Tuesday, October 06, 2015

The Rebel Mechanics Memory Lane

I've written the first chapter of the next Rebel Mechanics book, and I've found myself walking down memory lane as I get reacquainted with these characters and this world. I was writing the first draft of the first book around this time five years ago. Although I've been doing work on it off and on over that time span, it's still taking me a little time to slip back into that mode.

I've been thinking about some of my original plans vs. what actually came to pass. For instance, I originally was really going to try to do a somewhat gothic Jane Eyre kind of story mixed in with the steampunk plot, with the dark and mysterious employer up to potentially shady things. I read a lot of the Brontes and a number of other classic gothic novels while I was brainstorming the book. And then once I started the development and actual writing, it all went straight out the window. Henry turned out to be about as far from a Rochester as you can get, aside from having a secret. There's not really anything brooding about him. I ended up switching from that to more of a Scarlet Pimpernel kind of situation, except with him being a nerd instead of a fop. If you've read the book, just try imagining Henry as a brooding, dark gothic hero.

I do have an idea in mind for a more gothic kind of book, but the hero isn't the dark, brooding one. We'll see what happens when I start writing it, though.

Olive's name was originally Alice, a la Alice in Wonderland, but I realized that on the page that looked too much like Alec, which would get confusing, so I had to rename her. Botanical names were very popular in that era, and I already had Flora, so Olive got her name because it was something botanical but something that's actually useful and less frivolous than a flower. I'd already developed the character and written the first few chapters when I started directing children's choir, but there was a little girl in my first kindergarten choir who became my mental model for Olive as the book developed. She's now in fifth grade, playing piano solos for children's services and getting lead roles in children's musicals, and I'm friends with her mom. Her personality and looks turned out a bit different from what I would have expected from the way she was as a kindergartener (not in a bad way, just different). It's a little hard to get back to picturing the way Olive is in the book because in my head she's grown up, but I did find some video I took of that choir on my old cell phone, so I've got a reminder of what I had in mind back then.

Come to think of it, I still have a drawing she made me in kindergarten on the side of my refrigerator. I also have baby pictures of a girl who's now in high school. I should probably update my refrigerator art gallery.

In part because of the Jane Eyre thing, I'd always planned my heroine to be a governess, but that's also a position that makes for easier storytelling in this kind of setting. It allows a very young woman to be somewhat independent and to mix with different kinds of people. A big theme of the book is being caught between worlds and not fitting in anywhere, and the governess position illustrates that. She's not really considered to be a servant, but she's not a member of the family. She's not actually a member of the upper class, but those are the people she spends most of her time around. A lot of the rest of her background came when I went with some friends to a "Victorian Elegance" antique show. One dealer had some boxes of old photos, most of them portraits that looked like the sort of thing people might have had done at department store studios. We started flipping through the photos and making up backgrounds for the people, and I felt a little sad that they were being sold like this to strangers instead of being with their families. There was one portrait of a young woman that really struck me. I couldn't just leave her there, so I bought the photo, and my friend said she looked like a professor's daughter. That was when things clicked, and I knew she was my Verity, and I knew her background. Her name was Verity from the start. I never even had to look for names because I just knew that's who she was.

Now to write chapter two ...

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