The skeleton of my story … serves as a useful guide, not only in terms of inspiring the questions my world-building needs to answer, but also as a kind of framework on which I can bounce the story around, and chop and change as needed.Dan Buchanan on knowing the story you’re telling
Shortly after Gollancz’s Rivers of London Award, I got in touch with the winners and other shortlistees to find out more about them and thier projects. In this post, Dan Buchanan talks to me about her novel, The Scent of Cloves, and her influences as a writer.
Tell us about the work you submitted to the RoL award in a tweet or less.
The Scent of Cloves tracks the story of the restless years preceding the war through the eyes of Bahira Solomon, Arbiter, and on the trail of dangerous sentiments brewing in the corners of vampire society.
Where are you in your process with the work?
At this precise moment? Writing through the nascent urge to delete everything I’ve done so far and begin again.
What are a few things that inspired or influenced your novel?
The first is an abiding love of vampires, as a concept. This is balanced by the second thing, which can best be described as a particular weariness with the shape and heft of the vampire canon as it currently stands. Finally, I wanted to tell a story cooked up in my world, all mixed up and anxious and brittle with culture and history, with enough of both that it hasn’t cracked under the pressure. Yet. This project is fuelled by that.
Could you share the first line or paragraph?
*breathes gently-like into a paper bag* I wish I could…
What is one key part of your writing process?
An important element of storytelling, for me, is knowing the story you’re telling. Within my process, I find it helpful to lay out the skeleton of my story before getting on with most of the other bits and pieces. It serves as a useful guide, not only in terms of inspiring the questions my world-building needs to answer, but also as a kind of framework on which I can bounce the story around, and chop and change as needed. It’s by no means a fixed thing, but it is a starting point
Which book or author has most influenced you and why?
Lucky for me, the two are linked. I first read Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey when I was about fourteen years old, and it’s been a well-thumbed favourite ever since. Above everything (which is saying a lot, since the plot, character creation and development, and worldbuilding are *chef’s kiss*), Carey’s luscious, gorgeous prose has always stirred a certain part of me that lives and dies for beautiful word craft. It has influenced every word I’ve ever written since.
Finally, what are you reading at the moment?
Well, first up is Katy Rose Pool’s There Will Come A Darkness; no feedback yet, unfortunately, but I’m only a few chapters in so time will tell. I’m also eyeing up Gideon the Ninth by Tamysn Muir, and Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia.
And what is one book you would wholeheartedly recommend everyone to read right now?
Stop everything you are doing and read the first instalment of the Terra Ignota series by Ada Palmer. Too Like The Lightning, a phrase borrowed from Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, is a book that wavers brilliantly between science-fiction, fantasy, dystopian utopias, and alternate futurism. It is sharply and exquisitely flavoured with magic, cosmic philosophy, intrigue, mystery, religion, lust, and a profound and liminal commentary on society and us. Also, it will blow every single one of your nerve-endings like a bulb and it’s sensational.