Time for another in the ongoing Idea to Book series. This time, we’re starting with the prequel to the Mysterious Powers series, Forged in Combat.
(Yes, even though it’s my most recent release as I write this.)
First and foremost, I wanted to spend some more time with Arthur and Melusina. Maybe especially Melusina, who strolled onto the page in Carry On, perched on Roland’s bed, and cheerfully offered candied ginger. She is the sort of person who draws every eye in the room with how she dresses and presents herself, and then holds them by sheer force of personality.
Arthur, in contrast, is just as competent, but he’s a lot less showy about it. (He lets Melusina do the showy.) He’s quite happy to blend in with a group of other Army officers in uniform, and distinguish himself by getting things done as smoothly as possible. I was curious, though, about how he got to the position he has in Carry On.
Before I wrote Forged in Combat, I settled down to do an extra for Carry On, of Arthur and Melusina’s side of things during that book. (It’ll be out in the first few months of 2023 once we get it edited.)
I loved getting a chance to see how Arthur and Melusina’s relationship works, even when one or the other of them has been away for extended periods of time due to their respective work and careers. (Long story short: they are very enthusiastic about flinging themselves into bed together as soon as they get the opportunity.)
And from a publishing point of view, I wanted something shorter that could lead into the Mysterious Powers series, both to entice new readers and to use for various promotions and other options.
This book was also a chance to spend a little time in India, which looms so large in the British history of the time (and for very good reason.) At the same time, it’s definitely not an area of my deeper understanding and experience.
As I started looking at when exactly to set this, I discovered that 1882 was a particularly interesting period. Lord Ripon, the Viceroy at the time, was notably progressive in comparison to his predecesor, and by 1882 was actively undoing several of the nastier of the laws of that predecesor. (He also has an interesting personal history – read the author’s notes in Forged in Combat for a bit more!)
I knew that Melusina had grown up partly in India, as the daughter of someone fairly far up in the Colonial Service. (And, like many of those children, was sent back to England or Albion for her education.) She therefore has a particular understanding, there – but she also grew up across the subcontinent and left when she was twelve.
But India also presents an interesting contrast in other ways more directly relating to my own worldbuilding. Where Albion (and those who have grown up in the magical community of Albion) has a particular relationship with magic, India doesn’t work by all the same rules. That wasn’t something I could get into in the length of a novella, but I wanted to at least hint at the diversity, range of approaches, and competing attitudes among people making their lives in India – and those stationed there for a period of their lives. (While, of course, having generally sympathetic protagonists.)
I don’t have immediate plans to explore more stories in India (or other places in the British Empire of the period), but I hope to figure out a way to return to it and deepen some of these stories at some point.
Finally, this is partly about generations.
I’ve been loving exploring three generations of the Edgartons as I get into the writing that will come out in 2023. We have Alysoun and Richard’s romance in Pastiche in 1906 and Gabe and Rathna’s romance in 1922 in The Fossil Door. (And an upcoming book will spend some time with Gabe’s sister Charlotte and her husband-to-be.) The upcoming Old As The Hills and Upon A Summer’s Day will be focusing on Gabe and Rathna later in their lives in 1939 and 1940 (when they’re both in their prime as adults). That book introduces their children. Their youngest, Avigail will be one of the point of view character for the last book in the Land Mysteries series, a school story in 1946-1947.
Getting to look at Arthur and Melusina, both earlier in their lives and later on, when their son is a grown man, was a delight. I’m intrigued by seeing how people grow into themselves, and how the seeds of who they become are in where they began. Exploring some of those generational stories is something I do intend to come back to in future (if not immediately.)
I was in particular fascinated by both their certainty about what they want to be doing, but wrapping that into their familial expectations. Roland in Carry On does something similar, but it comes out looking quite different in the end, in terms of what he turns his hand to.
If any of this intrigues, check out Forged in Combat!