In this episode, we cover a series of interviews with Heather Rose Jones and authors of historically-based fiction featuring queer women.
Listen to this episode here.
In this episode we talk about:
- What are the advantages to setting stories in an invented country like Alpennia?
- The roots of Heather’s love for language and history
- Themes and tropes in the Alpennia books
- Why weren’t the books written as romances?
- Complex intersections of gender and sexuality in the books
- Queer coming of age in the 19th century
- What books inspired the Alpennia series?
- Why a laundry maid as a protagonist? Writing precarious lives.
- Touch-points for writing historic disasters and sowing seeds of revolution
- Why write a stand-alone book in the middle of a series?
- Why write in first versus third person?
- Finding the people of color in Alpennia
- Planting story-seeds to harvest in later books
- What’s next for the Alpennia series?
- Giving characters failure modes
- What else does Heather want to write?
- Books mentioned
- A transcript of this podcast is pending.
Links to the Lesbian Historic Motif Project Online
- Website: http://alpennia.com/lhmp
- Blog: http://alpennia.com/blog
- RSS: http://alpennia.com/blog/feed/
Transcript for Today’s Show
Please note this transcript has not been edited and is automatically generated meaning certain words will be incorrect.
the lesbian historic motif podcast is brought to you by Heather Rose Jones under the tilt podcast group we look at lesbian relevant themes in history and literature and talked about current historical fiction with queer female characters including fantastic versions of the past we feature interviews with authors and readers and in months when we have a fifth show we’re proud to present new original historical fiction for your enjoyment this month the lesbian historic motif podcast is delighted to interview author Heather Rose Jones and I’m turning the tables a little bit this month and having my good friend Darlene Fendi Nia interview me on my own show welcome Darlene hello and welcome to me Heather it’s my great pleasure to interview you on your own show about your wonderful books this has to be you know I was just saying before we went live that we have to treat this as kind of like a silly game because otherwise the notion of interviewing myself on my own show just gets a little bit too silly but when my last book came out I had just barely started the podcast it had only had I think two episodes and I was only doing the essays hmmm so there wasn’t a context for saying hey I’ve got this great podcast and everybody is listening to because they weren’t yet and so I figured what what why not sure have you interviewed other authors so it makes perfect sense that you mean you’ve got a book coming out a fabulous book coming out and I think it’s great that we talked about it so that people who haven’t read your books know that they should let me first say that I read a lot of all kinds of fiction and some mostly fiction some memoir and I have stacks and stacks and stacks of books waiting to be read by authors many authors that I like very very much but there are a handful of authors whose books I devour as soon as they are released I don’t put them out of to read shelf I put them on me they’re in my hands I am reading them immediately and Heather is one of that hand for those handfuls of authors that as soon as the book comes out heck before the book comes out I’m hounding and making dole eyes and saying please pretty please could I have it so that was one and so we’re gonna talk about all your books or do you want to focus on okay flood type takes place in this beautiful country that you have created it’s a fictional country but it’s in the real world mm-hmm my first question to you is why did you do that why did you create an imaginary country there are a lot of different reasons for doing that and some of them are utterly practical if if you make it up you can’t get it wrong sure and that’s not entirely true because if you’re setting things in actual history even if it’s an invented place there’s lots of things you can get wrong and for that matter you can invent implausible countries simply by putting things together that just don’t work but the biggest reason why I made the Alpana series in an invented country is because I needed to do certain things with the social structure and in the first book in daughter of mystery I specifically need to do certain things with the legal structure around inheritance and around the ways that well the way the debt worked there’s an element around the payment of debts and the inheritance of debts in the first book that had to be set up very specifically and it didn’t match any existing legal system it was sort of rift off of various systems but yet it made sense I mean I appreciate that it wasn’t how things work but I understood the way that it worked in the country and it made sense I didn’t like it for for all the reasons you can guess but it made sense and I wasn’t completely inventing anything implausible and things like you know the ability of a bastard child to inherit or the ability for you know the holder of a noble title to choose one of several possible heirs for the tight those are all based on actual historic phenomena hmm I just put them together in a particular way that I that I need it for my plot mm-hmm so that was the the first reason was to set up the things that the plot needed it’s a very practical reason another reason was really what I said before that if if it’s invented country you don’t have to get the details exactly precise you don’t have to worry about somebody writing in and saying but in 1827 that Street hadn’t been built yet you know and of course you get that from readers whether the readers are correct or not yeah but you know it gives you a certain amount of relaxation space yeah so with regards to the country being imaginary world world building your world building I even though it’s just a country I consider it world building you know your standard the the people’s status the scenery the language your background is in linguistics to some degree is that correct how did that play one of my background I I did my PhD in linguistics and language has always been a big love of mine I tell people I invented my first language when I was 10 years old which is also the year that I fell in love with European history that was the year my family lived in Prague and a lot of things came together to shake my 10 year old brain out