Indigo, which hits bookstores today, has a unique selling point: it’s a superhero novel written by 10 different authors. The book follows investigative reporter Nora Hesper, who moonlights as Indigo, a costumed vigilante who can jump from shadow to shadow. She’s on the path of a cult called the Children of Phonos, which has been murdering children in New York. While she’s killing the cultists, she learns something that makes her question her origin and memories.
The authors behind the book are largely well known in the speculative-fiction community. They include Charlaine Harris, Kelley Armstrong, Seanan McGuire, Tim Lebbon, and Mark Morris.
The project came out of a conversation at a convention bar. In a recent interview with The Verge, Christopher Golden said that he told some friends at DragonCon, “I’d always wanted to do a real round-robin novel, and I even had the germ of an idea that would be really fun. It was a whim, [and] within minutes, Jonathan Maberry, James A. Moore, Cherie Priest, Kat Richardson, and I had agreed that we were going to do it.”
Golden says after the con, he emailed the authors who had expressed an interest. Each author took a pair of non-sequential chapters and went to work, with Golden shepherding the process along and editing the project.
The biggest challenge was making sure the novel had a consistent voice. “It reached the point where I had no choice but to begin to treat each chapter as its own collaboration between myself and the author of that chapter.” The books editor at St. Martin’s Press, Michael Homler, says Golden didn’t identify which authors were responsible for which chapters when he turned in the manuscript. Readers will be left to speculate who is behind each twist and turn.
Once the authors started writing, the original scope of the story began to change. “Everyone added their own twists and turns,” Golden says. “When we got into the second half, it became the real work, as we had to start pulling all of the threads together.” The book took a year longer than expected to write, and was harder than Golden expected: “I still have nightmares.”
Round-robin novels are a sort of tradition within the science fiction and fantasy publishing sphere, and there are many examples of groups of authors working together for larger projects, like the 1990 novel Black Trillium and its sequels, which was written by Andre Norton, Marion Zimmer Bradley, and Julian May. The larger Star Wars Expanded Universe also included several multi-author projects, such as the New Jedi Order and Legacy of the Force arcs. More recently, book publisher Serial Box has begun assembling writers’ rooms of authors to assemble serialized stories for online publications. Ultimately, Golden noted that Indigo isn’t a book any of the authors could have written on their own. “Each of us contributed story ideas, character traits, humor, major twists, and full-blown characters and concepts that shot the book off onto new trajectories,” he says.
Of course, this leaves readers with a unique challenge: getting a copy of the book signed by all of the contributors.