I am ashamed of myself. That’s why I’m not cooking dinner. A few days weeks months…O holy cr*p year ago The Ape invited me to become one of his Hall of Fame authors and I was thrilled! I’d get right on it, I assured him, just as soon as I finished writing this paragraph page chapter book series. Only… I didn’t.
Today he gave me the gentlest possible reminder and that’s why I’m not cooking. If I don’t finish this right away, the laundry and dishes are next to go. Since about all that leaves is personal hygiene, I think we can all agree that I’d better get this one done now.
In his submission guidelines, The Ape suggests that I tell my story as if we are friends. The only problem is that if my story was all that interesting, I wouldn’t be in the business of making up stories for a living. (The “for a living” part is a little writer joke.) But here goes…
I write because… I can.
Writing is verbal alchemy, so in my happy place, I’m the sorceress who converts the dross of unused disk space into a whole world of golden prose. (Of course, about then I type the words “The End” and into the happy place’s den comes Doubt, the sorceress’ embarrassing, obnoxious brother-in-law who sits on the couch drinking her beer, making body noises and offhand remarks about how the sorceress should keep her day job.)
I write fantasy because…well, I was a child who liked fairy tales. A lot. And I think every child who likes fairy tales is a tiny potential paranormal fan. Sure, some of those people grow up to become responsible adults who read all the Booker Prize winners, and speak Very Seriously about the economy and public funding for the arts. (I feel pretty sorry for them.) Personally, I still go for the fairy tales. So when I heard about the Krampus a few years ago, I was enchanted with St. Nicholas’ evil twin. It was only a small leap to the villain of Don’t Touch, whose Krampus is a monster who literally feasts on the fear and terror he inspires in children.
I also write urban fantasy because my daughter and I have this tiny little life-altering addiction to superhero movies. Okay, we’d probably starve to death with chocolate only a room away if a Marvel hero was in front of us. (Except Hulk, of course, because that would be just wrong. But in general, give some guy a spandex outfit and a mask and he owns us.)
One night we started talking about superheroes with awkward powers. Let’s say you are the Man of Steel, but you don’t dare have sex with Lois Lane because your LittleMan of Steel would probably split her in two. (And we’re not even going to discuss the havoc your Swimmers of Steel could wreck on Woman of Pasta…)
The point is that when you think about it, most people with special powers would be lining up to get rid of them and get their normal lives back. That’s where my Null City series comes in. After one day there, those with extra gifts turn into their closest human counterparts. For example, imps become baristas. (Of course, they’re now ex-PhD candidates in literature or classics who claim to be experts on third-world coffee blends and obscure world music groups. But hey – there is only so close to human that hellspawn can get…)
So the idea of Null City is that it takes our fantasy worlds and turns them into normal life. My daughter Hannah (aka obsessive cowriter) and I talked about Null City for her last year of high school. The one thing we couldn’t figure out was who the villain would be, when everyone is a hero. The problem with heroes, though, is that they don’t all have the same goals. What if each group – angels, superheroes, and just plain humans – is willing to do whatever it takes to make their right thing happen? So Hannah headed off to University in Scotland and I headed to my computer.
One year and many hours of video chats later, the first Null City book, One Way Fare, was published by Taliesin (now Hartwood). Its backstory is the founding of Null City. In the second book, Don’t Touch, the backstory is the Metro train, Null City’s connection with the outside world. Book three, Tales from Null City, has two more stories set in the Null City world, while my upcoming release, Round Trip Fare, explores what happens when saving Null City might mean destroying the world.
But I do have a little problem with most fairy tales, at least as they’ve been pasteurized and Disneycated. Writing gives me a chance to “fix” those problems. For example, my inspiration for Lette is the image of Rapunzel. But in Don’t Touch, Lette isn’t the helpless girl awaiting rescue by her prince. Instead, I go back to the origins of the folk story in sources such as Giambattista Basile’s Tale of Tales from 1616, where she is actually the hero who rescues herself and her children, and then saves her lover. Like her earliest predecessors, Lette is a tough, self-reliant young woman who tells her would-be prince, “If I need rescuing, I’ll do it myself.”
As a child, I loved books that came in long series – Mary Poppins, All of a Kind Family, the Shoe books. But the one book I loved most of all was a huge volume my mother brought back from a trip to some exotic place (Minneapolis? Milwaukee?). A collection of fairy tales from around the world, it had the most gorgeously fantastic illustrations, and probably inspired my writing today. Favorite influences would be everything from Tamora Pierce to Ilona Andrews to Molly Harper – anything with tough-minded heroines.
I guess the last thing I’d tell new friends about myself is that I get up every morning (usually at around 1:30AM but that’s a different story) and give thanks that I’m a writer. Because it has let me meet amazing, incredible, inspiring, and funny people from all over the world, while making it possible to stay in touch with old friends.
That led to a trip to India last year with two old friends, and thus to our humorous travel memoir, Do Not Wash Hands in Plates. And you know what that means?
Once upon a time there was a girl who grew up to be a writer and got to meet the world. And she wrote happily ever after. The End.
Are you a friend I haven’t met yet? If so, here is my bio and contact info:
In halcyon days BC (before children), Barb Taub wrote a humor column for several Midwest newspapers. With the arrival of Child #4, she veered toward the dark side and an HR career. Following a daring daytime escape to the UK, she’s lived in a medieval castle in England and a Hobbit House in Scotland with her prince-of-a-guy and the World’s Most Spoiled AussieDog. Now all her days are Saturdays, and she spends them consulting with her occasional co-author/daughter on Marvel heroes, Null City, travel, and translating from British to American.