Writing best-selling novels is a family affair -- The McCaffreys and the Cusslers are among the parent/child combos who have co-written books together

By Gilbert Cruz
Updated January 24, 2005 at 05:00 AM EST

Todd McCaffrey is just another guy seeking to maintain the family business. The business, though, is writing best-selling novels. After collaborating with his mother, Anne, on the last book in her 37-year-old Dragonriders of Pern fantasy series, he’s produced his first solo Pern book, Dragonsblood, in stores this month. The younger McCaffrey, 48, plans to work on future books with Anne, 78, and says the secret is deference. ”I told her early on, ‘Whatever you say, senior New York Times best-selling author, goes.”’

Likewise, Dirk Cussler has a definite edge in taking over the Dirk Pitt adventure series created by his father, Clive: He was named for the hero. Dirk, 43, who co-wrote last fall’s Black Wind with Dad, admits genetics gave him a leg up to eventually take over. ”It’s a huge advantage, and an unfair one at that,” he says. ”I feel a little guilty because I know there are so many struggling writers out there who fight just to get published.”

Todd and Dirk are following the example of Brian Herbert, 57, who wrote the 1986 sci-fi novel Man of Two Worlds with his father, Frank, before the latter’s death that year. Brian then continued Frank’s beloved Dune series in six prequels co-written by Kevin J. Anderson. Later this year, the duo will begin writing the final books (Hunters of Dune and Sandworms of Dune) in the original series, based on dozens of pages of notes left by the elder Herbert.