of its existing Californian ruts and life has not been the same since I had a lifelong love of European history and old buildings and the ways that cities are laid out and the way that thousands of years of civic history just builds up builds layers but the language also I mean I I had grown up in an english-speaking family since as far back as anybody can figure out I was exposed to Spanish because I lived in Southern California but I can’t really had the experience of deeply encountering other languages until that year when I lived in Prague and although I did not learn much language because I was incredibly shy and paralyzing ly afraid of talking to strangers but just the concept of living within another language of seeing it all around you it got my brain thinking about equivalent and you know different in equivalent ways of saying things different ways of thinking around language and that really in the long run both the history of the language aspects are what led me to do the PhD it was on my PhD was on the semantics of medieval Walter prepositions which which you know got me the high-paying job in biotech pharmaceuticals that I have today and so another stream going into this is my love of inventing languages I said I invented my first language when I was 10 but when I was in college I started using language invention as a plotting tool for fiction so I would sort of do automatic writing and write out a poem in a language they didn’t exist and then I would do linguistic analysis figure out what the poem was saying what it meant and then work backwards and imagine what the society was that would have created that meaning in that poem and then start putting people together from that society and saying you know what stories what they have Wow none of those no actually won the the skin singer stories in the surgeon sorceress anthology series came out of that type of world building where I started out with the language and then sort of worked backwards to the stories that’s really interesting you started with the language and worked backwards to the world building looks sort of like mocha if I may drop a name I can see that okay okay it’s interesting you say that you lived in Prague because I’ve never been there but seeing pictures of of Prague and I have to send that when I pictured LP Mia I think that there would be some similarities to what I imagined Prague was like would you say that you carried that through or I would say that one of the biggest influences is the image of the capital city with the river flowing through Prague has the the and you know like Paris has the saying in like London has the Thames and so it’s not unique to Prague but that concept of the way that a you know an ageless city builds up around a river that is also a road that certainly helped shape it in theory opinio is far more French influenced in many ways but certainly the the cities that I have lived in in Europe which would be Prague and Munich those are things that that sink into your bones and you know what I’m trying to visualize things they undoubtedly yeah in in flood-tide River certainly is a road and a character and a character and a character of its own absolutely I really I really enjoyed that and I really enjoyed the attention to live she was great she was a great character your books all have queer characters responses duh right yes right exactly and I’m not sure if they’re categorized as romance but there are romances in them I mean they are not the standard girl meets girl they have conflict they get together they have another conflict they break up they get back there’s no there’s not well there is that a little bit I suppose but it’s all very subtle which personally I appreciate why did you not go more in depth with romances with the romance aspect of the characters I try uh-huh so I guess what I mean well what I’m saying is I’d have a hard time having simple stories and so even though it started out where in daughter mystery the romance between Margaret and Barbara was the core of the image that inspired that story it was supposed to be you know the well to some extent that the original inspiration was what ended up being as a novel that Julianne wrote which is you know used in that way but I can’t say this without sounding slightly offensive to romance lovers but just plain romance as a plot is not enough for me right I need something more layered more complicated and so it just naturally evolved well it’s not it’s not enough for me to just put these two character gather give them some conflict give them a reason to stay apart and then get them together in the end everything else just built up because it just came out of the cracks and every time I have tried to plot something that is a straightforward romance where where the romance itself is central it keeps accumulating others some thoughts I haven’t written any of those other ones yet but but yeah I’ve got notebooks I’ve got outlines I’ve got timelines and I keep trying to write something that is plain and simple romance and it never works well I’ll tell you I don’t mean to minimize the romance of the stories because there absolutely is romance but it’s so the story itself if if you took the romance element out of these stories they would still be fantastic stories because of all the other characters and everything else going on to me the romance part of it was like icing on the cake but I will say that if I took the romance out of those stories they would not be the stories I wanted to write because I did want to write stories about women falling in love with it yeah but it’s true you know the question of are these books romances I just I’m in the process of writing in el pena frequently asked questions series and that was the first one was are the alchemy of books romances and the answer is it is complicated and it depends yes so well I would say yeah they are my conclusion is that daughter of mystery has a strong romance the mystic marriage has a strong romance mother soul you really can’t count as capillar romance because of the ending and flood-tide it’s like please don’t anybody go into this book thinking it is a romance not well and flood-tide but the other thing that is different about flood-tide is that it’s first-person narrative yes which I it was funny I started reading it and I was like wait a minute are the other what so that made me go oh this is cool and it was great I loved her point of view and although yeah in flood-tide there isn’t specifically a romance boy that