Idea to Book : Perfect Accord


With this Idea to Book for Perfect Accord, we’re caught up to the current releases (well, until Friday, when The Magic of Four is out). We’ll have that idea to book post in a couple of weeks. 

Perfect Accord exists because as much as I adore Gabe, his sister is also fascinating. They’re both very much children of Alysoun and Richard – with that particular combination of intelligence, observation, and practicality. But they get there in distinct ways. More about that under Charlotte’s story. 

Alchemical perfumes

When I started drafting ideas for the Mysterious Arts series – which crafts and arts I wanted to write a book about – perfume was high on the list. I’ve been fascinated by natural perfume techniques for a long time. (Roughly around when a friend introduced me to Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab around when I finished college. Though I was aware of some of it a little earlier than that.) 

And I was sure that alchemical perfume – where scent and magic combine for various effects – would be a wonderful way to spend some time with the concept. 

Perfume history

It turns out that the 1920s are also at an interesting point in perfume history. Various of the artificial scents were developed started in the late 1800s. One of the challenges of natural perfumes is that they’re a lot more prone to interact with a particular person’s skin chemistry. One person might ‘amp’ (as modern terminology has it) a particular perfume note. That same note on someone else turns to the scent of baby powder, dishwashing liquid, or something else that wasn’t what was intended! 

(And just to complicate things, people’s reactions to perfumes – or the perfume reaction to a person – can change with various things. That can be something that’s reasonably obvious, like medication or diet changes. But there are also plenty of people who report changes after a major relationship change or other change in their life.

Another of the challenges is where you get the materials from. Some natural perfumes come from flower petals. (Usually vast numbers of them, to get a small amount of highly scented and distilled oil). Others come from animal sources historically – civet, ambergris, and musk, for example. Some come from plants that grow widely and easily. Others come from sources that are endangered, difficult to cultivate, or extremely picky about conditions. These days, most of those are what are called “accords”, a blend of other scents to achieve the same effect. 

Charlotte’s story

I love all the Edgartons (well, except Richard’s mother). But as I said above, while Charlotte and Gabe share a number of things, the way the insides of their heads work are quite different. Charlotte is, of course, used to her brother’s quirks, and accommodates for them, fairly easily. (Which means that when she meets Lewis and he has different but equally distinct preferences, she finds it easy to adjust, considering the circumstances.) 

But they’re different in some key ways. Where Gabe was fundamentally preparing for an adult life as a Penelope from the time he was nine, eleven, certainly thirteen, Charlotte still isn’t entirely sure what to do with herself. When Perfect Accord opens, she has a plan that’s fine. Maybe not excellent, but she knows how to do what’s expected of her or she’s learning it. (Like some of the details of estate management.) 

Where I started

When I got to writing Perfect Accord, I knew parts of Charlotte’s story. She’d been a point of view character in one of the extras for The Fossil Door. But then, more recently, I’d written her as an adult in Old As The Hills and Upon A Summer’s Day. (Though she is not a point of view character there, her personality and priorities definitely come through.) I also knew that whoever it was she was with during The Fossil Door wasn’t who she actually married. So in many ways I was reverse engineering her romance from who she became because of it. 

The thing about Lewis is that he’s brilliant. And while he’s a great deal more practical than some brilliant people, there’s a lot he knows he’s not skilled at.  Dealing with people, for example, especially with a bit of good business sense. He doesn’t trust that connections or supports are going to be stable. And he won’t take risks that might hurt his family. (Well, especially his brothers.) 

The question of cults

As I mention in the author’s notes for Perfect Accord, I’ve been intrigued by the draw of cults for a long time. There’s a fascinating question of what encourages people to commit to them in the first place. (People often have a good reason for that!) And then there’s the question of how to get free, or how to recognise there’s a problem. 

Having Charlotte as a key point of view here was a great deal of fun. She’s suspicious from the start – given her family, and given that what’s on offer isn’t that interesting to her. But she’s playing along because she is worried about Victor. He’s a lot more interesting as a target for them (money, magic, influence in new places…) 

Figuring out what a cult might look like in the 1920s in Albion was a fun challenge. The focal point for cults does change in response to society around it. Albion’s decentralisation of Christianity means that ‘how do we recover from the horrors of the Great War’ has a different flavour. Leaning into the Arthurian makes a great deal of sense. On the other hand, I couldn’t resist a lot of terribly awful Arthuriana, all muddled and confused. I am delighted by the number of readers who’ve appreciated my entirely ahistorical clothing and nods to certain odd bits of the legends. 

Sometimes people aren’t good for each other

The last thing I thought about a lot in this book is that sometimes people aren’t good for each other. Charlotte and Victor have a long history together. But for all they care about each other, that doesn’t mean they’re good for one another. Charlotte has learned to avoid pushing Victor – about things where some resistance would be good for him. She doesn’t like dealing with his pouting. 

And Victor hasn’t figured out what he wants out of life, or how to get it in a way that doesn’t drag people along in his wake. I do think that a trip to America, away from Albion’s expectations and set pieces will do him a lot of good. (And if you haven’t checked out the extra for this book, it does fill in some gaps. Specifically, Charlotte and Victor sorting out their very different experiences in Somerset and the wounds it has left.) It’s possible to love someone and know you shouldn’t be alone with them too long right now because you’ll damage each other more. 

If any of this intrigues, check out Perfect Accord!

By Celia

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