Anne Lyle (photo by Andy Fountain)Risinghadow has the honour of publishing a guest post by the fantasy author Anne Lyle. Anne Lyle is the author of the Night’s Masque fantasy series.

Anne Lyle was born in what is popularly known as “Robin Hood Country”, and grew up fascinated by English history, folklore, and swashbuckling heroes. Unfortunately there was little demand in 1970s Nottinghamshire for diminutive swordswomen, so she studied sensible subjects like science and languages instead.

It appears, however, that although you can take the girl out of Sherwood Forest, you can’t take Sherwood Forest out of the girl. She now spends practically every spare hour writing – or at least planning – fantasy fiction about dashing swordsmen and scheming spies, set in imaginary pasts or parallel worlds.

Her particular obsession is Elizabethan England, so it helps that she now lives in a city full of medieval and Tudor buildings where the cattle browse on the common land much as they did in Shakespeare’s London. She prides herself on being able to ride a horse, sew a sampler and cut a quill pen but hasn’t the least idea how to drive one of those new-fangled automobile thingies.

Paradoxically she is a big fan of 21st century technology, being a Mac geek and full-time web developer. Well, it’s the nearest thing you can get to magic in our own universe...

Click here to visit the author’s official website.

Making History by the fantasy author Anne Lyle

When Sami ("Seregil of Rhiminee") asked me to write about the world and characters of Night's Masque for Rising Shadow, I realised I'd not blogged much about the alternate history aspects, which is odd considering it's central to the series!

Way, way back in 2006 The Alchemist of Souls started out as a secondary-world fantasy set in an analogue of Elizabethan London--I love that period in history, but to be honest I was daunted by the prospect of all the research I'd need to do if I set it in the real London. It's much easier to make stuff up! However when I polished up the opening chapters and ran them by the writing group I belonged to at that time, a common response was "You know, this would be even cooler set in the real Elizabethan London!".

So, I set about making all the necessary changes. The hardest part was deciding what to do with the skraylings, my non-human species whose ambassador's visit to England provides the impetus for the first book. In the original fictional world, they inhabited another continent across the ocean from my England-analogue, which meant that the obvious place in the real world that they "fitted" was the Americas. Fine, I thought; but then my more astute writer friends (particularly Una McCormack) pointed out the internet furore known as "mammothfail", over Patricia Wrede's decision to write about an alternate, fantasy North America full of magical beasts but no Native Americans. Many felt it was tantamount to literary genocide, though Wrede had intended no such thing.

Not wanting to cause similar offence, I scaled back the skrayling presence in the New World so that they became scattered enclaves of semi-nomadic traders, transporting luxury goods from one Native American civilisation to another and also across the Atlantic to England. The skraylings are immune to plague and smallpox (because they're more closely related to raccoons and kinkajous than to monkeys), and therefore provide a buffer between the conquistadors and the native human population; my alternate history is a happier world where the indigenous tribes don't get wiped out.

With the big alternate history (alternate paleobiology?) question sorted out, I turned my attention to England. I could have left everything exactly as it turned out in our history, but where's the fun in that? Besides, the arrival of skrayling ships in Europe in the early sixteenth century (in response to Columbus's explorations) must have had some effect, right? I toyed with the idea of having King Henry VIII's older brother Arthur survive the teenage illness that killed him, thus changing the path of the Tudor dynasty, but eventually realised that Elizabethan England just didn't feel right without Elizabeth herself. So I scrapped the King Arthur idea* and moved the historical change to Elizabeth's reign.

The obvious change to make was to have Elizabeth herself marry, preferably young enough to have children and secure the Tudor dynasty--otherwise the history wouldn't be terribly alternate! If you've read about Elizabeth's reign or watched any of the movies or TV shows based on her life, you'll know that she had a long-standing attachment to Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester; a dangerous liaison, given that Dudley's father plotted to put Lady Jane Grey on the throne when Elizabeth's half-brother Edward died! Still, he was the best candidate for the job, so I killed off his first wife, Amy Robsart, in childbirth (writers are so cruel!) and had him and Elizabeth marry in secret.

In my alternate history England, Elizabeth bears him several children, including two surviving sons, but never lets him rise above Prince Consort. Dudley, being his father's son, rebels against this "unnatural" state of affairs and tries to take the crown, but is found out and thrown in the Tower of London. Elizabeth can't bring herself to sign the death warrant, however, so he dies there a few years later. Like Queen Victoria in our world, Elizabeth goes into extended mourning, leaving much of the day-to-day administration of the realm to her elder son, Robert.

This is the world into which I throw my characters: Mal Catlyn, a down-at-heel former mercenary; Coby Hendricks, a Dutch orphan girl who lives disguised as a boy so she can earn a respectable living; and Ned Faulkner, part-time scrivener, part-time rent-boy. All extraordinary in their own way (as you'll discover when you read the books), but also very ordinary Elizabethans whose lives and down-to-earth attitudes contrast with the weirdness of the fantasy setting.

You can find out more about the skraylings (including the languages I created for them), and of course about the books in the Night's Masque trilogy, at www.annelyle.com

* Although not completely, as you'll find out in Book 3, The Prince of Lies

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