Long May She Reign is out now!
I can't believe it's finally out in the world, on the shelves for you guys to read. And, to celebrate, I thought it'd be fun to talk about some of the random things that came together to inspire this genre mishmash of a book.
The Ballroom at the Haunted Mansion
I was such a chicken as a kid that I didn't go into the Haunted Mansion at Disney until a couple of years ago. It just sounded like it would be scary! 10-year-old me couldn't cope! But when I finally did go on the ride, I was fascinated by the ballroom and its 1950s visual magic. Spoilers, if you don’t what to know how it’s done, but the room uses an old stage trick called Pepper’s Ghosts to create the illusion of dancing ghostly figures on the ballroom floor that seem translucent and to fade in and out of view. You look at the ballroom through a piece of glass, which reflects a group of dancing figures hidden above you out of view. This is actually a Victorian stage trick, and it got me thinking about how illusions and phantasmagoria like that might be used in a fantasy tale in the place of magic…
18th Century Ghost Tours
My research into phantasmagoria led me to discover the history of ghost tours (something very familiar to me, as I live in a supposedly ghost-filled city and see ghost tours every night). Initially, people used tricks similar to Pepper’s Ghost in “séances,” convincing high-paying guests that they were actually communing with the dead. Then, in post revolution France, a man called Etienne-Gaspard Robert built a portable device that allowed him to create moving ghostly images. He performed in an old tomb in Paris, and people were so convinced that his ghosts were real that the French authorities temporarily shut him down, concerned he was going to resurrect the executed Louis XIV.
Lady Jane Grey
Lady Jane Grey, the nine days queen, was a sixteen year old, not-too-close relative of Henry VIII who was shoved on the throne to prevent his Catholic daughter Mary from becoming queen. She barely lasted a week hidden away in the Tower of London before Mary stormed London and took the throne back. Jane got to live a little longer, but after people plotted against Mary in her name, she was beheaded in the Tower courtyard.
Two questions: what would it have been like to be Lady Jane Grey, unexpectedly queen and knowing many people want you dead? And what would have happened if she had survived on the throne for more than a few days?
Or, really, the 18th century French court in general. The extravagance! All of the gold, the hairstyles, the huge dresses, the displays at the feasts. Most fantasy books seem to be medieval, but medieval is bleak compared to later luxury. I wanted a pre-French Revolution of a kingdom, ridiculous in its opulence.
Great British Bake Off
Yup, really. For those who haven’t see it, Bake Off is an addictive TV baking competition in the UK, and one of the three weekly tasks is a “showstopper,” where they create things like Gingerbread Empire State Buildings and ten-tiered sponge cakes and contraptions made of profiteroles and spun sugar and magic. They also have a historical part, where they talk about some of the ridiculous “showstopper”-esque creations of rich people of the past.
Obviously, my extravagant court needed to have some extravagant food creations too. And maybe they could even play a part in the plot…
The Tower of London
Although the Tower of London was an extravagant castle when it was built by William the Conqueror in the 11th century, it looks pretty darn bleak now. A single white tower, surrounded by medieval additions used for torture and imprisonment, circled by a moat that once stank of trapped garbage and had to be traversed by traitors by boat before they were locked away and eventually executed. But despite all the grim and grisliness, it was the last-resort stronghold of the British royals for centuries, where they’d retreat in times of threat, and also where they’d return (assumedly ignoring the blood stains) to prepare for coronations.
I don't have a picture for this, but this was the final piece to make Long May She Reign click. I was working on the book and dealing with a huge spike in my own anxiety, and it was pretty therapeutic to give Freya some of those feelings as well. And as it turned out, giving Freya explicit social anxiety, rather than just general shyness and awkwardness, was exactly what the story needed to make her struggles as an unexpected queen come together.
If you'd like to check out my blend of brutal history, science, phantasmagoria, opulence, and The Great British Bakeoff, you can grab a copy now. I really hope you enjoy it!