content by

Kathleen Bartholomew

The Making of Mendoza in Hollywood

All kinds of strands of Kage Baker’s personal history came together for the first time in Mendoza in Hollywood. She had a sudden new confidence, born of having sold Iden and Sky Coyote—she felt she could do anything. “I can do anything,” she exulted, twirling in her chair at the vast oak desk she had bought with the proceeds from Iden. “I have all of history at my command!”

What Kage wanted to write was Grand Hotel. She wanted lots of different Operatives, and a look into their lives—both as Company employees, and as the people they had once been. She wanted a dazzling background, a rich panorama, a wealth of history and legend and the human condition. And since that kind of accommodation was not to be found in Los Angeles in the 1860s, she set the whole thing in a Company-operated stage depot in the Cahuenga Pass.

Kage loved old Hollywood, old movies, and the history of any place she lived—the stranger the better. Mendoza in Hollywood was the first book she wrote in its entirety in Pismo Beach. She loved Pismo, but she missed the Hollywood Hills—so naturally, her homesickness permeates this book. It was also the first book she wrote after we got successfully attached to the internet and cable television, so it’s rife with old maps, old photos, and old, old movies.

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Series: Rereading Kage Baker

The Making of Sky Coyote

Sky Coyote is Kage Baker’s second novel, and the book that turned her initial idea of the Company into a series. It’s not one of the best loved of her novels, except maybe by me; ­ it’s gotten some weird dismissals in its varied career ­ but it was a very important step for Kage as a writer. This story was re­written a dozen times before it became the definitive second stanza in her long Company saga.

When Kage finished the first draft of In the Garden of Iden, she set it aside, to ripen and concentrate its essential sugars; to mature, before editing and second-­guessing. But she had the bit in her teeth where actual writing was concerned now ­ she’d learned the essential tricks of beginning, middle and end; of intertwining plots; of characterization. No more wandering pleasantly through an open-­ended fantasy, exploring ideas purely for her own pleasure (there are literal reams of stories like that in my files…): she had made the critical jump to a story with a predetermined end. A plot line. A point.

So she began writing short stories, as practice in the amazing art of through­put.

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Series: Rereading Kage Baker

Rereading Kage Baker’s Company Series: The Making of In the Garden of Iden

Kage Baker wrote pretty continually from the time she was 9 years old. Stories, at first; then they got longer and longer, scenes changed into chapters, and adventures tended to unfold forever. Like a tesseract, or a paper puzzle with an outlet to another dimension. We tried it together finally, writing an actual, formal, beginning­-to­-discernible­-end novel—it taught Kage a lot about planning, about outlines, and plots and what to do with all those characters running all over the place.

We wrote it together and mailed it to a major science fiction publisher, after a proper query letter produced an interested invitation. But the editor reading it died, and it went from hand to hand. It was at last returned more than 2 years later, with a nice letter saying they couldn’t figure out how to market it.

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Series: Rereading Kage Baker

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