Authors Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, who share the pseudonym of James S.A. Corey, discuss their first collaboration: Leviathan Wakes, the launch of a sprawling noir-influenced space opera series The Expanse.

How did your collaboration start?

DA: We met here in Albuquerque through mutual friends. Apparently I was in kind of a mood at the time, but eventually Ty decided I wasn't a total ass after all.

TF: Daniel is being modest. He already had an impressive résumé of writing credits, and I'd only sold one short story, so I spent a lot of time asking him how to get better. Also, lots of Xbox gaming.

DA: There was a role-playing game that Ty had been running for years. I played in it a few times. and the depth of the world building was gorgeous. After a few times I said that if he wanted to make it into a book, I'd do half. He took me seriously, and that turned into Leviathan Wakes.

Did working together strain your friendship?

TF: In five years of friendship and occasional collaboration, we've never fought. We're both pretty easygoing. I'd say that the most important factor in doing this sort of project without conflict is making sure you have the same goal. We decided early on what kind of book we wanted, and whenever we hit a point where we disagreed, we just asked, "Which version is most like the book we originally intended to write?"

What were your inspirations, especially outside of speculative fiction?

TF: I think our experiences growing up during the Cold War—all that constant political tension—show pretty openly in this series. And the rise and decline of the Earth as the center of human civilization in the solar system is largely a riff on the rise and decline of the British empire.

DA: Noir mystery influenced us a lot, both in written form and film. I don't think we had a particular detective in mind when we built Miller, but he certainly has his roots in the same soil as Sam Spade and Jake Gittes. I remember Ty also talking specifically about the aesthetics of the movie Alien. The economics and design of the film don't hold up when you look at them, but no one ever looks at them because there's this amazing story going on.

What's at the center of the project, for me, is something Connie Willis said about romantic comedies: you can poke fun at everything except the love of the two major characters for each other. If you cross that line, the story dies. We put two very recognizable characters in an almost nostalgic science fiction world, so respecting the internal lives of the characters was important. That real unapologetic embrace of sentiment is what makes the book work.