Long before I became a writer I was a reader. I’ve always been uncomfortable with the question ‘who is your favourite author’ because that changes frequently depending on my mood, what I’m into at the time, what I’ve read most recently and want or don’t want to read more of just now, and a dozen other less definable variables. However, one writer who is always there or thereabouts is the late Roger Zelazny.
Something that has stayed with me is a note that Zelazny included in a collection regarding one of the constituent stories, where he explains that he would often jot down scenes from a protagonist’s past without any intention of seeing them published, simply to add substance to the character; so that when he subsequently wrote the novel he had this past history as a guide. I love the concept of these hidden vignettes, known by the author but unseen by the audience apart from their influence on the narrative.
When I came to write my first novel, City of Dreams in Nightmare, I attempted something similar, though in this instance the character in question was the city of Thaiburley itself. An underlying sub-plot of the novel and its sequels is provided by the fact that a century before the events depicted, the City Below – Thaiburley’s murky underbelly – had been occupied by the Blade. Although ostensibly agents of their own city, deployed by the powers-that-be to prevent enemy incursion during a time of war, the Blade’s ruthless tactics and fearsome capabilities led to them being hated and feared by the under-City’s denizens. A century later, the repercussions of the Blade’s occupation still linger.
To give this sub-plot more grounding, I sketched out a story set during the time of the Blade’s fateful deployment, a tale seen from the point of view of an insignificant resident of the City Below who inadvertently gets caught up in events they really couldn’t care less about. I liked this ghost of a story, and over the years have gone back to it from time to time, polishing and restructuring. It’s passed through a number of different iterations, including a switch of gender for the central protagonist, but eventually I had a story I was pleased with. I sent ‘Beth and Bones’ off to Holdfast magazine having met Laurel, one of the driving forces behind the project, in York last year. I’m delighted to say that Laurel and her partner in crime Lucy accepted the story, which appears in #5 of the magazine, and is available to read free online here:
Special mention too for M Vittoria Warszewski, who has provided such a stonking and vibrant illustration for the tale. If you have a spare few moments, please read the story and support Holdfast. They deserve it.