owner of the hotel), so I stopped to talk to him. He reminded me that he had started out his adult life as an English teacher and suggested that I do a book with him like the ones I was doing with David. Feeling very Hollywood, I said I'd have my people call his people and went back to dinner.
About a month later, I was in New York, at the Fashion Café, for the official launch of the Copperfield book and spoke to some of the authors who had done stories for me. Kevin Anderson, Matt Costello, and Paul Wilson were all there, and agreed that an adventure book with Knievel-like daredeviltry sounded like fun. Originally, Eric Lustbader, S.P. Somtow, and Mickey Spillane were interested in taking part, as well.
"My people" and "Knievel's people" never managed to get together on the project, so Kevin, Matt, Paul, and I decided to do the book as a novel, each contributing part of the story, then working together to make it a cohesive whole. The other three were involved with other projects, and seven authors would have been unwieldy for a novel anyway.
New York was skeptical at best. "You're proposing a novel with a single voice? Authored by four name authors?" Think raucous laughter. "Can't be done, Berliner."
I'm here to tell you it can be done. My friends and I did it in ARTIFACT.
To start things off, I grabbed a few elements from my life and tossed them in the pot. Before I moved to Las Vegas, I had lived in Grenada for a year, so I knew that some of the book would be set there. It's an amazingly beautiful island, with wonderful people, and a really great old prison for the prison break scene. Besides, I could steal from the lives of my friends, one of whom spent the entire four years of Communist rule in a cell in that prison, and another was a fellow ex-pat South African.
Kevin wanted to do a story with a deep sea drilling rig and eco-terrorists; Matt and Paul had ideas about diving deep-sea caves and finding an otherworldly device. All of the elements went into the pot and the four of us stirred them around until an outline popped out and peopled itself with the various characters that we created from the fabric of odd folks we had met during our travels to places around the Caribbean and South America.
Of course, it helps that Kevin, Matt, Paul, and I have a lot of years of experience working with other writers, so we don't fall into the potholes that often wreck the axel of a collaborative vehicle, like getting our individual egos too wrapped up in a particular scene or character. More than anything, it helped that we were determined that the book would be fun to write and read and that we would stay friends, or we'd just chuck the whole thing. We were looking for that Clive Cussler adventure feel, which is why I was so proud when Clive praised the book as "Full of action with terrific characters and a fast moving plot."
Now our hope is that readers enjoy it as much as we enjoyed writing it.