How did you get on board with “Naked Came the Cheesesteak?”
Greg Frost: Mitch approached me, asked if I would be interested in contributing. I was aware of both its predecessors–Naked Came the Stranger and Naked Came the Manatee, the latter in particular; so I said yes.
Merry Jones: It was at Push to Publish. Mitch was talking to Kelly Simmons and Greg Frost about participating, and I thought, hey, sounds like fun. Why don’t I do it, too?
Kelly Simmons: It sounded like so much fun, are you kidding me? To write outside my genre, to have no control of the story after it leaves your hands — it’s like improv!
Have you ever contributed to a serial novel written by multiple authors before? In what ways has this structure influenced your writing?
Greg Frost: I contributed many years ago to a serial work by my class at the Clarion Writers Workshop at Michigan State University.
Were you given any set requirements for the chapter you wrote?
Greg Frost: None beyond the first two chapters that preceded mine. I read through those, thought about them a bit and then proceeded.
Merry Jones: The story was supposed to be based in Philadelphia, and a mystery. Other than that, no. My chapter came early so I thought I should set up some crime, making it clear that the death in the first chapter wasn’t a fluke.
Kelly Simmons: I volunteered to go first — before I realized how hard that might be! I had a lot of setting up to do, character introductions, settings, etc, and still had to start with a bang. We had agreed only on title, murder mystery, and that we would move it around different Philly neighborhoods. I had a lot of fun interpreting the title!
Tell me a little about the characters and story in your chapter.
Greg Frost: I created a character, Vincent “Pants” de Leon, as a kind of halfwit who thinks he’s twigged the identity of the killer. His real purpose in the larger story is to be available for killing by someone further up the line. I hoped one of the later writers would loop him back in and bump him off.
Merry Jones: My characters are college kids who like cheesesteaks. They weren’t meant to continue through the chapters. They were meant to be victims….
Kelly Simmons: I had the honor of writing the first chapter — setting up the clues for the first murder, dangling possible motives, and introducing characters like a detective and a reporter that could be used going forward. But I chose to start off my chapter in South Philly with The Nicholetti family and their daughter Angela, a beautiful but mouthy and whipsmart Drexel student whose boyfriend, Josh, owns a popular, gourmet food truck whose signature dish is a Vegan Cheesesteak called The Without — and who is accused of the first murder.
How do you think the story will turn out?
Greg Frost: I’ve absolutely no idea. A lot of raw material was laid out early on, but it’s all down to the last few writers to assemble something like a cohesive narrative, to choose the door marked “Exit.” I would not presume.
Merry Jones: Haha. Good question. It’s out of my hands. I won’t/can’t even venture a guess.
Kelly Simmons: Well, since I know the person tasked with the last chapter, it’ll end with a brilliant twist, I’m sure!