I kept hearing about this Beetner guy.

I’d see his name mentioned in crime-writing blogs, or I’d listen in as someone at Bouchercon would name him “a writer to watch.” And I was thrilled when the Million Writers Award named his powerful, elegantly told Thuglit story, “Ditch,” one of the three best pieces in all of online fiction in 2010. … But even so, I’d never seen the guy, chatted with him or exchanged notes with him, which struck me as a bit odd considering how tight the pulp/noir writing world seemed to be.

I found myself asking, Who, really, is Eric Beetner? Does he really exist? ….. Or worse, is he avoiding me?

At Bouchercon, I finally got to meet Eric, who I found to be very real and very cool. We soon after learned that we’d both nagged bad-ass literary agent David Hale Smith for our new manuscripts (I mean, check out that client list). We’ve since been comparing notes, sharing news and even collaborating on a skunkworks project that’s still under the tarp.

Recently, I’ve learned that he and author J.B. Kohl have published a second novel with Second Wind Publishing. In short order, Borrowed Trouble, has won praise from a variety of respected authors, including Hilary Davidson, who called it “pulp fiction at its finest.”

I had to interrogate these two.

Eric and J.B. (aka, Jenifer) were kind enough to play along.

Chimichangas at Sunset: How did you guys end up writing novels together?

Eric: I do some work with the Film Noir Foundation managing some of their social media websites, and Jennifer wrote to me asking if she could link to our site. I checked out the site she wanted to link and read about her first book, The Deputy’s Widow. It seemed like my kind of thing so I bought one and I liked it. I wrote to tell her so and sent along one of my shorts, Ditch, which was in Thuglit.

Jennifer: I really liked Eric’s work. The thing I noticed most was that our styles are similar. I got to thinking that if we wrote something together it would be a fun experiment and might actually lead somewhere interesting. I pitched him the idea of writing together . . . and heard nothing back. I think he contacted me again later about a publishing question or something along those lines and I approached the subject again. This time, he seemed receptive to the idea and within a week he sent me an idea he had for this boxer whose brother gets killed in the ring. The rest, as they say, is history. 

Chimichangas at Sunset: When I see double bylines on a novel, I always envision two people huddled around a computer. One guy is practically resting his chin on the typist’s shoulder, whispering, “No, don’t make him a transvestite. He has to be a born-again. Remember? Or a midget. A midget I could live with.” … Or, I imagine one guy on a lounge chair at the beach —  zinced up nose, dark shades, cigarette hanging off his lips — as he barks insane story ideas to his poor S.O.B. partner who’s pecking away in a dank basement outside Cleveland. …. What’s it really like?

Eric: I don’t think we’re typical by any stretch. We do everything by email. We live on opposite coasts so we’ve never had the chance to meet in person. So we’re each typing away in our respective time zones in solitude and sending out chapters into the ether and then waiting for a reply with more words to build on top of.

Jennifer: LOL. Well, Greg, your scenario would never work because I don’t use zinc on my nose . . . it clogs my pores. Eric and I have the perfect relationship. Don’t get me wrong, Eric is a great friend–one of the best I have–but I love that I don’t have to talk business with him and that we don’t have to sit in an office together and hash stuff out. We work from an outline that changes when needed–we read each other’s stuff. We edit each other’s stuff. We get the work done. It’s easy and fun. I guess that doesn’t sound very glamorous, but that’s really the way it is. 

Chimichangas at Sunset: If you had to pitch BORROWED TROUBLE to the cast of “Jersey Shore” ….

Eric: I think I’d say it has a lot violence and bad words in it. And it’s cheaper than Snooki’s book. And if there’s ever a movie made of it there are parts for all of you . . . because there are a lot of corpses.

Jennifer: I agree. Plus, don’t forget the trashing of houses and the sex and bondage. On film. 

Chimichangas at Sunset: In writing BORROWED TROUBLE, what surprised you the most?

Eric: Once again how seamless it all went. We each had a chance to write each other’s characters this time around which we didn’t get to do much of in One Too Many Blows To The Head and I expected that to be harder but I think we’re both such fans of each other’s work, even within our own book, I approached it with a real sense of respect like I had to get it right to do this guy, Dean Fokoli, justice.

Jennifer: I would have to say I was surprised at how well we did at getting the characters right. We didn’t have to correct one another on anything regarding mannerisms or language or physical description. I think I was surprised at how well Eric knew Fokoli. I had no issues with anything he wrote. He did my character justice and, in a weird way, it was flattering to read the chapters Eric wrote with Fokoli in them.

Chimichangas at Sunset: What’s next for you two?

Eric: We’re outlining a new book, different from the first two. We’re also involved in a collaborative novel with our publisher that has been really interesting. It’s called Rubicon Ranch and eight different writers from our publisher each contribute chapters building on a central mystery. It’s being published on the web right now in installments and when it’s all done it will be a published book. At this point even we don’t know who the killer is. We’re really hoping it’s our characters.

I’m also nearing the end of my fourth solo manuscript and my agent is shopping one of my solo books to publishers right now. I continue to write short stories but I keep getting ideas for novels so my output has been severely cut back. I want to do more since it is a great way to get out in front of readers. Plus it’s fun.

Jennifer: I’m looking forward to the next book we write together. Right now we’re in the “tossing out ideas to each other” phase. And that is always fun. I’m curious to see what else we can come up with. At this time we have no plans to stop writing together. And we both continue our solo work. I’m finishing up my second solo novel now and I’m not really sure what I’ll do with it once it’s done. Try to sell it, I suppose.