June 7th, 2011

Inside Track – Ben MacAllan – Desdaemona

A couple of years back, Book View Cafe made a big splash, as an author’s cooperative, where members supported members who were e-publishing their backlist.  The original members of BVC were all women (the group grew out of a mailing list of women speculative fiction authors.)  Over time, BVC expanded to include guys — and one of those guys is our Inside Track guest today.  So, without further ado…

Usually I like to say that any book starts with a title, but of course that isn’t true. All books start with an author, and sometimes we get to make them up.

Actually, I suppose we always make them up. The writerly persona is an artifact, composed over time. Novelist-me is certainly distinct from the everyday me: not quite a work of fiction, but a limited and weighted expression of myself. Working under a pseudonym only makes the process easier and more deliberate. Adopting an already-established character for that pseudonym is a whole other step away from the self; it almost feels more honest, like a declaration of artificiality…

Anyway. Back in the mid-nineties, I wrote a couple of novels under my own name, Chaz Brenchley – Dead of Light and Light Errant, both now available as e-books from Book View Cafe – which at the time I called supernatural thrillers, because I hadn’t yet encountered the phrase “urban fantasy.” They featured a young man called Benedict Macallan, who was gifted in curious directions and told his story in first person. Hold that thought.

A few years later, while writing a wholly other kind of fantasy under another name entirely (Dragon in Chains et seq, by Daniel Fox: Chinese-influenced imperial epics, following time spent in Taiwan), I found a new title squatting in my head, all unattached. Desdaemona, with its sequels Pandaemonium and Daemonogamy: at first I thought they would be post-cyberpunk SF novels, set again in a (totally different) conception of Taiwan. A theme emerged, about identity and betrayal – but then, all my novels are about identity and betrayal. And then again, what fiction isn’t…?

I didn’t neglect these books, but I didn’t write them either. My head functions as cold storage for ideas, titles, fragments; they keep fresh, however long I leave them sitting. And when at last I came back to them, the theme remained and the bare-bones plot notion that I had – but the milieu had changed completely. Now the books were set in the contemporary UK and the offset, the spec-fic element had turned to English myth rather than SF: the Green Man and Nine Men’s Morris.

This happens. And of course it keeps on happening, throughout the drafting process: why be monocultural, when you can add harpies to the mix? At which point, hell, we might as well seed the early chapters with werewolves and vampires just to make the point. And hell, let’s have a Prince of Hell…

And by this time, of course, the book is absolutely urban fantasy: at which point it suddenly makes absolute sense to me that Ben Macallan (remember him?), having written two volumes of as-it-were memoir, should turn his hand to fiction. And this kind of fiction, of course. It was so like his own life-experience, a hard world riven with magic; and they do say you should write what you know. So he did, and put his own name to it…

* * *

You can learn more about Ben, Chaz, and Desdaemona at Chaz’s Book View Cafe page:

http://www.bookviewcafe.com/index.php/Chaz-Brenchley-Bookshelf/Novels

And you can purchase Desdaemona at these vendors: Powell’s | B & N | Amazon | Indiebound | Borders

And, as always, if you comment on this Inside Track post, you’re eligible for a drawing, to receive a free copy of the book!

Mirrored from Mindy Klasky, Author.