My respect for originality and the unusual is boundless, so my hat is definitely doffed to today's guest. D. Aviva Rothschild writes novels about John, Paul, George, and Ringo that go way beyond fan fiction.
With Strings Attached, or The Big Pink Job, is a wholly original and problematic work of fantasy. By “wholly original,” I mean that it only superficially resembles other works of fantasy. If you know about TV Tropes, there's a trope about Standard Fantasy Settings. By those guidelines, Strings is almost 100% noncompliant. I have to admit, I was kind of startled to find that out.
Before the “problematic” part, the story in a nutshell: our four heroes awaken on another planet, 16 years younger and completely terrified. They're on the planet C'hou in Ketafa, a quasi-Victorian society where magic is genuine (and illegal), and where the gods returned 25 years ago, except they're fake. The reader knows the four were placed there as the subjects of a poorly set up alien undergraduate psychology project. After things go sour, the four end up across the sea in Baravada, a dying quasi-medieval anarchistic utopian dystopia (yes, really). Meanwhile, the aliens are kicked off their project for cheating and join up with a gamer in order to have access to the four. Ultimately, thanks to the aliens and the real gods, the four are empowered and charged with finding three pieces of a statue that have been scattered across other planets. This will remove a curse on Ketafa that prevents the real gods from seeing the continent. If the four don't do it, they don't go home. It's just too bad they detest Ketafa. And they're pacifists, so death and destruction are not options even though they've collectively been gifted with enough power to wipe out a city before breakfast. And not everyone wants them to succeed.
Straightforward and hopefully kind of interesting, right? Well... here's where the “problematic” part kicks in. The book falls, however unwillingly, under the rubric of fan fiction because the four protagonists are the Beatles. Well, the ex-Beatles, since it's set in 1980.
Did that suddenly negate your interest in the book? I know it does for a lot of people. And the fantasy aspect turns off a lot of Beatles fans who just aren't into that sort of thing. So, hello small (but devoted) niche audience.
I hate sounding defensive about Strings, because it's quite a decent book and I'm very proud of it. Over the 29 years it took me to write, I put a ton of research into getting their personalities as true to life as possible—no Hard Day's Night or Yellow Submarine Beatles for this writer, thank you! And they grow and change; the men at the end of the book are not the same as when they first arrived. If you know your Beatles history, there are subtle references scattered throughout, but they won't hit you over the head (no characters named Strawberry Fields or nonsense like that). On the fictional side, the two C'hovite societies and the secondary characters are as fully fleshed out as I could make them, with multiple sets of slang and some truly alien viewpoints. C'hou has a mysterious and tragic backstory that I'll be expanding in the two sequels (it's a planned trilogy). And Big Issues get explored: the nature of good and evil, the effects of power on people, addiction.
People have suggested that I change the characters. That would certainly make the book easier to sell. But I don't want to change them. I tried once, and failed. I'm just not interested in writing about four other people (just changing the names isn't enough) in this situation. The Beatles are smart, funny, profane, and emotional; they make excellent characters, and I'm committed to the trilogy as designed.
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Try before you buy! Half of With Strings Attached is posted on D. Aviva Rothschild's website, where you will also find purchase links for all formats.