Following on from my post yesterday about his book Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge, today I’m delighted to share a guest post from author Paul Krueger in which he talks bartending, magic and creating a world where getting drunk gives you superpowers. Over to you Paul…
By now, I’ve had to quick-pitch Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge to a great many people. Over time, I’ve worn its concept down to a simple phrase I can throw out with rote fluency: “it’s about a secret society of bartenders who fight demons using alcohol magic.” The story is also about Chicago, and one’s relationship with their job, and the plight of the millennial college graduate in a post-Recession world, but the booze magic bit is always what seems to pique the most interest.
I read a lot of different types of books, but urban fantasy will always be my comfort zone. I find something fascinating about the idea of pulling up the floorboards of our world to catch a glimpse of something bigger, scarier, and more wondrous just past the edge of what we know. But so much of the genre is crowded with magical law enforcement: cops, private eyes, and government spooks, all patrolling the night with badges and wands. When I sat down to write an urban fantasy of my own, I knew I wanted to highlight a different class of worker entirely: the women and men who work in food service.
Last Call’s magic system came directly from the years I spent working in New York City restaurants. I was a barista, not a bartender, but the impetus was the same: find a way to showcase service industry professionals for the superheroes they are. It led me to creating a world where getting drunk literally gives you superpowers, instead of just making you feel like you had them. And it also literalized the idea that service jobs like bartending are deeply, deeply important, and that the people who do them are important, too.
Cocktails lent themselves to this idea enormously. Their preparation has a ritualistic air to it, though professionals and enthusiasts will debate the particulars of it until the end of time. And the fact that alcohol consumption tends to be an evening activity gave me a stronger tie to the conventions of urban fantasy, whose best bits take place at night more often than not. And on top of that, it gave me an excellent excuse to take an in-depth approach to my research.
But again, that magic system was just supposed to be a vehicle. The idea was always to democratize magic, and put it in the hands of people who were looked down on. It was supposed to be a skill anyone could learn, if they were curious enough, or brave enough, or humble enough to submit themselves to the service of others. All that might seem a bit high-minded for what was essentially just a silly idea I took way too seriously. But the truth is, people who work in food service are already superheroes.
Paul Krueger is the debut author of Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge, published by Quirk Books, available from all good books stores in paperback, priced $14.99 (US) and £11.99 (UK). For more information, please visit www.quirkbooks.com, or follow Paul on Twitter @notlikeFreddy.