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A Look Back on the Writing the Chimera Adventures with Cate Glass

The Chimera series by Cate Glass has officially come to a close, but we’re continuing the adventure with a very special look back at the series with author Cate Glass! Check out her guest post as she talks about writing the series, developing the story, and more.


By Cate Glass

There was a time when I believed that the idea for a novel must spring forth fully formed like Athena from the head of Zeus. Of, course, that was before I ever wrote any novels and didn’t even imagine that I could.

After birthing a few, I believed my best stories always grew from a particular kind of trope-whacking on my part: a handsome, heroic figure who was wholly unworthy of the great destiny awaiting him; or a uniquely skilled magical warrior who was a pacifist by nature; or a mature woman who was not only not an ingénue princess-in-waiting, but a bitter exile who believed her heart dead. I would envision that person in an interesting situation, flesh out just enough of an interesting world to house that situation, and start writing to see where the idea took me.

I call myself an organic story developer. Once I confront my sketched characters with the action of the first scene, I begin to figure out who they really are and why they react as they do, and how I might make him or her or the world or the situation more interesting, deciding what follows logically. The story that may have begun as a standalone idea develops into three books. Another one morphs into two books and eventually into another parallel pair.

The Chimera stories had their origin in my desire to do something a little different. I wanted to build a framework that could house a flexible number of shorter tales. At about the same time, I had a chance encounter with an old TV series. (The series later morphed into a series of Tom Cruise action movies, which are not at all the same thing.)

Every episode of the series was centered on some snarl of political or international evildoing that the Secretary wished to be stopped, but could not afford to be publically involved in. The little group who took on these missions were not spies or secret agents, but people with specific talents that made them able to adapt to a wide variety of situations. We knew little or nothing about these players’ backgrounds or their lives beyond the missions or what they thought about it as it unfolded. (I did not like that aspect!) The pleasure arose watching them create an alternate reality in order to hornswoggle the villains of the week. Tension was always high, because the alternate reality could fall apart at any moment.

So, then I thought: What if these specific talents were magical…and what if the world was the kind to breed nefarious plots…conflicts of politics and myth and burgeoning scholarship…maybe something similar to the Italian Renaissance? Thus was the Costa Drago born and its independent city of Cantagna.

It was great fun to review caper and heist adventures, from The Scarlet Pimpernel to Leverage, from The Great Train Robbery to The Three Musketeers to Burn Notice, and assemble a list of skills that make such undercover schemes work: impersonation, martial arts, escapes, technology, and intelligence about people, culture, languages, economics.

Thus, instead of deriving one central character from sheer inspiration, I went looking for four operatives:

  • An expensive, well-educated courtesan
  • A professional duelist
  • A silversmith/artist
  • And a teenaged thief, because without D’Artagnan, the Musketeers would have far less spark.

Each player possessed a particular variety of magic and life experience that encompassed the skills I wanted. But use of magic was dangerous…forbidden. The world’s mythology would explain why.

But where to start writing? Always before, I knew what would be my opening scene. The day the unworthy hero bought the slave who would tell his story. The day the bitter woman met someone who forced her to engage with life again.

Because I disliked Mission: Impossible’s shallow characters, I wanted to get to know my four before getting them together on a mission. So, I wrote the tale of how Romy, my courtesan, lost her position at the side of the most powerful man in Cantagna, the Shadow Lord, and was returned to impoverished streets. The Shadow Lord—the Godfather, one might say—could be a source for the kind of missions I had in mind. But before Romy could become the Chimera, she had to deal with a teenaged thief, her own angry, rebellious brother, and they had to meet the duelist and the smith. Once I engaged them in a nefarious scheme—their first mission—I had a novel’s worth of story. Voila! An Illusion of Thieves. A little different than I expected.

Book 2 must give each of the four a chance to explore and use their particular magical talents, because in a world where you have to hide what you are, there hasn’t been much opportunity to do so. And so was born A Conjuring of Assassins. Assassination…impersonation…thievery…tunnels under the city that hid secrets. A political cabal. And just because it was that kind of sultry night walking beside the slow-moving River Venia, Romy rescues a half-drowned stranger from the river. He has interesting talents. Who is he?

I am a fantasy writer, after all, and if I’ve invented a mythology, I have to decide whether the stories it tells are true or not. Indeed, I discovered a connection between the half-drowned stranger, the mythology, and the activities of the villainous society known as the Philosophic Confraternity who had enforced the extermination of magic users for centuries. And so, the simple mission of breaking up a marriage that could upend the political balance in Cantagna became twisted into a revelation about the truth of the myth…and there was A Summoning of Demons.

My three books became, not just three distinct episodes in a framework, but an integrated whole. Organic! I’m delighted that readers can accompany my four new best friends through their adventures

Cate Glass is the author of the Chimera series. An Illusion of Thieves, A Conjuring of Assassinsand A Summoning of Demons are all available in stores now. 

Buy An Illusion of Thieves Here:

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Buy A Conjuring of Assassins Here:

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Buy A Summoning of Demons Here:

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