Well-known historical fiction author Heather Rose Jones releases her latest book, Floodtide, today. I really enjoyed the story and wanted to know a bit more about why Heather wrote it and why she set it in her fictional world, Alpennia. In the following interview with Heather I was able to ask her more about her book:
Heather, ‘Floodtide’ is set in Alpennia, the setting for your earlier novels. Can you tell us about that world?
Alpennia is meant to be an ordinary small principality in central Europe–sitting roughly at the intersection of France, Italy, and Switzerland–much like many other small regions that were still semi-independent in the 18-19th centuries. Alpennia exists as a convenience so I can set up certain social structures, certain historical events and people, without interfering with the history of an actual country. Other than the insertion of Alpennia, the world is much the same as ours, with the same geography, the same history, the same prominent figures.
Oh, and then there’s the magic. Magic, in the world of the stories takes the basic premise that certain forces and dynamics that we would consider supernatural or mystical or miraculous actually work. For some people. Sometimes. If you do them right.
Why did you choose to tell the story from the point of view of a servant girl, Roz?
In writing the earlier Alpennia books, I’d followed the usual Regency novel tropes of focusing on people in Society. Some of them are members of the aristocracy, some are wealthy, some are solidly middle-class business women and artisans. But they all move through the world with a certain amount of stability and confidence. I wanted to shake things up in this book by looking at that same world and some of those same events from the point of view of a working class girl. What is it like having queer desires if your every minute is under someone else’s scrutiny and at their mercy? What does magic look like if you’re learning it on street corners rather than in libraries and universities? And what do the effects of the Great Mysteries look like when your lives don’t figure into anyone’s calculations.
As part of your world-building you have some areas of language specific to Alpennia. What was your process for inventing it?
For some other projects, I’ve done fairly extensive conlangs (constructed languages). Linguistics has been a lifelong passion and is one of my academic degrees. But for Alpennia I didn’t need to get quite that detailed. I wanted to be able to create names and a few bits of specialized vocabulary that clearly indicated that Alpennia is a European nation, but is not any specific existing one.
Simple geography dictated much of the result. Situated where it is, you can expect Alpennia to speak a Romance language, influenced significantly in its vocabulary and names by a Germanic substrate. I wanted to have a unified “look and feel” for names that so that they were recognizable but clearly distinct, so I went back in time and picked a recorded language that didn’t leave any later descendents. The spelling and appearance of Alpennia is inspired by Langobardic, which was recorded in northern Italy–close enough for the connection. It isn’t meant to be a descendent of Langobardic; that simply gave me the material to set up certain sound-change and spelling rules. So I could feed names and words from the Latin and Migration Era into a set of rules and produce Early Modern Alpennia forms that felt like it’s own unique and coherent language.
Are you drawn to particular time periods? This book is set in the 19th century. Is that a favourite era?
I have a lot of favorite historic eras and hope to write stories (though not Alpennian ones) in many of them. But the setting for the Alpennia series is inspired more by my love for Regency romances. I love time periods when society was in flux–not necessarily times of violent disruption, but times of a more complex peaceful disruption when people were exploring new ways of being and challenging older norms. The specific location of the Alpennia series in time is tied to the general forces of western European history. The series had to start at a particular time relative to the Napoleonic wars, and it had to extend until a particular era of spreading political upset. But honestly, it’s all about the manners and the social functions and the clothing!
Thank you for joining me today Heather. If we have whetted your appetite for ‘Floodtide’, the Bella Books and Amazon links are below:
Heather Rose Jones is the author of the Alpennia historic fantasy series: an alternate-Regency-era Ruritanian adventure revolving around women’s lives woven through with magic, alchemy, and intrigue. Her short fiction has appeared in The Chronicles of the Holy Grail, Sword and Sorceress, Lace and Blade, and at Podcastle.org. Heather blogs about research into lesbian-relevant motifs in history and literature at the Lesbian Historic Motif Project and has a podcast covering the field of lesbian historical fiction which has recently expanded into publishing audio fiction. She reviews books at The Lesbian Review as well as on her blog. She works as an industrial failure investigator in biotech pharmaceuticals.
Bella Books: http://www.bellabooks.com/Bella-Author-Heather-Rose-Jones-cat.html
Website and blog: http://alpennia.com
Facebook (author page): https://www.facebook.com/Heather-Rose-Jones-490950014312292/