Wednesday 22 December 2021

Christmas Special: A Slice of Cake With... Ben Aaronovitch

I have a lovely festive special for you - a slice of cake with the brilliant urban fantasy author Ben Aaronovitch.

Born and raised in London Ben Aaronovitch had the sort of unrelentingly uninteresting childhood that drives a person to drink or Science Fiction. The latter proved useful in his early career when he wrote for Doctor Who (before it was fashionable), Casualty and the cheapest soap opera ever made – Jupiter Moon.

Alas, his career floundered in the late 1990s and he was forced to go out and work for a living. It was while running the Crime and Science Fiction sections at the Covent Garden branch of Waterstones that he conceived the notion of writing novels instead. Thus was the Rivers of London series born and when the first book proved to be a runaway success he waited all of five minutes to give up the day job and return to the bliss that is a full time writing career.

He still lives in the city that he modestly calls ‘the capital of the world’ and says he will leave when they prise London from his cold dead fingers. He promises that he is already hard at work on the next Peter Grant novel and not computer games – honest.

What kind of books do you write?

I write about magical cops capturing magical bad guys and bringing order out of chaos.

Can you describe your writing why?

Leaving aside the money (which is important but not the true motivation) I have daydreams and if I don’t write them down they silt up my brain.

Share with us your favourite passage from the book you enjoyed writing the most

Well, it depends on the mood I’m in but right now it’s Indigo’s story about how the Foxes forgot how to talk. (What Abigail Did That Summer: Chapter 27).

