I was reading Jane Austen’s Persuasion and wondered why there weren’t any small-scale fantasies. I love these intimate stories where the fate of the world doesn’t hang in balance but there are darn few of them in fantasy. This led me to wondering what sort of novel Jane Austen would write if she lived in a world with magic.
Glamour basically means magic. Its original meaning was “a magical-occult spell cast on somebody to make them believe that something or somebody was attractive.” It was a word strongly associated with fairies in early England.
Back in 2005 I participated in a flash fiction contest at Liberty Hall Writers and started this short story set in the Regency. I pretty quickly realized that it wanted to be longer but you can still see the bones of it in the first scene between Melody and Jane.
That summer, I was part of a radio writing workshop at Willamette Radio Workshop and started turning the story into a serial. Of course, I eventually realized that a visually based magic system might not be the best choice for radio.
In 2006, I launched into writing the novel version as part of National Novel Writing Month. 30 days later, I had the first 50,000 words. I tossed 20,000 of them because the plot had taken a wrong turn. While I got to reuse a lot of them, it took another three months to finish the thing.
So, on the one hand, it took me four months. On the other hand, I had a year and a half of development going in.
Not quite, although I did write the most of it in Iceland.
The latter half of the sequel, Glamour in Glass, on the other hand was written while my husband and I were moving cross-country from New York to Portland, OR. I finished it sitting in the guest bedroom of Beth Wodzinski and Sean Markey’s house in Salt Lake City, UT while we were waiting for our moving truck to be repaired.
I pretty clearly borrowed heavily from Jane Austen for many of the characters, mixing and matching to suit my needs. For instance Jane Ellsworth, the main character, is a liberal blending of Anne Elliot, (Persuasion), Charlotte Lucas (Pride and Prejudice), and Elinor Dashwood (Sense and Sensibility).
The heroes are a similar blending with parts of Mr. Darcy (Pride and Prejudice), Mr. Knightly (Emma) and Edmund Bertram (Mansfield Park). I will say that one of the characters is modeled in part on my husband but won’t tell you who because that would be something of a spoiler. Being a romance, matrimony ensues.
The novel revolves around two sisters, Jane and Melody Ellsworth. Melody, the younger is very beautiful and has a complexion of milk and honey. The elder sister, Jane, feels that she is constantly in the shadow of her sister.
Besides the fact that it sold? Shades of Milk and Honey is actually my fourth completed novel, so by the time I wrote it I’d seen enough other friends go through the process that I knew it was lengthy.
I think the thing that surprises me most is how many other Austen based fantasies have come out since I first started this. I began writing it in 2005 and no one else had really played with that period in fantasy. Since then, of course, the regency fantasy has almost become its own genre. I remember being dismayed with Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell came out because I thought that any originality my idea had was lost. Then of course I read the book, loved it, and realized it was vastly different from mine.
I initially only had very loose ideas but when I sat down to plot the second book, Glamour in Glass, I realized that I needed a much firmer grasp on how things worked. I sat down and worked it out, then went back and tweaked Shades of Milk and Honey to make sure I hadn’t goofed anywhere.
Largely though, I created the rules with an eye to restraining the glamour so that it didn’t break history. For instance, glamour is illusionary so it looks like one is creating a sunbeam but in fact it isn’t any brighter than a picture of the sun would be. If I let them actually create light then candles wouldn’t have been developed.
I’m a computer girl. I find that it gives me the ability to go back and layer the story as I come up with ideas while writing it. That said, I wrote significant portions of Glamour in Glass using graffiti on my Palm Pilot on the subway.
I also will write longhand and sometimes on a manual typewriter. I do find that changing mediums affects the voice of the story, although it is most apparent at the beginning.
My novel would be a light afternoon snack of fresh strawberries, a sharp country cheddar, and a loaf of bread baked in a brick oven that morning. It would be eaten under the shade of an oak tree, while lying with your head in the lap of your beloved. You might open a bottle of champagne and let the bubbles tickle your nose.