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It struck me that you guys have had to read about me yammering on for a while now, without a Break for Sanity or at least a book giveaway to make it worth your while. So I asked the lovely Saundra Mitchell, whose the Vespertine reminds me of a YA Sarah Waters's Affinity (tragic, romantic, magical, historical) to come make a post. And she brought unto us a post which shows off all the fancy American historical details with lovely pictures! (The pictures are important to the contest, so I decided not to put anything under a cut - hence for those who don't want a lovely free book, scroll my pretties scroll! And now without further ado, Ms Mitchell takes the stage...)

One of the things I love best about THE DEMON'S LEXICON series is that you can walk where the characters walk. You can see the characters' sights. And in Sarah's case, you can almost fall off the Millennium Bridge exactly where Nick jumps up to wield his sword.

So when Sarah invited me to talk about THE VESPERTINE, I thought it would be fun to talk about the reality I borrowed, to make my universe come to life.

When you're creating a world where some people are born imbued with elemental gifts, it's important to make sure everything else is solidly grounded in reality.

Coming from a filmmaking background, I made contact sheets to organize the elements of my Baltimore, 1889. In filmmaking, you have contact sheets for EVERYTHING—pictures of the type of actor you want to play a role, pictures of the kinds of clothes you want the characters to wear, pictures of neighborhoods, pictures of random moody objects that evoke the atmosphere, and on and on.

Of course, the first contact sheet has to be of the cast. I actually have actors in mind for most of the characters in the book, but let me introduce you to the four main characters:

Malese Jow is my Amelia van den Broek, the Dutch-Chinese Mainer who comes to Baltimore to find a husband, and discovers she can see the future in the fires of sunset. Kristen Stewart is my Zora Stewart, Amelia's cousin and best friend. (The last names are coincidence, I swear it!) For Nathaniel Witherspoon, the mysterious painter and Fourteenth that captures Amelia's heart, I had Ed Westwick in mind. To balance Nathaniel, I picked Zac Efron as my mental image of Thomas Rea, doctor's son and Zora's sweetheart. Once I had real faces, I needed to build the real time and places. Fortunately, there are loads of amazing historical resources online. All of the streets and landmarks in THE VESPERTINE, you can find standing in Baltimore today. (Well, not the Old Drury, they demolished it in 1917—but you can go to the corner where it once stood!)

This is Druid Hill Park, where my characters go to practice archery and to socialize. It's a large garden park in Downtown Baltimore, popular in 1889, as you can see from this photo from the Maryland Historical Society. It's still popular now, hosting music festivals, the Caribbean Carnival, and housing The Maryland Zoo and The Botanic Gardens of Baltimore.

This is Eutaw Place, where the Stewarts live- featuring the very distinctive Baltimore row house. They're tall and narrow, and they have white marble steps that lead up to each front door. If you've ever seen an episode of THE WIRE, you've see Eutaw Place; people still live in these rowhouses, and call this street home. (This photo is also courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society.) So that's my cast, and my setting. One of the most fun parts of writing a book set in 1889 was digging into the period clothing. Because my characters are middle class, all of their clothes are a few years behind in fashion, but they're still absolutely gorgeous. During the course of the book Amelia and Zora both get brand new ball gowns for their season—and like everything else, they come from a real source, the 1885 Harper's Bazar. Zora's gown called for 12 yards of Irish lace; Amelia's is wildly heavy with beading on the hems.

In my quest to make Amelia and Zora's world as real as possible, I spent a lot of time immersed in 1889. I read period cookbooks, and learned how the school system worked. I researched what plants and animals are local and native to Baltimore, so nothing would be out of place. I even snuck an actual historical figure into the book—Judge Bonds, an abolitionist and activist. I can't tell you how much fun I had creating a world full of magic in the middle of a rich and real historical city. Probably not as much fun as Sarah has on her research jaunts, but I'm a lot clumsier. It's best for everybody if my research stays safely on the page!

(I added this last picture myself so you could see the picture that covers these fine pages. Isn't it an amazing cover? I would cheerfully eat a kitten's head to get one like it.

But how to get the pages into your hands? There is Option A, instantly buy the Vespertine! And also Option B, which is to comment to this post with a picture - or a link to a picture - that makes you think of a book you love. I will choose the winner at random and send them a copy of the Vespertine!)

I hope you enjoyed this lovely post, for it is the last sanity you will get for a while. Next up an account of my writers' retreat, including actual staking and acted out love scenes, and Monday 7th stay tuned for a chance to win another book: an advance copy of the Demon's Surrender.


( 81 comments — Leave a comment )
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Mar. 1st, 2011 11:19 pm (UTC)
Mar. 1st, 2011 11:20 pm (UTC)
Prettiful, I always love sunset and sunrises! Which book does it remind you of?
(no subject) - evewithanapple - Mar. 1st, 2011 11:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sarahtales - Mar. 1st, 2011 11:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 1st, 2011 11:22 pm (UTC)
Wow, I am so impressed by the amount of detailed research you undertook to write The Vespertine.
As far as an image that makes me think of a book I love, everytime I walk past a costume jewlery store and see cupcake bracelets I think of Dullboy by Sarah Cross. It makes me smile everytime :)
My friend actually even made me a love heart and cupcake bracelet, which I cant seem to be able to upload a picture of so I have a link to a google image.
Mar. 1st, 2011 11:30 pm (UTC)
Both I and Saundra Mitchell loooove Sarah Cross's writing so I think a fight over a love heart and cupcake bracelet image may be coming...
(Deleted comment)
Mar. 1st, 2011 11:32 pm (UTC)
Re: Hopper, meet Catcher
I am so impressed by the Hopper and Catcher combo. ;)
Mar. 1st, 2011 11:27 pm (UTC)
Great prompt!


