I am getting ready to hit the road, folks–a perfect time to take a reader question on the subject of travel. A reader from Twitter who posts as Jasmine and Ginger asked: You’ve covered quite a few eras. What inspires you about them? How do you keep track of characters who overlap?
Writing in both the Victorian age and the 1920s has been a joy; I’ve gotten to explore two periods I absolutely love. One of the things I realized quite early on in writing the Lady Julia books was that Julia would be writing up her adventures as an old woman–probably in the 1930s. Once I placed this firmly Victorian character in a much more modern setting, I understood how close those eras actually were. Bracketing the tremendous upheaval of WWI, the Victorian years and the 1920s were poles apart, and the people who represented those times would have had a great deal of trouble understanding each other. If a person reared with 19th-century values couldn’t adapt to 20th-century changes, they would have been left behind. I could never picture Julia as a sad relic of gaslit London. I saw her always as a woman who would raise her hems above the ankle and take to riding in motorcars.
So for me, the leap to 1920s was not a huge one. It had always been percolating in the back of my mind when I wrote the Julia stories. When I started writing the 1920s books, I found it amusing to map out how old the children of the 1880s tales would be during my current setting. Calculating they would be in their 30s was exciting; it placed them in the thick of the action for WWI and just after. THEY would be fighting or spying or flying airplanes while Julia’s generation took a more supervisory role. That’s when I decided to start working them into the 1920s books. I should have been terribly organized, but the truth is that I kept track of them by jotting notes on index cards and taping them up in my study.
I also occasionally worked backwards. I took a character from A SPEAR OF SUMMER GRASS and calculated how old he would have been during one of the Julia novellas. Then I wrote him as a childhood friend of one of Julia’s precocious nephews, admiring of Nicholas and determined to find adventures of his own. Showing these active participants of WWI as clever children was a HUGELY enjoyable way to set them up for the exploits of adulthood. I found myself plowing through every book, working out dates to see which characters I could cross between eras. In the end, I built a “Julia world” that spanned from the 1860s–there is a brief mention of a Julia character in THE DEAD TRAVEL FAST–to the 1930s. I intended to write several more Julia books set in the early 1890s as well as three more 1920s adventures that would have fully tied up ALL the Julia characters as well as more from DEAD, knitting together every book I had ever written into a single universe. Unfortunately, that wasn’t possible with my previous publisher, so now I am building an entirely new and alternate world with Veronica. I can’t wait to see where it takes us!