Barb and J.C. Hendee on Duo Writing and The Dead Seekers


Cover detail: The Dead Seekers by Barb and J.C. Hendee /Penguin Random House ©

Barb and J.C. Hendee are a married writing duo who have often been referred to as a “powerhouse” team. Hmm? In reality, they spend most of their time holed up in their townhouse on the south end of Portland, Oregon, with their two cats, Ashes and Cinders. When they are not writing, researching, or teaching college courses (online), they can usually be found eating meals together at odd times of the day or deciding what to watch on Netflix.

Today, Barb decided to interview J.C. — just to see how well she knows him.

Barb Hendee: So … you’ve now written a total of fifteen novels with me. Yikes. What’s the best or easiest part of working with me? What is the hardest or the worst part?

J.C. Hendee: I’m usually best at the big and the tiny; connecting between the two is where I still suck! Fortunately, that’s where you live. Over the years we’ve narrowed the gap a bit, but those strong suits still fit. But probably my biggest strength — like yours, but different — is I know when and how to take the characters to the nasty side, even — especially — the heroes.

Of course, you’re there to pull me back when I take that too far — even if I fight it, at first. That’s the nature of a dragon who couldn’t make his life work with anyone but a fairy. Very odd, but it works like nothing else before in my life.

BH: Hah! Okay, I’ll look past the fact that you just called me a fairy.

So, after creating and finishing a looooong labor of love like the Noble Dead Saga, we’re finally starting something new with The Dead Seekers. For you, what’s the best part of working on something new?

JCH: Learn from past mistakes … like don’t EVER [again] write a 14 volume “saga”! Too many smaller threads around so many important characters on the move across a whole world were left dangling.

BH: Who’s your favorite character in The Dead Seekers? Why?

JCH.: Oh, come on! Not a fair question, like you don’t already know …

I’m deep inside all three characters — if we included Heil, or Heilman — though as yet I can’t quite see all details of the next tale to come. Bits and pieces are building up.

I empathize with Tris at the deepest levels of his moral dilemma because he’s trapped and tragic. Conflicted and willing to consider the worst sacrifices altruistically for the sake of others, but those choices are also selfish in trying to escape everything. Great character to work with, but …

Heil — Heilmann — makes me snicker, as he’s a nasty old man of dark humors — for good reasons to come. He’s highly self-educated with a flawed past, but even that’s not enough …

For a kindred spirit willing to get feral, dark, and bloody — righteously or just because nothing else will satisfy — and because what’s right is by instinct and not morals or ethics …

Oh, it’s definitely Mari, nasty and tragic in her own right … bloody, bloody Mari!

BH: Where do your ideas come from?

[As Barb cracks up laughing (finding herself quite amusing) at the cliché absurdity of that question, J.C. rolls his eyes and pretends she has not spoken. She moves on.]

BH: If you could wave your hand and make one of our canceled favorite TV shows return to the air, what would you choose? And you can’t say Firefly.

JCH: Umm … I … well … [sigh]. That’s too hard this early in the morning. Off the cuff, maybe Eureka Terra Nova … or another season of Leverage.

BH: I love cats. You know I love cats. But at some point in our lives, I would like to have a dog. Why won’t you let me get a dog?

JCH: Let you? [Another roll of eyes.]

Big question! You know I prefer animals over humans, in general. There is a special honesty — openness — in them that can’t be found in 99% of humanity.

I grew up fighting with three big dogs for a place to sleep in a single bed. This included my best “chum,” dropped in my crib as a puppy when I was only 6 months old.

Scampy was a nasty piece work — ¼ Cocker Spaniel, ¼ Coyote, ½ Black Labrador — but she adored me and her hunting buddy, my father. A bit of Mari’s nature get its inspiration from her.

Cats just better fit the way we’ve lived in many places, especially now that we’re back in “townhouse” life and not at the house we left behind.

A small dog might work, but not as well as a cat … or cats. Life tells me without thinking about it when I have met my next “kin” in fur. And the same for you — admit it!  Like the many strays — dogs, cats, whatever — that come to only our door, be it in a big rural neighborhood or a 48 unit apartment complex in our university days.

They needs us — they know what we are. They find us specifically beyond reasoning. That this has been mostly cats — no matter my personal challenge with their species — is fate.

BH: Final question. What do you want for dinner tonight? And you can’t say tofu.

JCH: Salmon, no matter that I’ll have to fight off Ashes trying to paw it off my plate. Okay, it’s not much of a fight, since I always give in.