What kind of question would you like answered?

Q: What was the specific writing process like?

I wrote chapter one while David was writing chapter two. Then we met at my apartment in New York City and read our chapters out loud to each other. (Sarah was also listening.)

After the first chapters, we were convinced we could turn the thing into a book. I wrote chapter three while David wrote chapter four, and then we met to read those aloud to each other. This process continued over more than a year. We discussed plot occasionally—especially the stuff that happened with the two Wills together—and we discussed the overall shape of the novel (we wanted it to be shaped like an X), but mostly we just read to each other and then kept going.

I don’t think I actually saw David’s text until the first draft was finished. It really was a story made to be read aloud (the audiobook, incidentally, is fantastic), and although there were years of revision working to make the story cohesive, we had a hell of a lot of fun making it.

Q: How much of yours and David’s development of the two Wills was done together as opposed to separate? How much did you know about the other’s character when you were developing yours?

Well, when we were doing the initial character development, neither of us knew anything, because I knew absolutely 0 about David’s Will Grayson (except for his name) while writing my first chapter, and David knew absolutely 0 about mine.

But once we read our first chapters to each other, we knew there were enough connections between WG and wg for there to be a book. The challenge was having their problems and pleasures sync up in a way that made for a single, cohesive narrative, but if there hadn’t been some points of connection thanks to pure serendipity, we could never have made it into a book.

Q: Was co-authoring a book easier or harder than writing one on your own?

Well, it was easier because I knew exactly who I was writing for: I was writing for David. That feeling of specificity was really liberating. I just wanted to impress David and make him laugh, etc. etc.

All in all, I definitely think it was easier (I mean, David did half the work, except he really did more than half the work, because most of the major plot points fell in his chapters) than writing a book on my own.

Of course, collaborating is challenging, too, particularly during the years of revision when we were trying to mold the book into a single coherent thing.

Q: Which one of you wrote the lyrics for the musical?

Both of us, although David wrote most of the good stuff.

Q: Why did you/David decide to write will grayson in all lower case?

That’s David’s character, so you’d have to ask him. (In the past, when he has been asked, he’s noted that there are several ways you can read it: You can read it as a reflection of will feeling like a lower case person, or you can read it as being about will not differentiating between online communication (which is often all lowercase) and irl communication, or you can read it in other ways.

I think David agrees with me that books belong to their readers, although I don’t want to speak for him.

Q: What originally provoked the two of you to write a book together?

David and I became friends after he read Looking for Alaska several months before it was published. He wrote me an email; I responded (I was a fan of his books); it went from there.

Months later, he proposed this idea for a book about two boys with the same name. I was honored that a writer of David’s stature would think of me for a collaboration (I was still unpublished at the time) and immediately said yes.

Honestly, I would’ve said yes if he’d told me he wanted to write a collaborative book about the history of monastic cheese-making in Belgium. Fortunately, I found his idea really interesting, as I’ve always been interested in the relationship between the identities we’re given (names, religious background, ethnicity) and the identities we choose (nicknames, music tastes, fashion, and so on).

Q: Did you and David Levithan collaborate on the chapters where the two Wills spoke to each other?

We collaborated more on those chapters, but even then, the odd chapters are mine and the even ones David’s. We talked a lot about the actual mechanics of those chapters, and where characters needed to be when and that kind of thing.

But it was a lot of fun to write David’s will, and a lot of fun to see him write mine.

Q: Is the porn shop real?

It is.

It is in fact around the corner from where my office was in Chicago when David and I started working on the book.

Q: Did you guys agree beforehand for the novel to contain LGBT characters?

No, we didn’t agree to it beforehand or even discuss it. We didn’t discuss anything except for names, dates, and a location for them to meet.

But we only wrote one chapter each before meeting to read those chapters aloud to each other, so I knew after I’d written one chapter who David’s will grayson was. (And he knew who Tiny Cooper was, and so on.) We read each chapter out loud to each other as we went, but never exchanged the actual text until after we’d finished a draft of the entire story.

Q: Did you and David argue over ideas and characters? Did it frustrate you when he would take the story in a direction you didn’t intend?

We both surprised each other pretty regularly, I think, but never unpleasantly so. I’m a very process-oriented writer, and I’m used to deleting like 75-90 percent of my first drafts, so writing Will Grayson was obviously very different, because I couldn’t change things without affecting things in David’s half of the story.

So the revision process was very different, because we had to go through chapter by chapter and talk about how the use of language or plot events or whatever did or did not further our ideas and the reading experience, etc., but it was a really interesting and fun way of revising.

Q: What was it like for you to write about gay characters and gay issues?

I didn’t think much about it, to be honest.

Q: Did you plan the ending or anything?

No, we didn’t plan out much in advance. When we decided to try this story with two-guys-with-the-same-name, we picked a name (David picked Will, I picked Grayson), David picked a time of year (late February, early March), and I picked a location where the two guys would meet (Frenchy’s). Other than that, nothing was planned. We did, however, spend more than a year revising the book.

Q: When you were working with David Levithan, would you ever argue over the plot?

I wouldn’t say we ever argued, but we definitely discussed lots of different possibilities. David has collaborated with lots of other authors, and he’s been an editor for decades, so he knows how to deal with writers, and he did a very good job dealing with me. Mostly, though, we agreed about the overall shape of the novel. His chapters are very much his, and my chapters are very much mine, but we worked really closely together for many years to make the novel work as a thematically unified thing, instead of just being two interconnected stories.

Q: What was the experience of collaborating like?

It was great. One of the things I find difficult about writing is that it can be extremely isolating: Ultimately, it’s just you in your head trying to make a story for people who will not see that story (even in the best case scenario) for years, and who may very well never see the story. Collaboration in writing is fun for me because I know that someone will see what I’m working on with each chapter that I finish, and there’s also something very invigorating about working with a writer you admire, and I admire David very much.

Q: So Tiny Cooper is your creation?

That is correct. We like to say that I birthed Tiny Cooper, but he was raised by two dads.

Q: Which chapters did you write and which did David write?

I wrote the odd-numbered chapters and David wrote the even-numbered chapters.