Walking in My Character’s Footsteps
In my novel The Faerie Ring, the world of Victorian London intersects with the world of Faerie. Whether you believe in faeries or not, I think we can all agree that both worlds are inaccessible from the 21st century. How, then, do you write a story that takes readers back in time and immerses them in a believable world? In one word: Research!
The Faerie Ring is the story of a ring stolen from Queen Victoria—a ring that holds a truce between England’s royals and the Otherworld—and the ensuing battle for control. When I wrote the book, I had never actually visited London and really didn’t know much about that city. It was quite fortuitous that I had my main character living in Charing Cross railway station, which was and continues to be the true heart of London. It is the point from which all distances in the City are measured to this day.
The story is set in 1871 because that’s the year one of the characters, Prince Leopold—the youngest son of Queen Victoria—turned eighteen. My wonderful editor, Susan Chang, was insistent (correctly so!) that all historical facts be accurate. To garner information about setting, clothing, and the vernacular of the Victorian era, I read a number of books, both fiction and non-fiction. Of particular help were What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew by Daniel Pool (Simon & Schuster 1993) and Victorian London, The Tale of a City 1840-1870 by Liza Picard (St. Martin’s Griffin 2005). Additionally, I used many online resources, including Google Earth.
After I’d sold the book, but before I’d worked on any editorial revisions, I had the opportunity to visit London for the first time. It was fantastic! London is an ancient city with so much history oozing out of the buildings, parks and sidewalks, it can’t help but to inspire a writer! Once there, it was a wonderful and surreal experience to walk in my character’s footsteps.
While in London, we visited Charing Cross, the railway station where my main character lives in an abandoned clockmaker’s shop. Many of the buildings in London retain the flavor of their historical roots, giving one the impression of stepping back in time. From there, we went on to St. James Park, which is a particularly beautiful setting with the unique Birdkeeper’s Cottage situated on one end of the lake and stately Buckingham Palace visible in the distance through the trees.
London is a very walkable city and in Victorian times, people often traveled on foot from one destination to another. From Charing Cross and Buckingham Palace, one can walk to other places featured in The Faerie Ring, such as The Ring in Hyde Park, Great Ormond Street Hospital, and Grosvenor Square. So rich is the palette of London that the City itself almost becomes a character.
The world of Faerie featured in The Faerie Ring is based on folklore as well as my imagination, as the heart of Faerie beats in time with the heart of London. To add an air of authenticity I researched the wide and varied faerie lore history within the British Isles through a combination of online research and books.
Threading the realistic setting and historical figures of Victorian London with the fantasy of the faerie world was a delightful adventure in itself. I’ll leave it to you, the Reader, to decide if you feel like you’ve visited another time and place.
From the Tor/Forge October newsletter. Sign up to receive our newsletter via email.
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