I said last week that I would reveal my true name today, the writer behind T. Aaron Payton and The Constantine Affliction, and if you’ll dim the lights and start the drumroll and prime the fireworks…
Oh, I won’t be coy: T. Aaron Payton is a pseudonym for me, Tim Pratt. Ta da! All is revealed.
I’ve done other books with Night Shade — my collection Hart & Boot & Other Stories, and an anthology, Sympathy for the Devil. A couple of years back I was chatting with Night Shade editor Jeremy Lassen, and he asked if I had any novel ideas I could pitch him. I said, “Well, there is one thing…”
Back in 2009 my agent sent around a proposal for a book that was called, at the time, Death (and other afflictions), and which I thought of as “Steampunk Zombie Jamboree.” One of my friends had commented that lots of zombie books were selling well, and lots of steampunk books were selling well, so obviously the perfect commercial novel would combine steampunk with zombies. (That’s actually something that Cherie Priest has done, and very well, in her Clockwork Century novels.)
I started thinking about that throwaway comment, and saw a way I could write such a thing and amuse myself immensely in the process, though it wouldn’t be exactly like most steampunk, and the zombies wouldn’t be exactly like most zombies, and there’d be this sex-changing plague, and some embedded literary references, and, actually, it likely wouldn’t be very commercial at all…. So I wrote up the first few chapters, and a synopsis, and sent it off to my agent to shop around.
The big publishers passed on it. I got various responses, but more than once we heard variations on, “We like all the steampunk stuff, but this sex-changing plague stuff is too weird.” To which I could only shout at the moon, “But the sex-changing plague stuff is the only thing that differentiates it from all the other steampunk! If I take that out, I’m not writing anything a dozen other writers couldn’t do better!” So I gave up on the book, with sadness because I loved the characters, and shelved the proposal.
Until Jeremy asked if I had anything. And I thought about how welcoming the Shade could be to things that were weird. I pitched him the idea, and he was enthusiastic, and now… here we are, among the afflicted.
Why the pseudonym? Partly because this book isn’t like any of my other books — it’s my first time doing a historical, my first time doing steampunk, my first time mangling London geography, and the first time I’ve written anything quite this over-the-top at novel length — so they wanted to differentiate it from my other work. I did something similar with my Marla Mason urban fantasy series, which I wrote as T.A. Pratt. I’m told it all has to do with branding. And I’m fine with branding, as long as it doesn’t involve hot irons.