From the mind of Megan Arkenberg

December 30, 2010

The Summer King

Posted by Megan Arkenberg with No comments
The Summer King is now live at Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Hooray for my longest published story! Not the longest I've written, alas, as there were...incidents...when I was a sophomore in high school. They are still available online. You are warned.

Anyway...How this story came about. In January 2009, I'm sitting on the chair in front of the TV and I see an advertisement for the oh-my-god-that-can't-be-but-it-really-is-a-modern-reimagining-of-King-David-squee! TV show Kings. Now, the show didn't quite live up to my expectations, but it had some lovely moments, and that is all completely beside the point, because the show hadn't even begun in January 2009. All I knew about it was the title and the huge orange banner with a butterfly on it.

And I was thinking about how simply epic that title was. I jotted it down in my little idea-notebook: The ______ King. After all, I thought, who doesn't like kings?

Two answers in quick succession. 1) The French, circa 1789. 2) The Americans, circa anytime. But, because I was in American History Class (R) that semester, the specific Americans I thought of were...ward bosses.

WTF? I know. See, I had misunderstood bosses a little bit. Okay, a lot of bit. I was picturing Robin Hood instead of Boss Tweed's machinery. So the whole gig sounded pretty cool--ruling the city from the streets up. As opposed to a king, ruling from the palace down. Throw in a National Convention--I've mentioned my obsession with French Revolutionary politics, yes?--and there's the political situation of "The Summer King."

I don't know where "summer" came from, incidentally. It was January. I was probably just longing for green grass and strawberries.

So now I had a title and a political situation. My main character, Boss Livy, showed up quite unexpectedly from American Literature Class (R), where I was reading (okay, suffering through) the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Now, I'm not Twain's biggest fan, but I like what he does with voice. (This shouldn't be a surprise--my favorite book series is Sarah Monette's Doctrine of Labyrinths, where Mildmay 'speaks' in gorgeous vernacular.) And I guess it rubbed off, because all of a sudden, I was hearing something like a female Huck Finn with better grammar and a lot more profanity. (The profanity is probably courtesy of Monette's Mildmay, who did more than any other character to increase my comfort with swearing in fiction.)

So now I had a title and a political situation and a viewpoint character. And I just started writing. And writing. And writing. I had no idea where this thing was going to end.

Where it did end, finally, was with me in a bathrobe at the foot of my bed, frantically scribbling through the climax and the closing paragraph, while my impeccably dressed significant other waited for me to put on my gosh-dang dress so we could go out to eat already.

The writer's life is one of unparalleled grace and elegance.


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