Kage Baker was an incredibly prolific writer. She wrote every day, nearly all day; when she wasn’t literally clicking out stories on the keyboard, she was researching them. Research involved tracking down reference material, sure – but for Kage it also required field trips, background music and even menus. (Somewhere in the gestation of every Mendoza story, for instance, there was a tamale feast.) Kage wanted an entire environment created around her in order to write. Did she need it? I don’t think so – she wrote everywhere – but it was what she liked.
Every novel, every story, had its own soundtrack, which meant she would simply put something on repeat and listen to it over and over and over. Some of them made sense to me, the constant auditor: Vaughan Williams’ Sinfonia Antarctica was perfect for Empress of Mars, and the soundtracks for the three Pirates of the Caribbean films were obvious for her pirate novella, The Maid on the Shore. But the immersive Tudor atmosphere of her very first novel, In The Garden of Iden, was composed to the Police’s Synchronicity, and Not Less Than Gods was written to a background of Gilbert and Sullivan. Kage’s mind was a strange and interesting place …
Luckily, I lived with that mind my entire life; for the last 42 years, I lived literally in it. We left home together (Momma gave us ten bucks and a dozen eggs as a housewarming present). We built a household together, where our friends and lovers and jobs and cars and socks and notebooks and joys and woes were all combined; they all came and went, but we stayed together. We built an embassy, the Embassy of Us, and in it Kage wrote and wrote and wrote. And talked to me about it, and told me the stories. She argued them out with me – we’d turn on the lava lamps, the Official Lamps of the Weird, and hammer out plots and characters by the wavering shadows. The soundtrack for that was vast and convoluted and sometimes outside the range of human hearing, but God! What a song it was!
The last months of her life, Kage made sure I had all her notes, all her ideas, all her drafts of stories. She made me swear to finish them. And while I may have complained about listening to Thomas Tallis or Iolanthe for days on end (and I did) I would not dare break that last oath to Kage. She wanted the sequel to The Women of Nell Gwynne’s done first, and that’s what I’m working on now.
So I’ve set up her desk, complete with the Lamps of the Weird: though I’ve replaced the figurine of Eugene Krabs with my miniature Stonehenge. I sit down every day and try to write. Most days I manage about 1,000 words; Kage always considered that a minimum. I don’t have her finely honed discipline yet (or her possible OCD … ), but I am trying to channel that into my work space. I need an atmosphere. I need an environment. I’m auditioning music every day, to see what the soundtrack is for the Ladies in their new adventure.
It might be Jethro Tull. It might be the Watersons. It might be the telly, on low in the next room in an endless river of voices, laugh tracks and gunshots. But it’s been coming clearer these last few days, and I think it’s probably going to be … Rimsky-Korsakov. Scheherazade. Odd, for a tale set in 19th Century Torquay (look it up, kids) but, yeah – that’s where the voices are coming most clearly.
Time for an ice, a donkey ride and – a flight with a Djinn.
Tomorrow: Le terroire of writing.