Round three

Putting both of these behind a cut, because of MNC spoilers. (Though I guess I left the post about the doppelganger books out in the open.)


Question the seventh: what were the challenges associated with writing from the point of view of Elizabeth? What prompted you to decide to use that perspective? What concerns did you wrestle with?

Answer the seventh: With two of these books under my belt now, Elizabeth and Edward Kelley are still the only historical figures whose povs I’ve used. Elizabeth was definitely the harder of the two, because she’s more famous, and has such an iconography built up around her; the readers with an expectation of what Edward Kelley’s thoughts should be like were probably few and far between.

I chose to use her perspective because, well, I had to; of the three scenes written from her point of view, in two of them — the prologue and the Queen of Scots flashback — the only other character present is Invidiana, and I could not use her. (Not only do I think I would fail if I tried, it would give appalling spoilers.) And I really needed those scenes in the story. The epilogue had to use her point of view because it was important to me to show what happened after Invidiana was gone — that Elizabeth’s reign wasn’t entirely the product of a faerie’s manipulation. And that could really only be done from Elizabeth’s perspective, at least in the way I wanted to tackle it.

But I’ve had at least one review complain that they wanted more Elizabeth in the story, and the reason you don’t see more of her ties into the rest of this question. It’s the anthropologist thing: I don’t care if she’s four hundred years dead, I still feel twitchy about claiming the right to speak for her, even in a work of fiction. All the moreso because it’s hard to say for sure what she thought about certain things; the biographies I’ve read pretty much throw their hands up in the air on the question of whether she loved Alencon, for example, or whether she was just playing some political game. As her sister says in Kapur’s move, she was a consummate actress, and very good at playing the people around her. So any time I stepped into her perspective, or for that matter put her on the page, I had to wrestle with her deliberately opaque self-presentation.

Plus, as I said, there’s the iconography. I wanted to show at least some of her psychological warts; Elizabeth had a terrible temper, and tended to waffle on decision-making, and so on. She was far from perfect. But on the other hand, she really did inspire charismatic devotion from many of her courtiers. In other words, I think she was a complex woman, and not easy to represent, even from the outside. Combine that with the fact that Deven wasn’t really in a position to have many personal dealings with her, and that’s why you don’t see more of her in the book.


Question the eighth: What’s the most bizarre or implausible historical tidbit you found in your research, and were you able to incorporate it into your fiction, or not?

Answer the eighth: You get several.

Most bizarre that I didn’t incorporate . . . Carolly Erikcson’s biography of Elizabeth says somewhere in there that courtiers would dye their beards all kinds of wacky colors, like purple with yellow polka-dots. No, I’m serious. I would have wanted verification from some other source before I put it in, but I just ended up glossing over it. I think our collective sanity is the better for it.

Most bizarre that I did incorporate . . . what Edward Kelley said to John Dee, about furthering his knowledge in magic with the faeries. If I recall correctly, that’s from one of the more obscure passages of Dee’s diary, so we can’t be positive that’s actually what he said, but it was too good to pass up. (I think I had already decided on the bit with Kelley before reading that, but the line clinched it.)

And, in a special sneak preview for Ashes — when Ben Hipley starts talking about people being sent to Hell? That’s real. And it’s what I was talking about in a post earlier this summer, about details I wouldn’t dare make up.


Questions are still open, if anybody has more.

0 Responses to “Round three”

  1. snickelish

    Just wanted to comment that I really loved every scene with Elizabeth – you must have been doing things right, because every one of them just zinged, especially the bits with Elizabeth and Devon.

    • Marie Brennan

      Thanks! I suspect the zinging varies from reader to reader, depending on their conception of Elizabeth, but it’s good to hear I struck the right note for you.

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