Three Weeks with my Brother presented a unique challenge in that it was the first time I’ve worked with a co-writer, let alone with a co-writer of limited experience. Micah, though highly intelligent, is not an author, and the challenge was made even greater by the fact that this book was my first attempt at non-fiction as well. There was also the difficulty in making our individual perceptions uniform. We were both well aware of the fact that memory is not always accurate and that our feelings now (and then) can greatly influence the accuracy of our recollections.
With that in mind, both my brother and I took detailed notes throughout the trip, trying to recreate our dialogues word for word. After returning from our trip, I spent the next few months finishing up The Wedding,during which time, neither one of us looked at these notes. Once The Wedding was completed, I received Micah’s notes and compared them to my own; the end result (the book) was that our conversations were as accurate (if sometimes abbreviated) as I could make them.
As far as the past . . . this was a bit more difficult. We wanted the back story – the memoir – to be as honest as we could make it, but because neither my brother nor I kept a diary growing up, we weren’t able to recreate the every detail of our life. Rather, we chose to focus on those specific details we could still remember vividly, details which served to illustrate a particular period or mood in our life. For instance, when we wrote of our time in Los Angeles, the major stories concerned Blackie the raven (illustrating how we were allowed to wander alone and unsupervised, as well as my growing admiration of my brother), Micah fighting the older girls in the junkyard (illustrating the fact that our mother taught us, from a young age, to solve our own problems), the earthquake (illustrating our faith and love of our parents), and the growing arguments between our parents (showing our fear and the fact that, despite our relatively wild upbringing, we were still little kids).
The obvious question for anyone who reads Three Weeks with my Brother is how much is true? Are the stories we did tell accurate? The answer is simply that the stories are as accurate and true as we could make them. There were many times where my brother and I had different recollections; in these instances, we simply chose not to use those events. We were fortunate in that we had plenty of stories to choose from; ours was not an unmemorable childhood or adolescence. (And yes, by the way, our mother really did let us roam the streets of Los Angeles when we were five; don’t ask me why.).
The second question, and probably the most frequently asked question is really two-fold: How much did Micah write? And how did you work, since one of you lives in California and the other lives in North Carolina? Anyone who’s read my work can probably answer the first part easily: I did most of the writing. Or rather, I did most of the writing in its final book form. I would ask Micah to write about a particular event; he would and I would then edit it, sometimes rather substantially. I would then write a section, send it to Micah, and he would send it back to me, usually unchanged. (I did have a bit more experience, after all). We spoke daily on the phone, we discussed every sentence in the novel, and he told me stories orally as well; these were then written by me to the best of my recollection, at which point I would pass them on to him for his review.
As for the writing; in many ways, this was among the easiest of the books in which I’ve written. I knew, after all, the beginning and the end of our trip around the world. With Micah’s help, I was also able to recreate the memoir fairly easily. The only challenge came in the structure; how to balance both the trip and the memoir in a way that would keep the pages turning. I must say that it wasn’t all easy, however; as we worked on those sections regarding the deaths of my mother and father and my sister, the struggles and worries about Ryan, there were many times when I had to pull away from the computer and I’d find myself sitting alone in my office for an hour, trying to compose myself. Writing, after all, is about honesty, and recreating those feelings for the readers made recreating them for me as well. Writing the book forced me to remember – and re-experience—things I would rather not think about. The end result, however, was a book that both Micah and I are extremely proud to have written.