by Danna Colman and Thom Garrett
There’s always another story to tell, and after that, there’s still the story of how that story came to be. Our backstory is so unlikely, so ridiculously improbable, and so unapologetically romantic that it’s hard to top it with fiction. It started with a simple suggestion to talk on the phone. Before we actually met in person, we talked every single night, almost all night long for six months. We never had an agenda or a topic of discussion, we just talked. We talked about anything and everything and nothing much, and our words just flowed. So before meeting in person, we each had a pretty thorough knowledge of the other and a good idea of how we felt about each other.
This would be remarkable for any two people who had never met, but it seemed even more so for us, people who mostly avoided social interactions, and one who was more than a little reluctant to compromise her treasured solitude. Most would think that two introverts would find it difficult to express themselves to a stranger over the phone. Perhaps it was the fact that we were both writers, and specifically writers of honest personal memoirs revealing painful, life-changing moments from our past. We first connected by reading and responding to each other’s stories, stories that were more personally vulnerable than most people ever have the courage to tell. Maybe that created a foundation of openness and trust. For whatever reason, we had no trouble with words.
As the days and nights ticked by, we moved with surprising speed from interest to infatuation to honest affection and love, all without a single moment spent together. Being writers, our imaginations naturally took over, and we began to write stories — just guess work — about what it might be like being in the same room. The stories were entirely romantic at first, but somehow — perhaps through our mutual frustration at not being able to kiss — they became increasingly provocative.
Our stories mirrored our phone conversations, or maybe it was the other way round. We talked about everything honestly and in detail — our childhoods, our relationships, our hopes and desires — so it was natural that we would eventually talk about love-making. And that led to talks about our sexual experiences and preferences.
At first, we didn’t speak in terms of the two of us, rather it was talk of past lovers and situations. This part of our conversation was sometimes uncomfortable, even if it was captivating and intriguing. Sometimes at the end of these talks, he would say, “Come to bed, baby,” and she would blush and quickly get off the phone.
Eventually, we began to talk about making love together and decided that it would happen at our first meeting since we had already spent what amounted to over 400 hours talking and getting to know one another. The way we figured it, if those hours had been dates, we would have been lovers long before, so why wait. And crossing that line in our phone calls led to writing more than fictional romance. Moving cautiously, we began to write out our daydreams and fantasies. We spent much of our time on the phone reading, writing, and editing. In doing so, we found that we have similar mental, emotional, and writing compatibilities. And we get each other’s personalities and sensibilities.
Much to our blushing surprise, we discovered that together we have a talent for writing erotica. For her, the most difficult part of writing erotica with a partner is the use of language. She doesn’t want to sound like a biology textbook and use “penis” and “vagina,” but on the other hand, she finds using their substitutes off-putting. So when she writes, she uses an underline to be filled in during the writing of the final draft.
She also struggles with realistic dialogue. In the real world, real people say real things during love making. At least she thinks they do. For example, one might say “my foot went to sleep” before saying “Oh, baby, fuck me deeper and harder, oh, yeah!”
We find that we attack a blank page very differently. Where she tends to jump right in without thinking about where it’s going, he waits until just the right words come to him. He seems very comfortable with sexual dialogue and has no difficulty giving a different voice to each character, where hers seem to have only one voice.
It takes a certain amount of bravery to write honestly about sex. It’s an emotional process that is compelling to read because the characters are entirely vulnerable. It is often said that one great advantage of co-writing is that two minds are always better than one. And when it comes to problem solving, our individual strengths seem to reduce our individual weaknesses. By blending our words and ideas, we can write stories that neither of us would be capable of alone.