'In the beginning,' says Indigo, 'everything could talk.
'The trees could talk, the dog could talk, the rabbit and the cat, the sky and the river - all could talk. Now, some of the things didn't like to talk. The clouds and the rain and the rivers and the sea all felt that talking was a waste of time and distracted them from their work-'
'What was their work?' I ask.
'Not important,' says Indigo, and continues with the story. 'Some of the things, like the rocks and the mountains and the trees, were indifferent to speech. Yes, it was nice to speak to your neighbours or to hear news and gossip, but was it really important - or even necessary?
'"Our lives are quite full enough," they said.
'Some, like the cat and the raven, liked to talk but only because then they could say cruel things and make others unhappy. Dog and pig liked to talk because then they could boast about how good and clever they were.
'But, of all the things that liked to talk, there were two that loved to talk above all things - the fox and the man. These two would talk all day and all night, about the sun and the stars and the way the wind sang through the branches of the trees. They talked so much that sometimes they would forget to eat or sleep, and the other things in the world started to hide when they heard them coming. Which they could from quite a long way off. 
'You've got to understand that in the way back when, man was different - he had fur and claws and proper teeth and a real tail that was just as bushy and luxurious as anything could want.
'But, because they loved to talk to each other, the fox and the man never learnt that trouble was brewing with the other things until it was too late. You see, the problem was that if you can talk to someone, you can argue with them. And if you argue, you can get angry. And if you get angry, you can start fighting. Soon everything was fighting everything else, and nobody had time for eating or mating or cheese puffs or any of the good things in life. Then the cat, who loves to sleep above all things persuaded everyone to stop fighting and convened a grand parliament of everything to discuss a solution.'
'So talking's good for something,' I say.
'Shush,' says Indigo. 'So they discussed the problem for so long that the sun went off to sleep three times and still they were talking.
'"How can we abandon talking?" said the path through the forest. "It is the one attribute that unifies us all. The mountain is not like the sky, the dog is not like the fish, the sun is not like the moon. But we all share our thoughts."
'"But all you ever do is complain that we are walking on you," said bear.
'"I, for one," said the cow, "am tired of hearing your thoughts on the subject."
'And so everything in the world argued amongst themselves - all except the man and the fox, who were over the horizon and practising their sniggering - which they had just invented.
'Finally, as the sun rose from her fourth nap since the parliament began, the fox and the man wandered up and asked what was going on. The cat and the path through the forest told them the purpose of the parliament, and they laughed and sniggered and guffawed, another new invention of theirs, until they realised that everyone else was serious.
'"But you can't be serious," said the man.
'"But we are," said the cat. "And, what's more, we have reached a consensus - for the sake of peace we have decided to give up talking."
'"Fine," said the man. "You chaps give up talking if that's what you want, but fox and I will carry on if that is all the same to you. Right, fox?"
'But fox was troubled, because much as she liked man she also had many other friends as well. She particularly loved the soft earth and the bright moon, and she knew if she kept talking, and they did not, they would grow estranged.
'"I will give up talking," she said. "If that is the consensus."
'But the man refused. For even then man thought himself more important than all the other things of the world. And he glowered at the fox for not siding with him.
'"The parliament of everything wishes this change," said the moon, who was pro team speaker of the parliament. "And what the parliament decides applies to all things."
'"But," said the cat, who always coveted man's bushy tail, "perhaps we could come to some arrangement."
'"Yes, yes!" cried all things. "If you want to retain the gift of speech, you must renounce your other gifts."
'Man, even in those days being wise to the ways of the cat, agreed. But only if he could choose to whom he gave his gifts. The cat objected, but everything was wiser back in those days and the cat lost the subsequent motion everything else to one.
'"I give my thick fur coat to the ape and its cousins," said the man. And so he lost his fur save for patches here and there to remind him of his loss. He gave his long claws to the dog, who even now never retracts them in his honour, his teeth to the bear, and - to spite the cat - his beautiful bushy tail to the squirrel.
'"For this insult I will enslave you, you and all your children," said the cat, but those were its last words.
'Finally, man had given away all his gifts except his wisdom, which he gave to the fox.
'"Thank you," said the fox.
'"Don't thank me,' said the man. "I do this so that you and all your kind will know what a mistake you have made."
'Silence closed around the parliament like a noose. But everything hesitated because the ground, upon which everything rests, had a final demand.
'"I, for one, am sick of the sound of everyone talking," said the ground. "If you plan to continue, please raise your mouth as far from me as possible."
'"As you wish," said man, and reared up on his hind legs until he stood upright.
'All the things laughed then, because there stood man - naked and bereft of all his gifts. All the things save the fox, who looked up at the man and saw long slim fingers unencumbered by claws, fingers that could grasp and take and reshape things to suit man's own purposes. And saw eyes alive with a dreadful intelligence unencumbered by wisdom. And fox was suddenly afraid. 
'Man looked around from his new high vantage and saw that all the world was spread out about him like a neglected picnic.
'"I propose that man become the master of all things," man said. "Any objections?"
'Man waited but objections came there none.
'"Motion carried," said man.
'And that is why everything that wants to talk has to find a man to talk for them,' says Indigo. 'Can I have the crumbs?'
'So how did you get your talking back?' I ask, and hold the empty container in front of her muzzle.
'That's classified,' she says, and snaffles up all the crumbs.

Tell us about your latest project

Coming up in April 7th is the latest Peter Grant novel involving, magic, ghosts, fights, old friends and enemies, Manchester and a tremendous amount of silver. Title to be announced soon!

What is your favourite cake?

Any kind of chocolate cake providing it doesn’t have cherries in it.

You can connect with Ben here:

Instagram: @baaronovitch
Facebook: Ben-Aaronovitch


Now for the round-up of 2021 - which cake came out tops?

This past year I've interviewed 50 amazing authors and been introduced to some new cakes that I'd never heard of before - Lady Baltimore Cake, Joodse Tert, Medovik and Gullac.

Chocolate cake remains the firm favourite with carrot cake a close second. 

I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and I look forward to having a slice of cake with even more authors next year. But before we launch into 2022, I have one final interview of the year with Miriam Dori so be sure to check that out.

If you would like to take part in A Slice of Cake With... please fill in the form found here. I'd be delighted to have you.

You can also support my writing endeavours and buy me tea & cake - it's what makes the world go round!

Claire Buss is a multi-genre author and poet, completely addicted to cake. Find out more about her books on her website Join the discussion in her Facebook group Buss's Book Stop. Never miss out on future posts by following me

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