poor little darling panel wants there to be in a few situations and I would say that of all my characters Roz is the one who is most evidently an erotic creature let’s say it that way yeah that it she wears it on her sleeve and it it makes her make bad decisions right she’s she’s a very engaging character and I really I really enjoy her and she’s very down to earth and she’s she struggles with all the things that any young woman who’s discovering her sexuality does and and to that extent it’s a little bit of a coming-out story although at the very beginning she’s out she’s out it we as the whole start of her her situation but she’s a very well drawn character and how she learns about other relationships around her certainly how she learns about tabot and their situation which by the way to have it was fantastically drawn and how everyone around them deals with them is is terrific in both books and mothers and in flood-tide I really appreciate yeah I actually Tabak has he/him pronouns okay so it’s haven’t very solidly identifies as male and the people around him understand that to varying degree right but that is that’s meant to be right and I really liked the scene where Tabak kind of says to Roz that’s not really your story to tell you know which it really that really spoke to me it’s like yeah it’s it’s not up to you to be deciding whether they tell somebody at something like that on someone else you know yeah I don’t say that Roz and habits story together changed drastically in some ways from the original idea I had on Twitter at one point somebody was posting about different ways of handling trans characters in historic settings and I asked if they would be willing to have me bounce some ideas off of them and they were and that was very gracious of them and I tossed out some of the original ideas you know I described some of the original ideas I had and got solidly critiqued for several of the motifs I was using and I went away and I thought about it and I realized that the things that they felt uncomfortable with were completely in essential to the essence of the story the essence of the story was that Roz is putting her foot in it regularly and she needs to learn lessons and she needs to understand why her interactions around Tad’s relationship were inappropriate and she doesn’t understand that at first all she knows is she did something really wrong and it hurt her and later on she figures out that no the important thing is it for other people yeah Brooke was really spectacular and that was something that you know as I say you know people who are not close friends of mine they’re just just people who were passing acquaintances but who knew me well enough to be willing to put that work in and trust that I would listen and I did and I certainly hope that how I had intended to have it as a character will be a pleasure for people to read as opposed to merely neutral I you know it’s not my it’s not my experience so I can’t speak to it but I thought it was handled very well and yeah her growth roses growth from the clueless little things she is at the beginning to the end was really something well if I if I had to sum up roses journey in a single sense it would be girl you need to learn that there are other ways of relating to people than them right and and I want to make it clear that that like the previous books flood-tide does not have on page six that’s just a stylistic choice I made for the series but you know more than the other books you are privy to the fact that she really wants to really lots to yeah and I appreciate that about all the books you know I know how sex works personally and I don’t really care to read detail I mean most of the time I would say 85% of romances I read if there’s a sex scene I pretty much like you okay got it when are they done okay good I’ll start reading again now this funny thing is that I decided to challenge myself and I need I need to learn how to write sexy because the other part of it is I mean I’m asexual I don’t actually get desire in the same way that some people do so so I’m working my imagination and I am writing an alchemy a short story that does in fact involve on page sex in fact it is kind of the central theme of this short story and it is the story about how Tony gets pregnant so it involves on to niat and the baby’s father and job altogether myself in the deep end oh wait there wasn’t a magic stone but no there’s also like a room in the golden Falcon Hotel in Heidelberg I don’t know what I’m gonna finish it because it’s very much an experiment in learning how to write this and I’ve got a good friend who has promised to you know beta read the hell out of it for me who is much more comfortable with the sex scenes and it’s a a color I want on my palate good do you have a favorite character oh absolutely yeah it’s on 20th yeah no questions asked you know I would freely admit that she shares I identify more with her than with any of the other characters although she is not me but absolutely you know one of my security questions somewhere on a system that I won’t tell you about is you know who is your favorite character and and there is no way I’m going to forget that answer uh-huh what books or in our authors would you say inspired you to write this series there are two books that are the direct progenitor x’ one is georgette hires these old shades okay which may seem like an odd book that’s the one about you know the irascible cranky old Duke who falls in love with the teenager who was cross-dressing as a boy who turns out to be the lost heir so it was not like a direct inspiration for the plot but it was in my mind when I first got the scenario of an older character who is responsible for a younger character and who then needs to leave that younger character in the hands of someone who will take care of her and you know it doesn’t matter at all to to these old shades but but there’s a sort of structure and that sense of people being in other people’s charge against their will and to some extent to the the the the Duke of Avon from these old shades there’s a little bit of him in Baron Sansa in the beginning although I figured out later in the appearance appetite is also the county today so there was that and basically my entire love for hares Regency romance and I wanted to write a Regency romance where the girls fall in love with each other and it with different places than that but but these old changes one of the reasons why originally the daughter mystery was going to be set in France