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Author Spotlight: Robert Jackson Bennett

Where did “A Drink for Teddy Ford” find its beginning?

I started thinking about exactly how to write a speculative story set in the 1920s, as that was the theme of this anthology. Naturally, I started thinking about aspects of the era I’ve researched before and just generally liked, and that made me gravitate toward the P.G. Wodehouse stories about Bertie and Jeeves and the other foppish, empty-headed aristos boozing it up and causing havoc. This made me decide to set the story in a cocktail party, but it quickly took a darker, more sentimental turn. I find I can’t write purely light humor, unfortunately.

Which of the characters do you feel you most identified with as their author?

Probably Thoth. I can see Teddy, and I know what he’s done and what will happen to him, but despite what people may think of authorial power, I can’t change his fate, or what he did. Once you know the story and where it wants to go, there’s not much you as the author can do but watch.

Considering the historical importance, how did you approach blending the tone of the story with the speculative element?

It was really quite easy. Parties by nature have a somewhat fantastical atmosphere: A good party makes you feel like anything can happen, which is very much a fantastical state. Dress everyone up in costumes and stick them in a ramshackle mansion, and there you go. A god can walk among you and go pretty much unnoticed.

“A Drink for Teddy Ford” was originally published in an anthology called Broken Time Blues: Fantastic Tales in the Roaring 20s. What do you think the appeal of these types of stories is, and how do you see “Teddy Ford” fitting into that niche?

Honestly, I think these historical forays might have the same primary appeal we see in Downton Abbey, and Mad Men, and the like—costumes and sets. It’s a superficial attraction, but an irresistible one. Who doesn’t want to play around in sumptuous clothing and historical venues?

What can we expect to see from you in the future?

My fifth novel, City of Stairs, comes out from Crown Publishing in September of 2014. Much like “Teddy Ford,” it deals with gods and their interactions with humanity; but unlike “Teddy Ford,” it’s set in a secondary world, and the gods have all been killed by a foreign power. The instant a god dies, everything they created vanishes along with them, and as the gods of this particular land were performing a lot of the basic duties of urban infrastructure—buildings, water, roads, etc.—all that was gone in an instant. Reality has grown schizophrenic and confused after so many “edits,” like a bad patchwork quilt, and as the leaders of this new world try to avoid international catastrophe, they slowly begin suspecting the past isn’t quite as dead as everyone seems to think.

It’s a story of statesmanship, spycraft, and diplomacy, set among ruined miracles and the fading divine. Should be a lot of fun.

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Patrick J Stephens

Patrick J Stephens recently graduated from the University of Edinburgh and, after spending the entire year writing speculative fiction, came back with a Master’s in Social Science. His first collection (Aurichrome and Other Stories) can be found on Kindle and Nook.