As part of our WEEK OF MICHELLE ZINK we promised you a guest blog post from Michelle herself…and here it is! As part of the story of both Prophecy of the Sisters and Guardian of the Gate unravels in the UK, we wanted to find out from Michelle what it was like to write about a location that wasn’t her home town. Read on to see just how much she loves our rainy little isle :)
I think I was born to be a Brit.
No. Don’t laugh! It’s true.
I love everything from British music to British films to British fashion. And who doesn’t love a guy with a British accent (though, Jason Statham is more my speed than RPat)?
Really, what’s NOT to love about a country that brought the world Coldplay, Hot Fuzz, and Stella McCartney?
One of the coolest things about the UK, though, is it’s history. I’m a total history nerd, and I’m particularly interested in spiritual history and mythology – all of which made setting Guardian of the Gate in England a no brainer.
Except for the fact that I’ve never been to England.
I’ve always wanted to visit. I’ve always meant to visit. But the planets have never aligned just right so I could actually make the trip.
Setting a story in a place you’ve never actually been could be considered gutsy at best and foolish at worst. For me, it was an excuse to read about England, look up photos, and consult with British friends and readers.
At the same time, I had to work at not getting bogged down in the details, which probably seems a little contradictory. But it’s like this; the Prophecy of the Sisters trilogy is a fantasy. I was surprised when the first book was released and reviewers referred to it as historical fiction. I was like, “Wha?”
That’s because I’ve always considered Prophecy a fantasy that happens to be set in an earlier time period – NOT historical fantasy. I set the series in the late 1800s because I’m a Gothic geek who loves all the darkness of that era.
Plus, it’s sexy.
All that velvet! All those corsets! All those mysterious, well-mannered men!
More than anything, I wanted to project an atmosphere. And sometimes, details can actually get in the way of something as mysterious and intangible as atmosphere. It’s a balancing act of using enough details to give the reader a picture without using so many that the reader gets bogged down in them at the expense of the overall feeling of a book, something that’s way more important to me.
What I didn’t do is try to perfectly replicate the era. I didn’t research the fabric used to make gowns (except in one instance where I wanted to know what a mourning gown would sound like when it rustled), Gothic architecture, or Victorian table manners. Instead, I looked at old photos and tried to imagine myself in them. Tried to hear the noises I would have heard and see things as I would have seen in them.
I took the same tactic in researching England. I’m a super visual person (would you rather have someone describe a hot guy or would you rather look at a picture? Enough said!), and I had tons of fun looking at photos – old and new – of the UK.
But I didn’t count the number of steps fronting a certain famous building used in book three and I didn’t choose a specific address to act as Milthorpe Manor in London. I read short descriptions where I needed a starting point and then used pictures as a reference. Sometimes they were pictures of a specific place, and other times they were general photos of the English countryside or London proper. Then, I projected myself to that time and place (well, yanno, without actually leaving my house. I can’t travel astrally like Lia can) and made note of the things I saw and heard. I tried to notice only the things a real person would notice standing on that particular street or in that particular field. Then, I took artistic license where I felt it was necessary to serve the story.
This is, after all, Fiction!
Which means I probably didn’t put everything exactly where it is or insert every detail. Sometimes on purpose and sometimes because, well, it just didn’t matter. It didn’t serve the story as much as what I used.
Because in the end, a great story isn’t about the number of steps or the ancient name for something or the exact location of a lay line.
In the end, a great story is one that transports you to another time, another world, another place. And that is often a hybrid between what really exists and what we wish existed. Because what’s the fun of fantasy if it’s all real?
I hope you enjoy Prophecy’s blend of the real and fantastical – and forgive me any errors relating to your kick-ass country.
Prophecy of the Sisters (paperback) and Guardian of the Gate (hardback) are out on 5th August