Oftentimes when I ask an author about the biggest influences on their new novel or novella, they either cite someone else’s book or something that happened in their real life. But in the following email interview with writer Brent Lambert about his epic urban fantasy novella A Necessary Chaos (paperback), he also cites a dark comedic action movie and a hip-hop-influenced R&B song.
To start, what is A Necessary Chaos about, and when and where is it set?
A Necessary Chaos is essentially Mr. And Mrs. Smith but with magic and a gay, Black couple. It stars an anarchist and a government agent both pretending to be in love and spying on each other. They realize they might actually be in love right when they’re given the order to kill each other. It’s set on a secondary world that leans more modern day than pre-history.
Where did you get the idea for A Necessary Chaos?
A song actually: Bryson Tiller’s “Next To You.” I kept listening to it and imagining this sultry kind of strip tease scene with the two people involved in it, but they were foes and the sexuality of the moment also being one where they’re trying to disarm each other. That initial seed sort of makes its way into the book.
The aforementioned Black couple, Althus and Vade, are both mages who are supposed to spy on each other, but end up falling in love. Is there a reason you made them both mages as opposed to, say, a mage and whatever this world calls muggles?
I would like to lie and say it was some profound reason, but honestly, I just like people with powers duking it out. I grew up on superhero comics so those worlds always kind of leak into how I think about writing sci-fi / fantasy / horror.
A Necessary Chaos sounds like it’s an urban fantasy story…
I’d say it’s epic urban fantasy in the vein of such books as Max Gladstone’s The Craft Sequence and Fonda Lee’s The Green Bone Saga. When I usually think of urban fantasy, I assume it’s set on Earth and keenly focused on a certain set of locations. And this book is more global I feel even as its urban.
A Necessary Chaos is your first published book, but you’ve had stories in such journals as Baffling, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and others. Are there any writers who had a big influence on A Necessary Chaos but not on anything else you’ve written?
Definitely Kai Ashante Wilson. His novellas just showed me the potential of what can be done with secondary worlds when you just lean into your Blackness unapologetically. But he’s a genius and I can’t say I measure up to that. I certainly put my best foot forward though.
What about Romeo & Juliet? Cuz I’m getting a bit of a Romeo & Juliet vibe from this. Though only a bit.
You know, I didn’t consider this but I can totally see it now. There’s definitely some squabbling family vibes of a sort happening in the novella. And without spoiling anything, the fellas have to sort of choose their own paths. So yea, totally see how those similarities can be pointed out. This is what I love about storytelling and releasing it out into the world; you get to see what other people take from it in really cool ways.
And then what about non-literary influences; was A Necessary Chaos influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games? You mentioned the movie Mr. And Mrs. Smith.
Yeah, Mr. And Mrs. Smith was a big one. When it comes to some of the steamier scenes, I’d definitely say Scandal and How To Get Away With Murder were influences because man did those shows know how to turn you on while still telling you so much about plot and character. For the magic, Final Fantasy 7 and 8 definitely played a big part, and were probably why I pushed the secondary world towards a more modern vibe.
Now, epic urban fantasy stories are sometimes stand-alone stories and sometimes part of larger sagas. What is A Necessary Chaos?
Right now, it’s a stand-alone. The unsexy answer to why that is would be because I was only contracted for one. I definitely have ideas of how I could continue it or other stories I could tell in that world. At heart, I’m a worldbuilder so I always have a bunch of different places set up that I can explore later if the stars align.
We talked earlier about how A Necessary Chaos was influenced by movies, TV shows, and games. But to flip the script, as you kids don’t say anymore, do you think A Necessary Chaos could itself work as a movie, show, or game?
I think as the story exists now, it’d work better as a singular movie. It’s basically an action fantasy story and, for me, I feel like I prefer my action stories as one and dones.
And if someone decided to make that singular movie, who would you want them to cast as Althus, Vade, and the other main characters?
So when I first created the two main characters, I had them cast as [Glee‘s] Dijon Talton as Althus, and [Girls Trip‘s] Kofi Siriboe as Vade in my mind. Look just go Google them and you’ll understand. These are extremely handsome guys, and I’ve seen them portray sexuality in their roles in ways that matched perfectly what I wanted to present in A Necessary Chaos. So they ended up becoming muses in a way.
As far as other characters, I haven’t really thought too deeply about it but I’d want either Cate Blanchett [Thor: Ragnarok] or Charlize Theron [Atomic Blonde] to play Desiree Halmis. Both have played these really severe, badass commanders in the past, and I think they’d be good fits.
So, is there anything else people need to know about A Necessary Chaos?
The cover art is absolutely amazing and I think a huge chunk of any success this book has is because of it. Cathy Kwan is such a tremendous artist and I am forever honored they liked my story enough to agree to this cover. I could not have asked for a better cover to debut with.
Finally, if someone enjoys A Necessary Chaos, what epic urban fantasy novella of someone else’s would you recommend they check out?
Ice Upon A Pier by Ladz is one I would send people to. It’s secondary world, has true crime vibes and is queer as all hell. So it has many base similarities to my own thing.