I see because there was a feel there that I was aiming for mm-hmm and then everything went sideways and ended up in Fantasyland but the other book that was a direct progenitor of daughter of mystery was ellen kushner I knew it the privilege yep I knew it because that wonderful darling delicious book was not the book I needed it to be it was the book it wanted to be and it’s wonderful that it’s perfect I’m going to talk about it more in the book but it wasn’t the book that I desperately needed to have exist and it was because it was so close that I said screw this I just need to write it nobody else is gonna write it for me if somebody could come this close and not get there I need to write mm-hmm and so that was where all the you know the swashbuckling and the cross-dressing and the you know the operas and the ball games and I think of duels and everything you know Mohamed to to Ellen Kushner there’s a wonderful person I mean she’s a wonderful person even apart from the books pianist yeah for sure I I enjoyed that book very much when I read it many years ago I like I said I saw it instantly with Barbara that it was very much like the character in that book what made you choose a laundry maid as your main character in this book why am i made part of the reason I wrote flood-tide is because I had started accumulating these teenagers and I wanted to do something teenage with them before they became adults I want to do something that focused on a teenage crowd running around together separate from what the adults were doing right I thought about making Yulia so so Margaret’s cousin Yulia into the main character but the hope is that the only of this she’s got too much she’s too privileged for all that she ran away from home to have adventures in the city you know she is really a very comfortable privileged character and I was getting a little bit tired of having all of my viewpoint characters be characters who have at least comfort if not privileged I mean you know let’s let’s be honest so Lucia the the opera composer she she worries about money but she’s got a home she’s got a family you know Serafina you know is osteo over the nature of her magical abilities and and over being a woman of color in a society that is overwhelmingly white but again you know she worries about money but she’s comfortable and she’s got a network at all that she’s not if she needs help she has friends she can call on who will get her out of she doesn’t always think about it but she does and I wanted to write about a character who was the other side of being a queer person in history who is at risk who is vulnerable who does not have money and privilege and titles and everything else to insulate her from what people think about her sex life so that was why my bras and to some extent they your laundry maid was almost started is what is the most but I say ridiculous but what is the most peculiar occupation one could have for a fantasy heroine hmm and and that just sort of came to me I think I think I started saying it as a joke originally but but but then when I when I inserted her in a passing passing role in the mother of souls she was all firmed up by then he’s like by that time I had plotted flood-tide entirely because the two books in intertwined so much and I wanted a working-class character I wanted a character who was in service who was entirely dependent on the goodwill of the servants hierarchy and heaven help her if she came to the negative attention of her actual employers and another big part of it was that she was a country girl she came into the city to work and does not have a support system she does not have relatives and when she got thrown out on the street for being you know caught having sex with another housemaid she honestly has nowhere to go the first chapter and this isn’t a spoiler so well those in the first chapter is pretty much about her contemplating becoming a beggar contemplating becoming a prostitute contemplating starving and freezing on the streets and just sort of bullying her way through until she gets a second chance and that then informs a lot of her motivations for the rest of the book she is constantly thinking about if I step out of line if I if I fall in love with the wrong person if I make the wrong move I’ll be out on the street again and this time there won’t be a second chance right that brings me to another question as we’re talking about the book the Lord what’s a lower class the less privileged people we see a lot more of pended the lower side the other side of society in this book very effectively with live the boat woman and the whole thing with the fever yeah and the separate I mean wow talk about felt like present day in a way where I don’t know what’s maybe this is I don’t know but the whole the title of the book is flood tide what’s right and then you know what people can’t leave there’s there’s a fever and the higher-ups want to keep the fever in with the with the lowers so they don’t let anybody to travel from one side to the other and there’s it’s like there’s a border wall you know or like you know when you had the you know all the flooding from the Hurricanes around Louisiana and people were standing on bridges trying to keep the riffraff from crossing over to where they were it was really powerful you know I I think that human nature even in its bad sight as well as his good side is fairly consistent and so using imagery like that from the modern day to to think about how people would react I think is a reasonable thing to do you know quite what’s they confess that my image of seasonal flooding you know to some extent comes from the Sacramento Delta it’s that notion of you’ve got a snowpack in the mountains and it tends to all melt at one time and then suddenly you know where you used to have fields now you’ve got rivers so not so much for the actual ecology of El Pena but for that that sense that gut-level sense of what does it like to have this happen you know the other thing I used for imagining wrote neck in in flood tide was lots of newspaper pictures of flooding in European cities there’s been a number of you know really severe floods in the last 20 years or so I’ve got some really great pictures in my research file that that I look at what I think about so could you run a book down what used to be a street why yes yes you can but the flooding and the disease and all that part of that was inspired by what I’ve been saying you know first jokingly and then seriously is that the series is going to continue