Rerun Monday: Prince Tristan and a Question of Identity

While drafting Hidden Huntress, I took the time to reread Stolen Songbirdafter a long hiatus away from it*.  I was struck by how deeply the novel was influenced by the topics I was studying in University at the time I was drafting the novel. My primary focus in my English degree was 17th century literature, the lion’s share of which was obviously dedicated to Shakespeare. I’m not sure I’ve ever told anyone this, but in the early days of drafting Stolen Songbird, Tristan’s character was inspired by Prince Hal from Henry IV, Part I; so when Leo asked me to write a post about identity, I knew that it would be Tristan whom I wanted to talk about.

In Shakespeare’s play, Prince Hal first appears on scene in a disreputable tavern where he is drinking, joking, and whoring with his lowbrow friends. While he certainly comes off as clever, he does not seem to possess any of the characteristics desirable in a future king. However, at the end of the scene, he addresses the audience in a monologue and informs them that his behaviour is all an act. That he is pretending to be horrible so that when he finally shows his true character to the world, it will seem all the more brilliant by comparison**. This idea really stuck with me, so much so that I had parts of the monologue included in Stolen Songbird’s prologue where Tristan is having a conversation with his aunt. The prologue didn’t make it into the book, but here’s a snippet of it:

“You’ll need to make your move soon, Tristan,” my aunt said, as though sensing my thoughts. “If you wait any longer, he’ll start to expect it. Never underestimate the value of surprise.”

My eyes flickered up, and I felt a flash of concern that we’d been overheard. I watched Mother’s reflection in a mirror on the far wall, her eyes staring vacantly at the gold coin in her hands. I’d given it to her earlier to keep her quiet while Aunt and I played. She wasn’t listening – she rarely did – but the last thing I needed was her innocently parroting our words back to my father.

“Or underestimate the honour of a forthright attack,” I said softly.

My aunt grimaced. “What is honour? A word. And the dead neither feel nor hear it.”

“Do not quote dead poets at me,” I retorted, but her point was a valid one. “I’ll proceed when it is prudent to do so.”

“My fear,” she said, blowing on her steaming tea, “is that when the time comes, you will have ceased to be the correct man for the task.”

A frown creased my brow. Moments ago, she’d called me a boy, now a man. It would not be a mere slip of the tongue. With my aunt, every word counted.

“You’ve played this role for a very long time, Tristan,” she said. “But how long must an actor play a character in fiction before he becomes the character in truth? In both his heart and in those of his people.”

I shrugged. “I’ll so offend to make offence a skill / Redeeming time when men think least I will.” I could quote the dead just as well as she.

“You’re nearly seventeen – the time for your redemption has come.”

“No,” I said, rising to his feet and crossing the room. “Not yet.” My light drifted over to illuminate the painting in front of me, but I stared blindly, not seeing. Not yet, but soon, and the very thought of the actions I’d take brought fear to my heart. And sadness: whether I succeeded or failed, I would lose a great deal. I wasn’t ready, not nearly ready enough.

Tristan’s aunt is concerned that he’s been pretending to be certain person for so long that he’s actually starting to become that person, and she isn’t wrong. Tristan’s enemy, the Duke d’Angoulême, tells Cécile  much the same thing when he says, “the boy has been playing something he is not for so long that sometimes I wonder if he remembers who he really is.” Tristan knows he doesn’t want to be anything like his father, he knows he needs to pretend to be a certain way to keep the revolution a secret, and he knows the sort of King he wants to be in the future. But he really doesn’t know who he is right now.

Tristan’s friends have important roles to play in the story, but they are also integral to his maintaining and developing a sense of self. Those of you who have read the book know that his friends strongly represent certain characteristics. Marc is the kind one with the strong moral conscience. Vincent and Victoria are light-hearted and comic. Anaïs is intelligent, pragmatic, and a little bit ruthless.  As his creator, I’ve made Tristan a bit of all of these things, but I deliberately left a void for one particular characteristic: passion.

