Lee Carroll - Tor/Forge Blog

Not the Contents, Just the Box

Black Swan Rising by Lee Carrollby Lee Carroll (Carol Goodman and Lee Slonimsky)

Given that we’re a married couple who met as teacher and student in a mystery writing class (Adult Ed, no grades, no dating until the class was over!) in 1994, perhaps it’s surprising that we took so long to try our hand at collaborating on a novel. One of us had been the informal editor of the other’s fiction for many years, and the other had played a similar role with poetry, but collaborating on a novel was NOT something we’d flirted with or bounced ideas off one another about. It came up mysteriously, at the Flamingo Hotel in Santa Rosa CA in November of 2007, where we had gone to read at Copperfields bookstore and to record a poetry reading for a local radio station, KRCB-FM. Collaboration grabbed hold of us then and we’ve never looked back.

For our initial attempt, we had to come up with a pseudonym (first names, more or less), a method (alternating chapters, more or less), and a plot. Our initial inspiration for the plot (we actually wound up using very little of it) was to return to a long buried novel, The Babylonian Triangle, that one of us had written and sold a while back but that, due to a variety of mishaps, was never published. The title referred to a scary Babylonian artifact nearly 3,000 years old, the properties of which included setting houses on fire and inspiring homicidal compulsions. It resurfaced in contemporary New York and became the catalyst for mayhem.

The Triangle had nine demons embedded within its grime-encrusted silver frame, and John Dee unleashes demons on New York City in Black Swan Rising. But Dee’s demons come out of a very different tradition, that of the fey and the occult in English folklore; the Babylonian sense of evil has been preserved in the Bible, particularly in its symbolic use in the Book of Revelation.

In our first draft, The Triangle was auctioned off in the opening chapter in a distinctive box. Subsequent drafts took the book in a different direction, but, partly because we liked the sinister innuendos and atmosphere surrounding the auction, we decided to keep the box.

The Triangle was used by the Babylonians to summon demons for all sorts of questionable purposes, often with unintended consequences. The box it had been stored in becomes, in Black Swan Rising, a dire threat to those who find themselves in its sphere of world-bending influence. Empty, the box came to resemble what its contents had been. Fortunately the watchtower against evil, Garet James, is on the case.


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