One important thing to understand about The Prince’s Ball—versus other, smaller stories from the Milland world like Millhaven Castle—is that it didn’t originally have the division between the “Capsells,” a worldly majority who oppressed the “Sherbans,” a small, mostly rural demographic who kept to old ways. The Sherbans viewed the current ruling house as usurpers and they also didn’t like the way these Capsells dressed. When the heroine was asked to a dance by a Capsell ruler, Lord Timson, it tied Cinderella into the Capsell/Sherban divide and made the Sherbans even more the oppressed underdogs. (Can almost hear Cate Blanchett’s malicious purr, “A ragged servant girl is what you are and that is what you will always be.”)
But this had nothing to do with the original world of Milland. I left out numerous characters to make these short stories—well, shorter—and I realized these characters had been important. I wrote about Milland bit by bit, off and on, with no real focus, for years. I had thought all these characters were random, but they weren’t. Leaving them out, while adding the Capsell/Sherban thing, gave an entirely different view of Alyce’s situation. I had only added the Capsells and Sherbans to tie into the theme of Facets of Fantasy—each story was about someone from an unusual group or family culture who interacted with a larger world.
So The Prince’s Ball, once seen in its own right, is much more homogenous, with no divides other than that two royal families of different countries are always arguing. Within Milland, Alyce and the others are separated from Lord Timson only by rank and there is no division among the villagers at all. This opens the story up and gives it a lot more opportunity to be exciting. When not bogged down by a small conversation about a static minority, the world becomes a much more unpredictable place. Milland is not the secure land it seems.
And there will be more updates.
Lucy was one of my simplest heroines to create, but is one of my hardest to talk about. Surprisingly, because it has such a distant, futuristic plot, her journey in The Birthday Present is an extremely personal one for her. Over 10 years ago I was watching a now forgotten anime airing on Disney channel and there was something about the heroine’s expressions really struck me. I set about creating a real person instead of an animated cartoon and Lucy and Aure were there.
It’s difficult to put sensitive matter into words, but essentially Lucy is growing up and it’s a tremendously important shock for her. She doesn’t have much sense of humor and because she’s lived in a very isolated way she doesn’t have a lot of context on what’s going on inside her. Unlike her father’s obsession with the GMFs, Lucy’s willingness to go on this quest is about herself, really, not these larger issues. Throughout the story she is shown as intensely self-conscious, faltering, suspiciously drawn into herself, and very, very vague about exactly WHY she’s here. Of course the plot and Aure’s reactions to her aren’t revealed until the last page, but the vagueness is indicative of Lucy’s motives. She just . . . just can’t describe it. She doesn’t want to.
Naturally, Todd is suspicious of her because she’s acting so weird and Eric, who’s constantly characterized as doing the wrong thing, is the only one who ever actively embraces her ideas. Behind all the worldbuilding, Lucy’s personality is as simple as Juliet’s. She’s very young and exploring something that she doesn’t understand at all. I wrote an alternate version where Aure refused the box and Lucy died. I sent this story to a magazine because I wanted really objective feedback, which was almost impossible to get at the time. I suspected the story was too depressing and the editor confirmed this. (Though I got a very nice letter that complimented my writing.)
And in the end, the happy ending is true, because of Aure. He understands and smooths it over. It might be really lucky that things ended well, because that kind of person easily makes poor decisions and a mess of things, as Lucy is self-conscious herself when dealing with the HInzetzu. But it’s also true there are lots of people in life who can step in and manage it.
And there will be more updates.
The Birthday Present and the (at that time) accompanying Millhaven Castle weren’t published to tell similar stories. In fact, I meant them to contrast. So when I set about smoothing awkwardnesses between my differing versions of the Alyce world, I substituted a sample from The Prince’s Ball for that Millhaven Castle story. But that didn’t change the idea of contrast. The Prince’s Ball is not related to TBP and doesn’t have a similar point. That was part of the book’s structure.
The Birthday Present is about taking physical situations in this life too seriously. The humans, now represented by Lucy and a tiny group hiding in a mountain, accuse the more advanced GMFs of being materialistic and soulless. The GMF society values strength and physical power over emotional development, and ironically the GMFs are a bit inferior even though they can live for hundreds of years.
However, as Lucy reveals, it was really the humans who are obsessed with these things. In the past they didn’t think there was much outside this life. What was physical was absolutely important--and since humans age and are weak and clumsy, it was awkward to emphasize the body so much. And they still don’t seem to think there is much outside the body and human relationships. This is not shown as part of Lucy's worldview at any time, in spite of her constant discussion of emotions.
There’s a lot of rhetoric about the GMFs needing to turn back into more emotional, more sensitive humans, but the GMFs we see don’t seem particularly shallow. The humans appear just honestly jealous that the GMFs are superior and the humans are right back where they started—preoccupied with this life, with the body, and with relationships. Aure sees this and is gracious to Lucy, pretending to accept her demands and change back. At least, that’s how I interpret it. When of course he’s not going to be affected at all. Lucy has sensitive feelings about this topic, and you have to be polite when you see that in someone. Because it’s—well, it’s very human of them.
And there will be more updates.
The books continue to be sorted and the blog goes on developing. Each time I write or examine my own posts to see which are most popular, I only see more steps in the process of organizing my work and speaking about it clearly. My website and publishing career have never been so exciting.
7 books published and 3 more on the way. Farmer's daughter, Star Wars fan, loves to read rather than talk about reading. Always has time to finish her WIP.