I: Inspiration, or, Where Did the World of My Book Come From?
Today I’m just going to talk a bit about my own work. My first book, The Deathsniffer’s Assistant, offers a lot of things that I don’t think you can get just anywhere. Like my cast of very different women, each with different kinds of strength and their own individual weaknesses. Or my melding of the whodunnit, conspiracy, and urban fantasy genres. But I think the most unique thing I’m bringing to the table is my setting.
The Deathsniffer’s Assistant takes place in an entirely fictional world, but the aesthetic I’m trying to evoke is Edwardian England, specifically the era between the mid 1900s and the early 1930s. And so far as I can see, I’m the only author who’s ever written a fantasy novel with this flavour! Fantasy has come up from its medieval roots in recent years, but while I’ve seen a fair amount of Victorian, Regency, or even 1950s flavoured fantasy, no one seems particularly interested in the Edwardian era! In fact, I originally started intending for that more Victorian or Regency feel, myself. It seemed like the thing, and I knew a lot already. But as I wrote my first draft, my aesthetic just warped under my fingers. It modernized, and I let it. I realized that something really one-of-a-kind was possible if I kept on this path.
Rewinding a bit, the kernel of my setting, what I started with, had always been in wanting to write a world that had the fairy tale splendour of a city like Zurich, and filling it with components that are usually coded to lighter fantasy, like elementals or unicorns. I wanted to take the wonder of that airy sort of world and then juxapose it against that universal constant of daily life: it’s boring. It involves work, taxes, traffic, paperwork, and repetition. I think that everyone’s life is boring, and everyone can empathize with the grind it can be.
I made the magical into the routine. Almost everyone in the world of The Deathsniffer’s Assistant possesses amazing magical gifts, but those gifts are heavily policed and categorized and have a strict set of rules. Which gift you have limits your employment options and is an integral part of your government identification. It’s a part of the daily grind and is just a cog in the beaurocracy.
Ultimately, the technology I felt this level of organized society would create would be further ahead than my planned era. And as my world “aged,” I felt the aesthetic of the early 20th century offered really interesting venues to explore. And as I learned more and more about the era, it just felt right! It felt new and fun and exciting.
I read a lot of historical novels set in this era as a little girl, so maybe that’s where my fondness for it came from. But all those pieces swirled together and clicked, and I couldn’t be more happy with how my world fell out! I hope everyone looks into checking it out when The Deathsniffer’s Assistant comes out this summer!
When writing yourself, let your setting change underneath you if it wants to, and don’t be afraid to try something new. Unique is fun. Embrace it.