By Porter Anderson / @Porter_Anderson
Three Books, Three Authors, One Dream
One morning in 2010 or 2011, I woke with a scene from a dream stuck in my head. It was so vivid I couldn’t shake it.
And Kristina Makansi has done just that, in association with her two daughters, Amira and Elena. The result is a series, The Seeds Trilogy, a SELF-e selection that to date includes the first two books, The Sowing and The Reaping. The third book, The Harvest, is scheduled for spring 2016.
“As we began work on The Reaping,” Kristina Makansi tells us, “Amira wrote The Prelude, a novella focused on a ‘fan-favorite’ character,” so there’s a third element available now, that novella, even as the third book is still in the works.
And together, this trio has put together a growing story world and series of writings that—as SELF-e’s attention shows—is gathering a widening circle of attention.
Maybe the family that writes together can self-publish together, too. That initial vision, Makansi says, was potent:
It was so vivid I couldn’t shake it. After telling Elena about it—she was in high school—we decided it would make a good novel. Together, we began brainstorming and we wrote some initial chapters, but it went nowhere. Life got in the way and it sat for a year or so until Amira, who was in college at the time, got hold of it and ran. She created a timeline and began developing ideas for a story arc encompassing three books. Then we divvied up writing assignments and launched the project.
The Makansis’ trilogy is dystopian and gets comparisons to Hunger Games and the Divergent series from some readers. In a market with a great deal of this sort of material, the three writers’ process is distinctive. Kristina describes it well to us:
The story is told from two points of view: Remy Alexander and Vale (Valerian) Orlean, our main characters. For The Sowing, Amira, who always had guys as best friends growing up, wrote Vale’s point of view, and Elena and I shared Remy’s. As we wrote, I also did basic editing and when the ms was complete, I went back through and did a full edit to make sure that the voice was consistent and that it didn’t sound like it was written by three very different people.
Then we edited again and again, all three of us. We argued quite a bit and I remember one knockdown, drag-out—figuratively speaking—over a single word, although I don’t remember what word it was. I know we all felt very strongly about it. As we got closer to the finish line, Amira found a young artist online [Kevin Weitzel]—he was in high school—who helped us design our covers. I did the interior layout and we also did our own ebook conversions and uploading.
In getting to the second book, the approach changed somewhat:
For The Reaping, we all contributed more to all the chapters. Amira was the lead author—Elena was now in college and Amira had graduated—though we all contributed to both the writing and editing process. We each have very strong opinions on our story world and our characters.
We’re now working to finish The Harvest and are getting ready to launch the audiobook edition of The Sowing.
As it happens, the coordination and technical elements of producing a trilogy are well within Kristina Makansi’s reach. She’s the co-founder of Blank Slate Press, which is part of the Amphorae Publishing Group of small publishers in Saint Louis. Her Blank Slate Communications, with daughters onboard, is an author-services outfit. She’s the author of a previous book, Oracles of Delphi, written as Marie Savage.
Daughter Elena is an Oberlin graduate in environmental studies and has a Facebook page devoted to her vegetarian interests, Fuck Yeah Vegetables. Her sister Amira is a University of Chicago graduate in history and is a winemaker in California. Her creative writing site is The Z-Axis.
Kristina Makansi says working with her daughters is every bit the pleasure that many mothers might imagine it is: “Having my two daughters as my writing partners has been and is one of the greatest joys of my life. They are smart and talented and opinionated, and a joy to work with.”
And the dream that got things started, she says, has survived:
Despite all the editing and rewriting and cutting, that scene is in The Sowing with the essential elements very much as I remember it.