I’m here today for a tour stop on the Banished tour! I am hosting the lovely Liz de Jager as she talks about all of the research she did for this book and simply how it came to be! I hope you’ll find it to be as fascinating as I did.
What if…? by Liz de Jager
It was in a comic book shop back in around 2009/2010 when I was posed this question: what if Hansel and Gretel did not stop at the first witch? The thinking of this thought over really got under my skin. I started out a few different ways with this story, something that would ultimately become the core concept of The Blackhart Legacy books.
I’ve always been a collector of fairy tales and books on mythology and lore. Growing up my dad told me traditional African folk tales, mixed with European folk tales and stuff that he’d make up and mix that with American folklore he’d picked up reading a lot of Westerns. What can I say? I had weird upbringing; but something in me yearned to know these stories, figure out these archetypes. And I think that’s why I love reading and movies and the theatre so much. It helps me make sense of the world.
As I was puzzling out who the Blackharts were, I went back to reading the original Brothers Grimm fairy tales. I read Norse fairy tales. I read the original creation myths (there are a lot of those all over the world in every culture) and I read the story of Gilgamesh over and over. I basically stuffed as much lore into my head as I possibly could. I also researched weapons (modern and old) and wrote long lists of Fae creatures, the what and why of things and how they would fit together in my world.
Because, although the Blackharts live very much in our world, the every day human world, they deal on a nearly daily basis with creatures who are illegally in our world, without permission from whoever they call king or queen. The Blackharts then get to be like the Judges in 2000AD: they get to send these trespassers back and because of this, they are really reviled by a large number of Fae. They get threatened often, so their fighting skills have to be pretty spectacular. (Cue me watching lots of youtube videos and talking to David Rawlings of the London Longsword Academy about sword fighting.)
Everyone who’s ever read anything remotely Fae related would know that there are two main courts: The Seelie (the less bad guys) and The Unseelie (the bad guys) but I wanted more, so I looked to Irish mythology where you had kings and rulers but ultimately you had the High King, the Ard Ri. And so, in the Blackhart world we’ve got Aelfric of Alba as the High King, the bad ass boss of Alba (which covers Great Britain, Europe and part of Eastern Europe) and you have the two Fae courts who bow down to him: the Unseelie ruled by the Queen of Air and Darkness, Suola and the Seelie is ruled by the Sun King (hello Louis XIV reference!). There are other kings and queens across the world but in Banished we only ever deal with Aelfric and his crazy family.
I also opted to have werewolves in my world – I like the idea of werewolves. There’s something tremendously primal about them; the savage beast clothed in the skin of man. My wolves are aware of the Blackharts and vice versa, but they haven’t really been close. What happens in Banished breaks down the status quo and the youngest member of the pack, Aiden, ends up joining my main character Kit and the Fae prince, Thorn, in their quest.
I read a lot of research books and online articles about wolf and pack behaviour but realised that if I went into too much detail, Aiden could very easily overpower the story, so I had to pull all the stuff I’d put in back out again. I do hope however that it shows in the end how Aiden forms a great friendship and alliance with both Thorn and Kit. And no, there is no question of this being a love triangle. I’d never do that to myself or any of you.
There is so much stuff that I just made up because it felt right in my head at the time and I can’t explain why. I suspect that maybe, possibly, some of it is based on stuff I’ve read or overheard at various stages in my life; things that you absorb via osmosis by living and talking and hanging out with other humans.
I have a lot of reference books and research books, across a wide range of subjects and I dip in and out of them at will. The biggest trick when doing research is to establish what to put in and what to leave out. For your sanity and your editor’s sanity too. It is so easy to just throw everything in there because you can. I think the biggest thing I learned about writing and working with an editor and my beta readers is to trust my readers. They will figure out the recurring themes, they will pick up stuff I’ve put in there and not actively thought about but they’ll know.
I’ve taken some pictures of my shelves to give you an idea of the stuff I’ve been reading whilst writing the series. And I’ve got around a further thirty folklore and mythology books on my kindle too.
I’m a geek. And proud.
Sworn to protect, honour and slay. Because chaos won’t banish itself…
Kit is proud to be a Blackhart, now she’s encountered her unorthodox cousins and their strange lives. And her home-schooling now includes spells, fighting enemy fae and using ancient weapons. But it’s not until she rescues a rather handsome fae prince, fighting for his life on the edge of Blackhart Manor, that her training really kicks in. With her family away on various missions, Kit must protect Prince Thorn, rely on new friends and use her own unfamiliar magic to stay ahead of Thorn’s enemies. As things go from bad to apocalyptic, fae battle fae in a war that threatens to spill into the human world. Then Kit pits herself against the Elder Gods themselves – it’s that or lose everyone she’s learnt to love.
So… doesn’t this book sound so good?
Fortunately I’ve had a chance to read this book and it is amazing! AND… IT IS RELEASED TODAY. So you must rush off and buy it because it is awesome!
My review of the book will be on the blog next week!