Home > Newsletter > Ian C. Esslemont on Collaboration

Ian C. Esslemont on Collaboration

In a recent interview I commented that Steven Erikson and I have often been approached by people expressing surprise, even disbelief, at our long-standing collaboration in a co-created world (The Malazan Empire). These comments always come as a surprise to us because in retrospect the process seemed an entirely natural one. It simply unfolded organically—we worked the world out together, bouncing ideas off each other and laughing an awful lot in the process.

In many ways writing is actually a profoundly lonely and isolating undertaking. For me it was a privilege and a pleasure to have someone to share the material with. And I benefited enormously. I hope Steve did so, too. And I’m sure the product, the stories themselves, benefited as well. The give and take, the topping of ideas and undermining of each other’s characters’ goals, all added an extra layer of complexity and—dare I say realism—to so many threads. So many times one of us picked up what the other had added only to turn it completely inside out, or reverse it entirely, all to the surprise and enjoyment of both. I remember one particular immortal exchange between us (one that has yet to see print) wherein I explained that the paranoid Kellanved, then owner of a bar named Smiley’s, was spying and listening in on his employees by drilling holes in the floor of his office over the bar. Later, Steve had Dancer come upstairs, see Kellanved with his ear pressed to a hole and his bum in the air, and promptly kick him across the room. We threw that scene at each other across a table in Victoria, B.C.

After those early years the material lay fallow for quite a while. Yet the dream of writing never went entirely away for either of us. In the end it was Steve’s stubborn determination (and extraordinary talent!) that dragged it through to its eventual realization. Then, even though time had intervened, it was the natural thing to simply pick up the material once again knowing full well what had to be done. And since then, for me, it has all been a matter of attempting to do justice to what we begun. All I hope to do is give fullest depth and emotional truth to what we created.


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  1. May 2, 2011 at 12:10 pm


    Awesome stuff–your openness and honesty are so refreshing. Can’t wait to read your next novel! It was a complete pleasure interviewing you over at Elitist Book Reviews. Hopefully we can do a follow-up later.

    And don’t sell yourself short. Your portion of the series is terrific! The two of you must have a veritable library of material just keeping everything straight. I’ve heard told many times that the secret to collaboration is that each person puts in the combined effort of two people to make it all work. Keep it up!

  2. March 22, 2012 at 11:05 am

    I’m a fan of the series and I loved the last book by ICE (Orb, Sceptre,Throne). Antsy was great. I’m looking forward to more Iron Bars, one of my favorite characters in Malazan, and more of the rest of the Avowed/Crimson Guard.

  1. May 2, 2011 at 11:47 am
  2. May 2, 2011 at 11:47 am

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