So, in addition to my short stories, flash fiction, and the occasional poem, I am also working on a historical novel/novella (tentatively called “The League”). When I describe the project (a spy novel set in Regency England involving a mythical beast), I get an ‘Uh-huh, where did that come from?’ Especially since my expertise is in decision making and modern American security policy.
Side note – I got the same question when I described my doctoral dissertation on the micro-economic modeling of prospect theory. It’s true, you can look it up – “Desperate times, desperate measures: A theory of framing and its effect on risk attitudes”
Anyway, back to my point.
How do you get to the absurd sounding basis for a novel? Well here’s the trip.
First, I was in a period of reading standard romance novels (bodice rippers) and thought I’d try my hand on writing one myself. So, I figured it would focus on the relationship of an intelligent servant and her brooding master. I know cliché. I was bored in the first few pages.
While I was looking for more backstory, I watched a special on Elizabeth I’s spymaster, William Cecil, and thought ‘They may have said it was disbanded, but I bet monarchs found it useful.’ From this was born “The League” a secretive organization of Crown agents that were spies and assassins for the King or Queen. The male lead would be a member, an assassin who felt guilty about the murders he committed.
Next, I wanted a foil. Where the male lead was brooding, I needed a character who would balance his darkness. This became THE BARONESS, the daughter of a whore she rose to the Court through her beauty and wits. I know, another cliché. The Baroness’ worldliness would also be a balance for the purity and innocence of my female character.
Now, what adventure could I set them on? At first, I thought a serial murder with ties to an influential family. Boring. It would probably be a standard murder mystery set two centuries ago. Not that it would be bad, but not my cup of tea. What was my cup of tea was the supernatural. (as a genre, not the show, although it’s not bad). At the time I was in the middle of reading Carrie Vaughn’s Kitty Norville series and Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse novels. So, my quest had to be supernatural in origin. Enter Sherlock Holmes, or more specifically, “The Hound of the Baskervilles”. It turned out that the description of the hound matched one of a mythical creature known as the Barguest.
So, there I was – a set of characters, a setting (Regency England) and a quest. All I needed for a successful novel! Except for writing the damn thing in between all my other writing, teaching classes, grading papers and renovating my house (there is a family in there as well- good thing I am an insomniac).
Oh, one last thing. Turns out my secondary character, The Baroness, is a lot more interesting than my lead character, so the novel now focuses on her.
The plan is to have it done within the year. So, keep coming back as I post more about how it goes.