until we get to the revolution and to get a revolution you to push people so hard that they are willing to throw away even the little they’ve got you know I’ve been dropping bits and hints of how you know there is this divide of understanding of priorities between the upper classes who they’re concerned with things like you know the toll one pays for a horse that dies in the middle of the toll gate I had fun making up that example whereas the the working-class people are worried about things like why haven’t we dredged the canals recently what’s gonna happen when the flood comes next there’s been this theme put to put into the book since the beginning that Oh flub tide it’s a holiday you you leave town and you have a party in the country with your friends and relatives because oh it’s just so so nasty and stinking when the river floods and that always carried with it the understanding that there are people who cannot leave there are people who are just gonna like wade through the water to work every day until the waters go down and that struck me very early on as you know a good catalyst for it revolution so if not an actual flood itself then the memory of how your life was dismissed as unimportant yeah it’s definitely a great catalyst I Africa I have expected a revolution in this book frankly the tilt podcast group relies on support the support of you our listeners the support of those who like and review our show on their favorite podcast app the support of our patrons on patreon and the support of our sponsors we hope you’ll continue to enjoy and support tilt another thing that I really enjoyed about all your books is although it is a series we can definitely say that it’s a series each book is a standalone somebody could pick up flood-tide and read it and have a great appreciation for what a terrific story is what’s fun though as someone who has read the whole series is watching Roz think that she’s the only one she’s got all these dark secret thoughts what we know is the reader that well guess what honey your boss s1 and guess what that other rich lady that comes she’s one too and oh you know what it’s there everywhere yeah and so it’s fun as the reader when you know that but even if you don’t know that you enjoy it when she fight when she realized so I very deliberately wrote flood-tide as a standalone and it’s a practical reason get to book three in a seven book series and it becomes daunting for people it’s gonna be rare for somebody to pick up book three mother of souls and read it as their first book when they read daughter mystery it’s their first book there’s gonna be a fall off you know not everybody’s gonna read the second book and not everybody reads the second book is gonna read the third book and I needed a way to give the series more of a shot in the arm and I call it an independent freeway on-ramp yeah do you think that is it your hope that people will pick up flood-tide as a first as their first look absolutely yeah I mean I certainly hope that the people who’ve been reading this series all along will feel inclined to pick it up but my big hope is that it will have the kind of reach and sales that daughter mystery did and maybe even more because of better-known now so people who had not started this series because oh my god there’s three books that’s I don’t want to start a new long series but they’ll pick up flood-tide because it’s a standalone because you don’t need to have read anything else first and because you can read it and only it and be be at the mm-hmm did you find it more difficult to write first-person narrative rather than a mission not really I flip flop between them there are ways in which each of them is easier so like my my short story is based on the mavin Oggy skin singer stories right they’re all first-person right right in terms of getting inside I like being inside a character’s head I like the narrow point of view that you get from you know either first person or a camera I third person because story is so often about what you conceal as much as what you reveal and I like concealing things from readers I like concealing things from characters one of the reasons I did the alternating viewpoints for the earlier books is because I want to show what each character does not know about the other character and when I don’t want to reveal something about a character I want to show them from the other character’s point of view so in terms of story structure the third person I’m very fond of and and I love like I say getting deep inside their point of view and I actually dislike omniscient in the in the strict sense where you know I am the godlike author you know sitting above everything just describing anything as it goes by because it’s so easy for that to fall flat it’s so easy for that to just be you know a recitation of facts yeah and first-person is sort of the ultimate cameras eye but then you don’t have the ability to comment on things around you as much so when I’m doing third-person I can describe my character interacting with things around her without her having to necessarily take note of them so you know she may be walking through the park that has the Roman ruins in it and this gives world building for the background of all Pena but I don’t have to have her notice oh there are the ruins over there on the other side of the park somebody told me that they were you know built in ancient Rome where that’s what the first-person point of view if it’s done well all they ever know not something what that character knows but what they think is worth thinking about mmm and there were a couple places where I had to really dodge around that to provide the essential information and I blogged about that and I talked about it where when I needed the reader to know more about the various goings-on at the climax of the plot so no spoilers but you know there are other characters the stuff that you learn about a mother of souls that’s going on I needed the reader to be at least aware that things were happening and those things that were happening are things that Roz not only doesn’t know anything about but doesn’t care about she wouldn’t even understand half there’s no impacting so there was no way to present them through her point of view but I can have Serafina show up Serafina is totally embedded in that because she was one of the main characters of mother of souls and she can explain them to Celeste and we should talk about Celeste she can explain them to Celeste because she’s being something of a magical