No book is an island. Hmmm…I don’t think I have that quite right. Although if the book was large enough, I suppose it could serve as a raft.
Sorry, the point I was originally trying to make is that most writers take inspiration from other books or stories or legends. You certainly saw that in my Osteria Chronicles series where I
stole borrowed the myths of Ancient Greece and bent them to my will, as well as in the Domna serial where I took a historical figure and squeezed her story into a fantasy tale.
But what about The Undead Mr. Tenpenny, the newly-released first book of my Cassie Black Trilogy. Witches, zombies, funeral homes. Surely that’s an original combination.
Well, I kind of hope so.
Wait, More Inspiration?
Now, if you were following along with The Undead Mr Tenpenny Book Launch Video Extravaganza, you’ll remember in one of the first videos I talked about the events and situations that inspired the book. And if you missed that bit of fun, you can watch it HERE.
But even with funerals and writing exercises playing a part in the initial spark of the story, the trilogy itself especially that first book was strongly influenced by one of my absolute favorite series: The Rivers of London (aka “The Peter Grant Series”).
If you’ve never met Peter Grant…
The Rivers of London books by Ben Aaronovitch are some of the most engaging stories I’ve come across in ages. But if you’ve never read them, here’s my attempt at a quick summary…
Peter Grant starts out as a police constable in London. When we first meet Peter, he’s about to encounter a ghost who tries to offer some tips on a really odd murder that’s just taken place nearby. This ghostly meeting rouses the attention of The Folly (a strange division of the Metropolitan Police).
The Folly is headed up by Detective Inspector Thomas Nightingale. He takes Peter under his wing and into the very odd living arrangements within The Folly. And from there, the die is cast. Peter’s facing up against a recurring enemy known as The Faceless Man, he’s falling in love with a river goddess, and he’s investigating crimes that often relate to British legends. And all done with plenty of tongue-in-cheek humor.
It’s all great fun, very imaginative, full of British mythology, and whenever there’s a new book (or graphic novel) in the series, I’ve gobbled it up as soon as possible.
If you haven’t started this series, I can’t recommend it enough.
And if you can get your hands on the audiobook versions…the series gets even better (check your local library, that’s where I got mine). They’re narrated by the immensely talented Kobna Holdbrook-Smith who is a master of accents. Aaronovitch has even said he throws odd accents into the novels just to mess with Kobna! Which I just find hilarious.
So What’s This To Do With Cassie Black?
Okay, while my trilogy is paranormal mystery, it certainly isn’t a police procedural/fantasy/mythology mash-up, but the Rivers of London books did have their influence in my writing.
First are the smells. Writers are constantly advised to make their stories “real” by adding in all five senses. But as we humans are mostly visual, we often fall back on using mainly visual cues.
Not Aaronovitch. He loves to delve into the smells of his characters’ surroundings. I have used the sense of smell a tiny bit to create a setting in my previous stories, but in Cassie Black, smells are everywhere!
This is especially true since each person’s magic has a specific scent, and that scent varies depending on who’s doing the smelling. Trying to figure out how to describe ginger, spruce, chalk, etc. was a great exercise in sensory perception.
Plus, don’t forget those baked goods whose smells are always wafting through the air.
Second, we have Thomas Nightingale. Peter has his own brand of snarky humor (as does Cassie Black), but Nightingale has a dry wit that I just love. He’s also a very snazzy dresser. My character Mr Tenpenny with his posh British accent, fine clothes, and no-nonsense attitude toward Cassie was greatly inspired Nightingale’s character. And I like to think the two would enjoy hanging out at a stuffy club together.
Third, there’s the magic. Now in the Rivers of London books, it comes across that anyone can do magic as long as they practice and are willing to possibly suffer brain damage. My magic system took more cues from the Harry Potter world where some people are born to it, and others aren’t.
It’s a little more complicated than that, but let’s just say not everyone can do magic although every living creature does have has a magical element in his or her cells. It’s just that only witches and wizards (and certain animals) can access that magic, whereas Norms (non-magical people) can’t.
But Magical Biology aside, the Cassie Black magic system involves a lot of physics. Although Peter Grant’s magic isn’t quite the same, he does use physics to try to understand how magic works.
I liked this scientific approach and gave it my own twist. Rather than using physics to understand magic, I wanted the magic spells in Cassie’s world to be possible using the principles of physics (if only a loose interpretation of physics). There’s plenty of talk about shifting molecules, photons, quantum theory, and even a textbook titled The Principles of Physics & Magic.
But don’t worry, it never gets too overwhelming, if you’re not scientifically oriented.
Fourth, the humor. It’s snarky, it’s dark at times, and if you like the humor in The Rivers of London, you’ll love Cassie Black’s quips. Or vice versa.
Another aspect I wanted to pull in from the Rivers of London books was its fairly diverse cast. I’ve tried to work a bit of diversity into my earlier books, but in the Cassie Black Trilogy we’ve got a mesh of brown cops, white funeral home directors, black witches (as in skin color, not as in Satanic), Eastern Indian elves, same-sex pairing ups, and more.
It’s Not An Exact Copy
While all this sounds like I’ve copied Aaronovitch’s work, trust me, our story lines and writing style are quite different. I’m only honing in on the aspects that were most strongly on my mind as I crafted The Undead Mr Tenpenny, The Uncanny Raven Winston, and The Untangled Cassie Black
As I said, Cassie isn’t in the police (I don’t think they’d even have her), she works at a funeral home.
Unlike Peter who takes right to learning magic, Cassie hates having magic and wants out of the magic world as soon as possible. The romantic story line is far different than Peter and Beverly’s. Cassie hates other people, while Peter’s super sociable. And Cassie takes Peter’s snarkiness and ups the ante.
These are only a few differences. The Cassie Black Trilogy isn’t an exact duplicate of Rivers of London, but I think the similarities in tone, fantastical mystery, and unforgettable characters will leave any fan of Peter Grant more than satisfied.
And who knows, maybe after reading my story, you’ll want to read Rivers of London if you haven’t already!
Ready for Your Copy?
Find The Undead Mr. Tenpenny (The Cassie Black Trilogy, Book 1) at…
- Ebooks: https://books2read.com/CassieBlack1
- Amazon Paperbacks: Use the link above, click the Kindle icon, then select “paperback” on the book’s Amazon page. Or search for ASIN B08WVC5D8N on your region’s Amazon store
- Non-Amazon Paperbacks: Search for the book by its title or by its ISBN 978 138 697 7674
And if you haven’t tried The Rivers of London, you can find it HERE or at your local library!