That picture reminds me of nothing more than Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde, in which the National Color agents have the honor of maintaining the paint pipes that color the world long after everyone has gone mostly colorblind and entirely mad.

Vespertine looks fantastic! If I don't win, I will have to check it out myself.
Mar. 1st, 2011 11:31 pm (UTC)
It is and you must. ;) And now you have made me all kinds of curious about Shades of Grey.
(no subject) - one_windiga - Mar. 1st, 2011 11:50 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bredalot - Mar. 2nd, 2011 12:11 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - one_windiga - Mar. 2nd, 2011 03:39 am (UTC) - Expand
Brydget Glenn
Mar. 1st, 2011 11:42 pm (UTC)

This reminds me of my favorite book, Sunshine by Robin McKinley. It looks like something Sunshine would make in her excellent bakery!
Mar. 1st, 2011 11:46 pm (UTC)
Oh great, now I'm so hungry. ;) I too love Robin McKinley! And delicious cake.
(no subject) - Brydget Glenn - Mar. 1st, 2011 11:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bredalot - Mar. 2nd, 2011 01:44 am (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 1st, 2011 11:59 pm (UTC)
This picture always makes me think of The Warrior Heir by Cinda Williams Chima. The wolf doesn't really have anything to do with it, but the boy is really close to the mental image I had for the main character.

title or description
Mar. 2nd, 2011 12:01 am (UTC)
He is cute! Fantastic eyes. I have a Cinda Williams Chima: I must get on this action...
Mar. 2nd, 2011 12:20 am (UTC)
I looooove your picks for the main characters!!!! Have to admit, I had a hard time picturing Nathaniel even though he captivated me...Ed Westwick is the perfect choice!

Mar. 2nd, 2011 12:22 am (UTC)
It's interesting picking out actors to find out what the characters look like...many times I have tried, but I can't find anyone who looks similar to the characters of my story.
Except for Keith Harkin.

Here is a picture that reminds me of The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper. Specifically when Will wakes up on his birthday morning and follows some strange music out into the snow. I think that is my favourite Magic Book Moment ever.
Mar. 2nd, 2011 12:58 am (UTC)
Oh pretty, and I love the Dark is Rising!
(no subject) - ashkitty - Mar. 2nd, 2011 01:55 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ashfae - Mar. 2nd, 2011 02:28 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - go_teen_angst - Mar. 2nd, 2011 10:15 pm (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 2nd, 2011 12:28 am (UTC)
I am kind of dying to read this book; I've been told I'd love it. I'm saving up to move out of my parents' house, though, so I have to wait on the library, and mine is pretty terrible.

SO! This picture is from the National Geographic photo contest, and reminds me of the end of THE GOLDEN COMPASS. Apart from the lack of northern lights (and, for that matter, snow), this is kind of how I picture the sky opening up to reveal another world.

The whole assortment is here and well worth looking at: they're astonishingly gorgeous.

And here's one that I took (in London, pretty obviously) which I found while looking for a picture. It actually reminds me quite a bit of the cover of THE DEMON'S SURRENDER!

Stephanie Oakes
Mar. 2nd, 2011 12:41 am (UTC)
John William Waterhouse painted amazingly authentic paintings of women, many of them based on women in folklore or history. This painting he did of Cleopatra reminds me of the Queen of Attolia from the Queen's Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner. The queen comes across as very cold and politically calculating in the beginning of the series, but she evolves later on into a deep character with hidden vulnerabilities (granted, I haven't read A Conspiracy of Kings yet so this assessment of her is only as of book 3). I love this series for how deep and authentic the characters are.

Thanks for the chance to win The Vespertine!
bookwormoakes AT yahoo DOT com
Mar. 2nd, 2011 01:00 am (UTC)
I heart Attolia, and have a soft spot for Cleopatra as well. ;)
Mar. 2nd, 2011 12:55 am (UTC)
This photo reminds me of THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE. I don't know why . . .

Mar. 2nd, 2011 12:58 am (UTC)
This image always makes me think of Allison van Diepen's RAVEN, which has some great descriptions of break dancing. One of my favorite moves is called "applejacks."


Thanks for the guest post and giveaway!
Mar. 2nd, 2011 12:59 am (UTC)
Every time I am asked what my favorite book is, I have to think hard. How can I be expected to choose? However, when it comes down to it, the book that has managed to spend most of its life in my backpack and gets re-read at least once a year is Mort, by Terry Prachett. I feel an hourglass depicts it well. For one, there is totally one on the cover. Plus, I have a hard time picturing Death without one, and it is important to the whole story.

(Deleted comment)
Mar. 2nd, 2011 02:32 pm (UTC)
Oh my god, win for Flaming June which may be my favourite painting EVER. <3 Love it so much, it's just beautiful.
Mar. 2nd, 2011 01:21 am (UTC)
This picture and this picture make me think of Ursula K. Le Guin's book The Beginning Place (with this cover, not the new one, which I find a bit unnerving). They're photographs of a hiking trail in Kamikochi, Japan.
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