mentor to Celeste and Celeste is interested in it so now Roz is just there in the room while Serafina is telling Celeste about all this stuff going on now the reader knows but you have to come up with tricks like that otherwise you have your character saying it’s like I looked at myself in the mirror and I noticed my brilliant red hair which is so indicative of my personality is like and being first person then restricts you in that way you have to figure out what are the essentials that your reader has to know and do you need a workaround to convey it but Celeste so so we haven’t mentioned Celeste you live who who Rose a water taxi on the river but Celeste is the other dressmakers apprentice your daughter’s a dressmaker that Roz is apprenticed to all right and she does have magical talents and that brings many things together yeah she’s a great character her devotion to her mother and wanting said that her mother’s shop is a success and that her mother has a successor her devotion to her mother over her dream I have to say must have been her dream to practice her mysteries and learn more about that was really something she was a great character and I and she was really fun to read because I could just picture her being totally not wanting to have this young whatever come in and didn’t take attention away from her mom and having to take the extra time to train her and everything but yeah she was a good she was a good character what made you come up with her well Celeste first shows you mothers their souls as a young girl that Serafina encounters and starts mentoring right I’m trying to remember when I first decided she existed because Dominique her mother the dressmaker technically shows up in daughter of mystery although she isn’t named and then is a background character in the mystic marriage because she’s she’s the dressmaker that John likes to patronize and so we see her regularly there and I like I say I forget when I realized I always like to say realize rather than decide when I realized that she had a daughter who was learning the trade aunt who was magically down which I talked into your head but it really just clicked it really clicked and and then she became one of these teenagers that I was collecting it’s so great and I I fell in love with her because of her relationship with Sarafina because Sarafina was so delighted to have someone that she could well that you could be more knowledgeable than that she could interact with and teach when Serafina was feeling very untalented herself and of course the other part of it is that Celeste her mother are black right dominique is from she she was born a slave in the West Indies and then brought back to France and then fled Paris with at that because of the legal rules in France she was no longer a slave at that point but she was still associated with the family that had enslaved her and when they fled the revolution and ended up en el pena this is all deep backstory it’s very good you know and then Celeste father is an opinion and he’s white part of this came out of my commitment to having al pena be diverse and not having it be this weird little Disneyland whitewashing society well the reason I dedicated mother of souls to the woman who runs medieval people of color is because she helped me really delve into looking at the artwork and the records and say seeing you know how diverse ethnically early modern Europe was that comes into it as well that here is Serafina you know she her parents were from Ethiopia although she was born in Italy and she lands in rota neck and she is feeling so much of a you know a ship adrift and giving her friends of color to interact with and to feel anchored by and to feel like you know she has something in common with them and then especially when she bonds with Celeste over learning magic it was something I wanted to do for Sarafine I wanted her to have a community to have you know people yeah and first Celeste to have a mentor of color yes and to see that there are really opportunities for her outside of being just her mother’s assistant or being a dressmaker like her mom to have her really realized that her dream of practicing magic and performing mysteries is achieved is it is achievable yeah because it’s been done by someone like her and I’m always layering in little details often without knowing what you so I’m good mmm-hmm where later on what I’m plotting the next book it’s like ah I planted seeds oh well I’m going to harvest right now ha and and Dominique was one of those in in daughter mystery when Margaret is arranging for proper clothing for for Barbara towards the end of the book and the dressmaker who is commissioned at that point is dominating although as I say I don’t even mention her name but there’s no context for saying you know this is Madame Dominique the dressmaker who came from Paris who was born in the West Indies blah blah blah you don’t know any of that but I’ve embedded it in the choice of name in the choice of a French name so that in the mystic marriage when you encounter her again and you know that she is black it fits him what happened earlier and I do that with a lot of the details especially of minor characters who I think might become important I give them backstories I give them I have a database like of course you do queen of database and so do you have the name of the character and then little characteristics about them yeah so I have the character’s name you know it’s like gender social class social connections anything that I can specifically said about like you know where they live or what they do if they become important enough I find a reference image so I go online and I look at old paintings and things like that and pull up an image so that if I need to describe them go be consistent because I’m not actually very good at visualizing characters and and also which books they appear in and then if there’s like a bit of text that says something about them I will paste that in so that I can go back to it a lot of it is just so that I can be consistent yeah also so that I can run reports and say I’ve got too many characters who names start with a and and I love I love databases I mean databases are my favorite computer game so it does seem natural to do do you have a reference vision of what Dominique looks like I don’t have Dominique I have I have an image for Celeste and it is from a sort of a folk art painting from the West Indies of a young girl of a well-to-do family so she’s in a nice white region Sierra dress