Cécile  is obviously the individual who fills that void. In many ways she is weaker than Tristan (because she’s human), but emotionally, she is much stronger than he is. She knows herself and is nearly always true to herself, and she very much lives in the moment. She quickly forces Tristan to stop pretending, and it is very much because of her that he tries to figure out who he is. Not because he has to, but because he wants to:

She lived in the present, always running off in the heat of the moment and saying exactly what she thought, rarely considering how the things she said or the decisions she made would affect the future. I was the exact opposite. Almost every action I took or decision I made was designed to affect circumstances months, years, even decades down the road. I’d always thought it was the prudent way to live, but now I feared I would wake up one day an old man, with my past wasted and no future left to live. Loving her had changed me, pulled me into the present and made me want to give myself to her as wholly and completely as I could.

By the end of the Stolen Songbird, Tristan is really starting to come into his own, and he develops even further in HIDDEN HUNTRESS. I can’t wait for everyone to read it.


*Rerun Monday’s are when I post guest posts that I wrote for bloggers during Stolen Songbird’s launch. This post was suggested and originally run over at Jet Black Ink.

Rerun Monday: The Real Life Inspiration for Forsaken Mountain

Those of you who’ve been following my blog tour posts and interviews are very well aware of the fact that STOLEN SONGBIRD was inspired by a dream I had about a city buried in rubble. Those of you who’ve really been paying attention will know that Forsaken Mountain was inspired by a real mountain in the Canadian Rockies, but also that I’ve been cagey about the details. Well, it’s past time my reticence ended.

Turtle Mountain


(click on photo for credits)

In 1903, 82 million tons of rock collapsed from the summit of Turtle Mountain and buried a portion of the town of Frank, which did (and still does) reside in the valley below. An estimated 90 people were killed, and it remains the deadliest rockslide in Canadian history. This lovely video clip gives a pretty spectacular look at what the rockslide looks like today.

(Source: The Government of Alberta)

I’ve driven past this historical site more times than I can count on my way to go camping or snowboarding, so it’s no surprise that it popped into my mind when I considered how my imaginary city might have been buried in rubble. Of course, because STOLEN SONGBIRD is a fantasy novel, I took a few liberties with the truth. Forsaken Mountain is BIGGER. It is next to the ocean, not landlocked. And it is mined for gold, not coal. That said, I hope this post helps give readers a nice visual idea of what I imagined the setting of STOLEN SONGBIRD to look like, and hopefully a greater appreciation for what the trolls’ magic is capable of.


*Rerun Monday’s are when I post guest posts that I wrote for bloggers during Stolen Songbird’s launch. This post originally ran on Rainy Day Ramblings




Rerun Monday: The Chicken or the Egg: Story or Setting?

The question of why Stolen Songbird takes place in a cave is probably best answered by my explanation of what inspired me to write the novel. Like so many authors before me (sparkly vampires!), and so many who will come after, the idea for my story came to me in a dream. “What a cliche!” you say, but it’s the honest truth. I had a dream about a beautiful city that had been buried, but not entirely destroyed, by rock. Even now, all these years later, I can still close my eyes and remember walking through collapsed corridors, with only the faintest bits of light coming through to illuminate fabulous paintings, sculptures, and fountains. In my dream, the only way to reach this city was by swimming under water, which might jog the memory of those of you who have already read Stolen Songbird.

My vision of this place stuck in my head for days afterward, and I began to daydream a story to fit the place. I thought about how a city could be buried, I thought about what sort of magic would keep it from being destroyed completely, and I thought about why a race of people would choose to stay in such a place. They, in my mind, would only stay if they had no choice, and that was how the curse was born. I then thought about what would happen to a people who are not naturally denizens of the dark if they were isolated from the world and kept from the sun. How would they change? What would they be like? How would they become little more than a myth to most of the outside world, and what would that myth be? And most importantly: what would these creatures want more than anything else? The answer to that is obvious – to be free. And that was how the plot for my buried city was born.

There is, of course, a world outside of Trollus. You see a bit of it with Cécile, and there are certainly references to it throughout Stolen Songbird. A few readers have asked me why I provided so little information about the outside world. I have many, many reasons for that, but I’ll share the important ones. The first reason is that I thought limiting the information about the outside would compound the sense that Trollus is quite isolated, almost an entirely different world. The second was that it would raise a lot of questions with readers – questions that I’ve every intention of answering in the subsequent two books. Hopefully reading Stolen Songbird will leave readers hungering to find out more about the world I’ve created for Cécile and Tristan.


*Rerun Monday’s are when I post guest posts that I wrote for bloggers during Stolen Songbird’s launch