skip to Main Content
How To Write In Collaboration With Your Life Partner: A Case Study Of Husband And Wife Team Alex Knudsen & Charlotte Zang

How to Write in Collaboration with Your Life Partner: A Case Study of Husband and Wife Team Alex Knudsen & Charlotte Zang

photo of couple together at desk

Husband and wife collaborators Alex Knudsen and Charlotte Zang

For Valentine's Day, we couldn't resist running this husband-and-wife case study of Alex Knudsen and Charlotte Zang. Although they don't co-write their books, each self-publishing their own titles. they each help the other make their books the best they can be. There are plenty of authors who don't have the support of their loved ones for their writing career, or may even be dismissive or actively hostile towards their author ambitions. Whichever situation applies to you, take heart from Alex and Charlotte's double act, described in their conversation below.


ALEX:  I feel extremely lucky to have my closest writing collaborator be my immensely talented wife, Charlotte Zang. She has independently published three novels and just finished the first draft of her fourth. She is an English major, and writes such wonderful and always fitting description for the worlds and characters she creates. This is something that doesn’t come as natural to me, so her help in that area is priceless.

CHARLOTTE: The only writing collaboration I’ve had is the ongoing one with my husband Alex and it is truly ideal. Alex comes from an acting background, having studied at USC and been in dozens of plays and films. He has also invested in over twenty years of psychotherapy. That helps when formulating characters, knowing back stories and motivations, and reflects greatly on how a character would react to situations. Alex’s insight has proved immensely helpful, and I relish aiding Alex with my comfort area of prose and structure. Sometimes I think I write better prose for him in his revisions than I do in my own books, but that’s fine.

It’s all about seeing each other succeed, and we offer our talents to each other without hesitation, uninhibited truth and trust.

How do we not fight? I trust him. I trust that I can expect him to offer me an informed solution, not just offer the blanket ‘that doesn’t work’, which does nothing for me. We fix, tutor and mold…together. But it takes trusting in yourself as well. Trusting in my work and my story, enough to defend it when I believe something is right. I feel that Alex and I both really allow that.

ALEX: Any comments, questions or suggestions that we throw each other’s way are always done with a natural respect for the work and for each other. We don’t take it personally, which I think comes from the fact that we’re both writers. In the past, I struggled with listening to suggestions and soon realized that it was because I was querying non-writers and the only thing I wanted to know was if they liked it, understood it and/or cared about the characters, I wasn’t looking for writing advice.

Charlotte is not only a writer, but a writer whose works I greatly admire, so not only am I open to advice, I rely on it and relish it.

Whereas I deliver Charlotte a completed draft for structure and description notes, Charlotte tends to come to me sporadically throughout the process with character questions and insight on back story which can really inform where her characters go from that point on. I think we both love helping each other in these uniquely different areas.

CHARLOTTE: I think in any collaboration there has to be some like-mindedness. We might not like the same things, but we have similar tastes. And that works in a couple of aspects:

  • Firstly it allows me to get out of the world of fantasy and Alex to get out of his world of dark, human tragedy.
  • Secondly, it keeps us from being one note, as every great story tends to have a peppering of different genres. Too much darkness is depressing, and too much lightness is just plain boring really.

Top Tips to Other Writing Couples

If we had some words of advice they would be these:

  • Have a conversation, don’t be defensive.
  • Show them the positives too, not just what needs changing. Both are equally helpful in mastering ones craft.
  • Don’t push the other person to go over revisions if they had a bad day, nothing will go right.

headshot of Charlotte ZangCharlotte Zang is the author of the three self-published novels: the fantastical romantic comedy Satan’s In Your Kitchen, the gothic fantasy Consuming Beauty and the horror novel Blooding. Born in Annapolis, MD, she now lives in southern California with her loving husband and their two Basset Hounds. For more information about Charlotte, visit her website: www.charlottezang.com

head and shoulders photo of AlexAlex Knudsen is the author of the upcoming horror novel The Nawie and is an established screenwriter and filmmaker for Gantry Productions. Born in Minneapolis, MN, he has made southern California his home for the past 20 years and now lives with his wife and fellow author Charlotte Zang and their two Basset Hound children Maggie and Penny. For more information about Alex, visit his website: www.alexknudsen.com

A #Valentine's special on the @indiauthoralli #Author Advice blog today about collaboration between husband & wife authors @CharlotteZang & @AlexJKnudsen Click To Tweet

OVER TO YOU Does your life partner help or hinder your writing life? We'd love to hear both case studies and cautionary tales!



This Post Has One Comment
  1. I’m fortunate in that my husband does support my work. Before he retired from his day job, he was a non-fiction editor and writer for Time-Life books and when they closed he took on a number of contract jobs with other entities like National Geographic travel books, Sunset Magazine, and a stint writing books for K-12 private schools. His background is history and language, specifically military history. He does help me a lot when I’m writing military characters in my suspense/thriller series.

    When we were first married we did try writing together on my first romance novel. He’s a musician and the series is about a group of women musicians who are in n Americana band together. The problem was he had never read a romance novel and didn’t understand the tropes. After one particular argument of would she do something at this point in the book, I made him read three Nora Roberts novels. It helped, but the reality is he doesn’t love the genre and he reads very little fiction outside of thrillers.

    Later in our marriage we tried again with my first fantasy novel. He does like fantasy. He did read Harry Potter when our kids were growing up and he’s read Tolkein. In this instance, he felt very uncomfortable with the world building. His mind is more on practical things–thus his love of nonfiction. In fact, he often tells people that there is no way he could think up all these things in a new world with magic, but he appreciates it.

    We decided it was best for him to be the background support person instead of a co-writer. He does help with my romantic suspense because the men in those books are all Marines and that is in his wheelhouse. He also has been more productive as a musician since retirement, and that gives me a chance to be in the background and support him as a roadie and doing sound checks for balance. And we have had some collaboration on original music. I provide some lyrics on a concept, he works on the music for those lyrics and then refines the lyrics and music to fit.

    It’s wonderful to have another creative in the house–though it’s not in writing. But it builds a bond of understanding the hard work it takes to live the creative life. I feel very blessed that he supports me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Latest advice, news, ratings, tools and trends.

Back To Top
×Close search