The Corsets, Cutlasses, and Candlesticks crew interviewed Elizabeth about her stellar debut novel, which SCI FI NOW calls “a wicked cocktail of Jane Austen’s high society and the Grimm’s fairy tales. Absolutely wonderful: a Must Read Now novel.”
About the novel…
Lady Aileana Kameron, the only daughter of the Marquess of Douglas, was destined for a life carefully planned around Edinburgh’s social events – right up until a faery killed her mother. Now it’s the 1844 winter season and Aileana slaughters faeries in secret, in between the endless round of parties, tea and balls. Armed with modified percussion pistols and explosives, she sheds her aristocratic facade every night to go hunting. She’s determined to track down the faery who murdered her mother, and to destroy any who prey on humans in the city’s many dark alleyways. But the balance between high society and her private war is a delicate one, and as the fae infiltrate the ballroom and Aileana’s father returns home, she has decisions to make. How much is she willing to lose – and just how far will Aileana go for revenge?
About Elizabeth May:
Elizabeth is an occasional book cover photographer, a fantasy writer, a PhD student, and an accomplished coffee drinker.
She resides in Edinburgh, Scotland, where she can frequently be spotted skulking about dark wynds with a camera in hand.
From Jess: What was the most fun steampunk creation you came up with?
It doesn’t show up until the second book, but it involves explosives and armour!
From Susan: Elizabeth, you live in Scotland, now — and I love seeing the fabulous photos on your website. Can you tell us how your surroundings inspire you? Or, not?
I definitely don’t work well in overly urban environments. It’s something about the concrete and pavement and buildings overtaking greenspace. Edinburgh was the first city I ever lived in that didn’t have that repellent effect on me. It lovingly incorporates green space into its urban environs, its modernity into its history. It was the winding alleyways and dark architecture that inspired me to set THE FALCONER in the city. Just as Edinburgh shaped the first novel, the landscape of Scotland will shape the other two novels. But to tell anymore than that would be a spoiler. J
From Cat: You’re a professional photographer in addition to an author. In what ways do you feel the art of photography and design helped you create THE FALCONER?
I’d say it hasn’t, really. I was a writer years before I even touched a camera, so photography has always been second in my heart. I’d actually say that being a writer, a storyteller, helps me create photos, instead of the other way around.
From J. Anderson Coats: I love that your supernatural characters are so close to their violent, chaotic roots in folklore! Can you tell us a little about why you chose to make them this way, and what sources proved to be the most grimly inspirational?
Well, I suppose it was my growing dissatisfaction with the fact that faeries are always perceived as relatively harmless creatures. There was that joke about Edward Cullen, something like, “Doesn’t have fangs, lives in the forest, glitters in the sunlight – he’s not a vampire, he’s a faery!” And my response was immediate annoyance because in Scottish myth faeries are capable of some seriously gruesome slayings, and they’re not just glittery pretty creatures – they’re monsters.
In fact, there’s one type (that actually shows up in The Falconer) that lures its victims onto a road at night and then rips their throats out. In Scottish mythology, faeries are ghosts, demons, vampires, giants . . . whatever creature of myth you can possibly think of was considered fae. So I wanted to write a story where they are the same feared, gruesome creatures, because it’s not a side of them I see very often in genre novels.
As far as sources, I pretty much got everything from everywhere. Stories I heard from places I visited, books I read, etc. In folklore, the fae were responsible for a lot of unfortunate things (dying crops, plagues, murders), so it was easy for me to envision those things really happening, especially in a place as cramped and over-populated as Edinburgh was in the Victorian era.
From Sharon: You’re currently studying folklore for your doctorate. How much of your research did you pull into the book?
Oh, tons. My doctorate focuses on ghost stories, but ghost stories and faery stories are actually really close (and, sometimes, they even overlap). Plus, then I could do fiction research and justify it to myself as dissertation research, too…
From Jenn: I know you’re deep into a new story now—How has writing book 2 been different for you than book 1?
I’d say it’s more emotionally involved. The Falconer is definitely dark, but its sequel really takes the story to another level. It’s an emotionally draining thing, but I actually love it more than the first book.
From Laura Golden: The Falconer is the first book in a series. I’m in utter awe of authors who write series–the planning, the crafting, the writing. What has been your process for creating Lady Aileana’s continuing story? Have you found the second book to be more of a challenge than the first?
The second book is much more challenging, especially having to weave parts of book one into book two, and the emotional aftermath of the first book. Books 1 and 2 have always been really close – I plotted them simultaneously, and actually consider them to be one big novel split into two. Since I started the series in 2010, I’ve always known how the books would ultimately end. And I think that’s the important part of writing a series of any kind, knowing the ultimate end-game. It’s the getting there that’s fun. J