but I haven’t found the image that says hi I’m Dominique I just I’ve looked I’ve done a lot of looking and I haven’t find it yet so flood tide is coming out November 15 yes so it’s coming out from Bella books so you do you have outlines for the other three yes there are varying levels of detail so I have a I already have a Scrivener file for the next book which is mistress of Shadows that is the one where Barbara blows off to be the princess of El Pena’s spy mistress in Paris while they’re hunting down the Satanic conspirators who caused the weather mystery and the viewpoint characters for that one will be Barbara and Serafina who goes with her as her magical eyes and a new character who is the Salida of may who is from the Egyptian colony in France that came over after Napoleon’s brief aborted invasion of Egypt and there was this group of partially Egyptian soldiers and their families and also some of the aristocracy from Egypt that had thrown in their lot a little bit too solidly with Napoleon and had to flee and I’ve got this wonderful book about the whole history of that that group of people and when when I found that book I realized I knew whose abide it was going to be because I needed a character in France I needed the character who it’s got to be a love interest for Sharon in case I whispered too softly for the microphone that it was I needed a character who’s going to be a love interest for Serafina and and is that going to be first person as well no that’s gonna go back to the multiple viewpoints and that’s that’s again going to be the the narrow the type the third-person few points there’s also probably going to be still working this out there’s there’s a side story involving an to me it’s Jewish apprentice animal turrets alright that originally I was gonna do as a separate story and then I realized it’s entirely too woven into what’s going on in mistress of shadows so originally wanted all of the viewpoint characters to be in France mm-hmm but when I realized that I needed Anna’s straight to be part of this and it really kind of had to come through her my current plan is that she will be the fourth viewpoint character but she will be back in Pena and that’s gonna be tricky to work out so that it it really flows nicely mmm um and doesn’t feel like she’s just an add-on and then she’s not she’s also gonna be my first gift my character who’s not queer I don’t I know there are people who water to be but she’s not well I loved I loved in flood-tide um the teenagers going off on their adventures and yeah originally I wanted Anna Anna MAHT Terrence to be one of the the teenager pack but she’s too she’s too old she’s too mature more than she’s too mature rather than she’s too old there wasn’t Oh a little more recipients are in yeah and busy with her own work so that’s that’s mr. Saffiano so there they say it’s thoroughly plotted out I’ve got all the chapters set up in in Scrivener the book after that is sisters in spirit which is going to get a bit more into the Royal domestic politics of El Pena and that is outlined I know who the main characters are gonna be I know a lot of what’s gonna happen but it’s not it’s not so thoroughly outlines that I’ve got chapters or anything and in that book I’m gonna step away from the type viewpoint because in that book I start needing to know more things that my central characters are not present for and so that will be another shift in viewpoint and probably will continue on with the last book which is heirs of the deluge or at least that’s the current working title which will be about revolution excellent I so admire the whole when did you know that it was gonna be seven books you know I probably could look back in my blog and figure it out because I’ve been blogging incessantly about my writing process I’m a very processed person mm-hm I think by the second book I knew it was gonna be a series and by the by the time I was plotting out mother of souls I had an idea of the shape of how it was going to end I’m not exactly sure where it went in there I sort of separated out and identified this will be seven books and this is what’s gonna be in each of them because at some point I think I was thinking in terms of eight books and then I realized I didn’t have enough material to do that so it’s been evolving what part of my writing process that I’ve got all these visual metaphors for writing and part of it was looking at a map with a magnifying glass so that you see very clearly a small area that you’ve really focused on but then everything else the further out it gets is fuzzier and fuzzier and you can only see the vague outlines and that’s how the series has been where the further ahead in the series it is the less I knew about and the less I wanted to know about it because I didn’t I didn’t want to nail things down when I was still writing the earlier books so you know this idea that you know the next look I’ve got thoroughly outlined the book after that I’ve got a pretty solid idea and the book after that is just this nebulous okay that’s when the revolution happens and that’s how I’ve worked all along so the point at which I knew how many books that had to wait until I gotten far enough in that that that part of the vision was becoming clearer cool interesting you know I hear from a lot of writers of that they start to write a book and they’ve created these characters and then the character is kind of start to talk to them and tell them what they want to do and what I wanted to do does that happen to you as well I mean I wouldn’t personify it in the sense of you know these characters are real people but once you’ve developed a complex character now they’ve got habits now they’ve got ways of thinking now there are consequences of what you’ve already set up and I love in the same way that I love you know layering in what seems to be irrelevant details and then I realize you know I said something up that I didn’t even know I was gonna do and in the same way with the characters because of how I’ve developed them there are consequences in how they are likely to behave in what their failure points are what are their you know what are their fatal flaws all of my characters have issues I have gradually realized that Marisa Vitra is the ultimate nice light lady she doesn’t realize how privileged her life is she wants to do good things for other people and often like steps on toes in the process she needs to have some mind opening along the way and she’s gonna get some of it eventually but you know she started