Ben Macallan and Me

DesdaemonaAfter “where do you get your ideas from?” another really common question is “where do you get your names from?” — more than once I’ve been accosted by someone who actually owned the name in question.

As with ideas, usually there isn’t an answer beyond “I make them up,” which satisfies nobody.

Occasionally, though — as with ideas — I can trace back exactly where a name has come from.

Bear with me. I am in my anecdotage…

Long, long ago, my first boyfriend introduced me to the notion of whisky. It was a notion that I took to, swiftly and irrevocably. Pretty soon I learned that there wasn’t just whisky, there was a spectrum of whiskies, and the good end was mostly occupied by single malts. Flavours of seaweed and smoke, salt and sherry — layers and layers of flavour. I spent my twenties exploring, in so far as I could afford to. The whisky world divided itself further in my head, into sippin’ whiskies and drinkin’ whiskies; and my favourite drinkin’ whisky, the one I tried to keep always in the house, was and still is The Macallan.

As it happens, I am a Grant on my mother’s side, and the Macallan estate sits four-square in Clan Grant territory — in Craigellachie yet, and the clan war-cry is “Stand fast, Craigellachie!” —  but this has genuinely nothing to do with my loyalty, it’s just a happy by-blow. I love the stuff and there’s a family connection, not because.

Anyway: by the time I was thirty I had established myself as a mystery writer in the UK (I told you, this was all long ago). The pre-eminent British literary award in this field is the CWA’s Gold Dagger, and for a number of years back then it was sponsored – by The Macallan. Yay. I went to a couple of very happy prizegivings, where I didn’t actually win anything (Ian Rankin and I had an agreement, whereby every time we were both shortlisted for the same award, he would win it) but I drank myself cheerful and came away with extra bottles.

So, when I was first venturing into urban fantasy – supernatural thrillers, we called them then – in the mid-nineties, and in need of a name for my hero, Macallan came very easily to mind. Which being so, there’s a British writer-explorer called Benedict Allen whose books I was fond of, so his first name was an easy steal. Thus Ben Macallan was born. I wrote two first-person novels in his voice, Dead of Light (which is now available as an e-book right here at BVC) and Light Errant (which is forthcoming, ditto ditto, next month), and people have been nagging me for another ever since.

And now here I am writing more urban fantasy, all unexpectedly, and much in need of a new pseudonym to publish under; and after two volumes of memoir, why on earth would Ben Macallan not turn his mind to fiction? The world is full of real people who have done exactly that, and Desdaemona is just the kind of novel he would write. For a boy with Ben’s background, it’s practically autobiographical: all about family, and loyalty, and running away.

So, yup. That’s where the name came from.


Dead of Light, by Chaz Brenchley, is now available in the BVC eBookstore. Ben Macallan’s Desdaemona may be pre-ordered at Powell’s Bookstore. Jade Man’s Skin, by Daniel M. Fox, is on the current Locus Poll in the Best Fantasy Novel category. Excerpts from Desdaemona, Dead of Light, and Hidden Cities (the sequel to Jade Man’s Skin) may be found on the Chaz Brenchley Bookshelf at Book View Cafe.


About Chaz Brenchley

Chaz Brenchley has been making a living as a writer since the age of eighteen. He is the author of nine thrillers and several fantasy series, under the names of Daniel Fox and Ben Macallan as well as his own. Chaz has recently married and moved from Newcastle to California, with two squabbling cats and a famous teddy bear. You can find his work in the BVC Ebookstore.


Ben Macallan and Me — 5 Comments

  1. I just stick with family connections for my pen names. Harder for a publisher to claim the pen name that way. Doesn’t happen much anymore, but when I started writing that was a big bug bear in romance publishing.

  2. “I am in my anecdotage…” Love it!

    I write SF so odd names are a must. If I come across a typo that looks interesting when I’m revising/editing, I’ll save it to my ‘names’ file for future reference … I’ve come across some doozies that way!

  3. @Joey – I love the real peaty Islay malts – Laphraoig, of course, and Lagavulin, and anything that tastes of smoke and iodine and sea-wrack. But a glass of one of those is all about the whisky, and a glass is probably enough. A Speyside malt like The Macallan is never going to be as challenging, but when you drink one of those it’s all about the company, and then a bottle may not be enough.