I started writing Kett's Book (as it was most often known) not long after I finished Almost Human. Kett was a character who'd been in my head quite a long time, ever since I first started writing fantasy novels about a disfunctional group of people with semi-special powers, and decided to give one of them, an aristocratic highwayman, a teenage daughter. That teenager was Kett, and basically all she did was swear a lot and change her shape. Oh yes, she was a teenage shapeshifter, and she was wild. In the way that a crocodile is wild. You really don't want one in the house.
Almost Human was what came about after those books had been on the shelf a while (not the bookshelf, but the metaphorical shelf inside my hard drive where the unpublishable books live). I'd been wondering about what might happen if the most evil man in the world had a child--and that child became Chance, the heroine of Almost Human. Her mother's brother was the highwayman, and her aggressive shapeshifter cousin Kett turned up at the beginning and end of the book.
I've got to write about Kett one day, I thought. I knew her whole history by that point, how she'd been born and raised--or not raised, as the case more accurately was--and only met her father when she was sixteen. How her teens and early adulthood had been aggressive, violent, promiscuous, angry, hedonistic, and hugely detached from her family, who didn't really know what to do with her. How as she'd grown older, she'd tried and tried to make connections that had all failed: friends, family, and lovers all found her too much to handle. Too mad, too bad, and too dangerous.
How in the hell was I going to write a romance about this woman?
It took me a while. And when I say 'a while' I mean about four years. Mostly it was procrastination, but then if the book had been easy I wouldn't have been putting it off. I wanted to write it, I enjoyed the challenge, but a challenge is what it was. I knew Kett so well she was quite real to me. She fought absolutely everything in her life, including the poor author who was trying to write her.
Weirdly, her hero wasn't a difficult man to come up with. Nor was he hard to write. The problem I had with Bael was the same as the one I had with Kett: making the two of them sympathetic to the reader without losing the qualities that made me want to write about them in the first place. In contrast to Kett's hard, spiny, angry demeanour, Bael was playful, charming, almost childlike in his enthusiasms. Where Kett had entirely missed out on teenage fun and childhood games, Bael was a playboy who'd never had to grow up. But what they had in common was a history of thrillseeking, of throwing themselves at life and paying for it later, of doing what felt good because it felt good. The difference between them was that while Bael was still having fun, Kett was paying for it.
Their plots twisted all over the place. The first draft came in at about 120,000 words. I cut a whole load of stuff out, simplified, rewrote, simplified again, and forced myself to think about what was actually important in the story, what was important to the characters. What they both had to learn, to discover about each other and about themselves.
The book drove me mad. The characters fought me at every turn. The plot made no sense. The motivations were murky and indistinct. I made charts and lists and did lots of underlining, and frequently abandoned the book to work on something easier, such as learning the entire history and structure of the British Army (but that's another book).
The outlook was bad. Turned down by one editor, sequel to a book hardly anyone would be likely to remember, populated by characters who swore and fought and only wanted to have a conversation when I wanted them to have sex (remember this is an erotic romance. Sex is sort of a requisite). I couldn't even think of a title.
The whole thing was damn dangerous. Trying to explain it to anyone resulted in baffled and frequently frightened looks. Working on it ate into time better spent on writing books that were actually contracted, books that might actually sell.
And yet here it is. A triumph of determination and sheer bloody-mindedness over common sense and rationality. Much like Kett herself.
Welcome to Mad, Bad and Dangerous. You'll either love it, or it'll drive you insane.
Mad, Bad & Dangerous by Cat Marsters will be unleashed 24th Feb 2010 from Ellora's Cave. Ebook, ISBN: 9781419926594, $7.99
Read an excerpt here. Watch book trailers here and here.