out as being oh this is the sympathetic young character who you know is finally realizing her dreams but the way which she realized her dreams left her with some real blind spots yeah you know she really does think that if you throw money at something you can solve problems and and you can’t right and I’ve been really explicit about Barbara’s builder modes where she is she has control issues she wants to know everything she wants to be in control of things she thinks she knows better than other people what they ought to be doing and she will tell them so her very best friends occasionally tell her not to be quite so much of a bully and what we see at the end of mother of souls and will be a major element in the beginning of mistress of shadows is that her self-image has been very tied up with her physical competence and she’s injured at the end of mother of souls in a way that drastically changes her physical abilities and she has not really confronted that by the end of that book and at the beginning of mistress of shadows it smacks written effects and she does not deal well with it and she hurts people in the process and she spends part of the part of her story in the book is coming to terms with who she is apart from her body there’s also you know some other interesting things because having been trained as a source woman that’s you know a stereotypically mask profession and she has played with being genderqueer she has done the blurring of lines and she’ll wear masculine style clothing or actually a full-on you know man’s outfit not only because it fits with the jobs that she does but because she likes tweaking people she likes being in people’s face about it and because her masculine side is very tight up with her prowess with the sword when she loses that she has something of a crisis of gender as well as a you know a crisis of confidence and she’s gonna confront that as well and figure out you know you know I will let out that Barbara discovers that you know she is decidedly masculine of Center she she is not trans she does not you know she is very comfortable with being female but she needs to learn to embrace the fact that she likes masculine performance for its own sake and not simply as a social tool and Tebbetts gonna help her with that that’s great so you’re hard at work at this seven book series what other projects are you working on I am dreaming of the day when I can write some ordinary historical novels I I have a Regency romance that I want to write it’s got fun industrialists daughter and and some cross-dressing but not the usual sort and of course a missing heir you have to have a missing heir I love missing heirs I’ve got it fairly thoroughly plotted but I’m worried that if I get distracted from writing the opinion series I’ll get bogged down and then not finish that so I simultaneously really want to write my Regency romance and I want to put it off until I got some free time and the other project that’s been eating up my brain lately some people think the Alpana book should have been like a linked series of romances where it’s like each book focuses on a couple and they’re not but I got this idea for a linked series of romances focusing you know serially on different couples set in the English restoration because there are so many fascinating queer women in later 17th century England and France and I just wanted I wanted like fictionalize them all and turn them into my characters and then throw them into each other’s our mm-hmm and that one I may actually have some non female couples I may play around a lot more with you know the gender of my my characters we’ll see but the idea is that it is like a linked series of women who all know each other and are part of sort of a a group household so that I can have all the representation without really accumulating the viewpoints and I’ve got a series title it’s called Diana’s band but you know again it’s like I don’t want to plunge into that and then never get back to all penny alright and and other than that I’ve got some short fiction that I’ve been writing that insinger stories I have finished this Kinsinger series but I have not yet published the last story I wrote a novel that to conclude it and what I’ve been saying for years is I am going to do a self-published collection of the whole series including this never-before-seen novel that and use it as my my first dabbling in the field of self publishing mhm and I often get paralyzed by things with a steep learning curves so the various skills I need to learn to put out an entirely self-published book for money and as opposed to just free on my website they keep being a stumbling block so I keep saying it’s like well when I’ve got some elbow room and I’m not in the middle of another project and and it’s I’ve been saying that for a couple years now yeah so so one of these years it’s ready to go it’s all finished it’s been edited it’s just the question of euphoria yeah do it now so you said a region see now when you say region see is it going to be queried you see oh yes I really have no interest in writing straight romances but just life’s too short right talk about your blog a little bit maybe give your website and where can people find you on social Media so my website is al Pena calm just like the name of this country mm-hmm and it’s a excellent one-stop shop for my social media because you can find the links to my Facebook and my Twitter there my blog includes the lesbian historic motif project which anyone who’s listening to this podcast already knows about so I won’t say any more about that I also do book reviews I talk about my writing process I do teasers from my fiction occasionally I do long philosophical essays about things of deep interest to me more people should read my blog I’m a very fascinating writer you would enjoy it well I agree with that and I will say with regard to your reviews I’ve found quite a few books new authors from some of your reviews so they’re on my to be read pile well Heather thanks for sitting down with me to talk about your books well thank you darling for inviting me on my podcast boom I hope you’ve enjoyed this episode of the lesbian historic motif podcast see the show notes for links to people and topics most shows will have a transcript linked as well if you have a book announcement a topic suggestion or might like to appear on the show please drop me an email if you enjoyed this podcast please read it and subscribe on your favorite podcast app and consider supporting our patreon