Catskinner’s Book grew out of a desire to create a new mythology. I love urban fantasy as a genre, I am a huge fan of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series and Cassandra Claire’s Mortal Instruments series, for example.
However, I have begun to see a certain sameness to books that fall in that category. One author’s vampires are a little bit different from another author’s vampires, but they all fit the basic vampire template. Immortal, blood drinking, light sensitive, pretty much once you see the fangs then you know what you’re dealing with.
Now, authors can have a lot of fun pushing the edges of the envelope. What if you make vampires a completely mundane biological phenomenon, as Scott Westerfeld did in his wonderful novels Peeps and The Last Days? How many different kinds of werewolves can you fit into one novel? (See Jim Butcher’s Fool Moon for the answer.)
Still, I wasn’t satisfied with using old tropes. I wanted to create a world where the reader would have absolutely no idea what was coming next, what kind of capabilities a creature might have, what motivated the immaterial forces the characters encounter, what was possible, what was impossible–even if anything was truly impossible.
To this end I looked at writers who had created their own mythology from whole cloth. C. S. Lewis’s Paralandra trilogy, William Burrough’s Nova Express and Soft Machine, China Mieville’s New Crobuzon novels, even Lovecraft’s Cthuhlu mythos–it has become a cliche now, but it was totally unlike anything else at the time it came out.
Have I succeeded? Well, I certainly succeeded in having fun. I loved writing Catskinner’s Book, and I currently plotting a sequel. It remains to be seen if readers will find James and Godiva’s world as fascinating as I do.