How We Met: Roderick Gordon & Brian Williams

'We've clashed over semi-colons and had one ridiculous argument at 4am about describing fog'
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The Independent Online

Brian Williams, 47, is an artist, film-maker and co-author of children's bestseller Tunnels, the first in a planned trilogy of books written with Roderick Gordon. He lives in Hackney, London

We clicked immediately. We were both into industrial culture; Joy Division was massive to us. We'd go to gigs and parties, and swap clothes; I couldn't do that now, though – I wouldn't fit into anything of his.

It wasn't a shock that he went into the City after university, but I knew he was worth more than that. I moved out to east London and carried on with my art, and our lives separated for a while until Rod got made redundant in 2001.

At the time it was terrible for him, but looking back it was a blessing. We'd kept in touch and I started to go over to his house and knock about film-script ideas. Rod's wife, Sophie, suggested we write a children's story. I remember thinking "I'm not a children's writer, I'm a serious artist," but an idea took hold.

When we started on the first book, it was as if I was living at his place. Rod is like a wildcat on the keyboard. He'd be in his smoke-filled den typing away at his Mac, while I hate word processors, so I'd sit out in his garden with a Panama hat and a long drink, scribbling all over his printed sheets with ideas. So far we've clashed only over stupid things, such as semi-colons. We had one ridiculous argument at 4am about describing fog. It ended with me shouting, "To hell with it," and walking out.

It's not just about work; we have a giggle together. We both love to shop for gadgets; I'm one of those people who, even if I've got no money, I encourage others to spend.

We love to wind each other up, too. He's a real stickler for the English language and hates to hear it torn apart; I love it when people do violence to language, cut it up, like William Burroughs. But if you do that with Rod, you'd better run.

Since we've started on the third book, Rod's moved to Norfolk, so we do a lot of our work over the phone – reading stuff out and sending images over the computer; it's not as intense as the first book. When I visit I always have a ball with his kids. I don't think I'd be a fantastic father, but I'm a good uncle.

We never expected to get rich by writing a book, so we have moments where we look at each other and laugh. I have a lot of friends, but actual best friends who you'd trust with your life – he's right up there.

Roderick Gordon, 47, is a former corporate financier whose first book with Williams was published in 2007. The pair recently landed a $1m film contract for a retelling of the novel. He lives in Norfolk with his wife and their two children

Brian was part of this group from Slade who were always drinking at the union. We were very different; me the ex-public school boy, him with a broad Liverpudlian accent. But once we started talking, we didn't stop; we'd come up with ideas and say, "That would make a great book."

After university, I ended up at an investment bank for two decades, while Brian kept true to what he always wanted to – his art and painting. He never said anything, but there was this look in his eyes that I'd sold my soul to the devil.

I was made redundant in 2001 and my outgoings were horrendous, so I felt a lot of pressure. But at least I had my life back. I'd kept in touch with Brian – he was a 10-minute bike ride away – so we would meet and talk through ideas; we started work on a screenplay thriller. Now, of course, we're focusing on the Tunnels trilogy.

With Brian, it's a joining of minds. It's as though we butt our heads together and sparks fly. He can finish my concepts for me. It's uncanny. We generally kick off late and work into the small hours. We scribble notes down, I go and do the first cut on the computer, he'll scribble all over it, and I put that back in the machine again. The work belongs to both of us, but in a way the result belongs to a separate identity. Brian always calls it the "third mind".

When we're together we're like a couple of big kids. We shout ideas, have a laugh and often become unruly. My sons are eight and 10, and there are times when they say, "Daddy and Brian, will you stop it."

Initially my only ambition for the first book was to make enough money so we could do a second at some point. Tunnels has been so successful, it was a shock. But the second one was tough to do; it's shortened my life considerably. We've already begun the third book, so we've got to go through it all again.

I moved up to Norfolk with my family quite recently, although it hasn't affected our friendship; I missed the noise of London so much I've rented a small flat in Islington, and I now see Brian at least two days a week. We'll get some sausage and mash at a café. We shop together too, and he's an awful influence; he'll say, "Go on Rod, you like that shirt in Paul Smith."

This thing we have might not have worked if he didn't get on with Soph or the kids, but they absolutely love him. When he comes up to Norfolk, Brian is like everyone's favourite uncle. It's fantastic.

'Deeper', by Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams, is the second book in the trilogy and is out now (Chicken House, £6.99)

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