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Guest Post: Elizabeth Aston on Novel Landscapes – and Giveaways!

Today’s Guest Post is provided courtesy of Elizabeth Aston, author of the Mountjoy Series.  She was kind enough to share with us her thoughts on the development of your own world – a critical part of any author’s mandate.  Thanks Elizabeth, for giving us this insight into your process!

***

How do you create an imaginary city and an imaginary county? For my Mountjoy novels, I created a northern county, Eyotshire, with its Cathedral city of Eyot. If you know the north of England you’ll recognize the similarities to Yorkshire and the neighbouring county of Cumbria.

I began with Eyot, which is obviously based on York, where I used to live. The centre of York is, of course, the soaring Minster, but I opted for a less grand affair with my Eyot cathedral, although it’s still a fine Gothic building. Unlike the Minster, it has a traditional cathedral close, as Salisbury does, with the Dean’s House and other houses set round a square of immaculate lawn.

York appealed to me also because of its higgledy-piggledy streets, little tiny alleyways called snickelways that run between its streets, and the historic layout of the city which still reflects a past dating back to Roman times.

York has a river, the River Ouse, and I wanted a river. I like cities with a river running through them. But now another city came into play: Cork, in Ireland. This is a city surrounded by water and bridges, and so into my city of Eyot, where, after all, I could have exactly what I wanted, came the water and the bridges.

What about the surrounding countryside? The Vale of York is flat, but other parts of Yorkshire have hills and moors, and Cumbria has its towering fells. I do what I like with my towns and villages – some of them have the strange names of the remote parts of Cumbria,  and others are based on places closer to York.

One of my favourites is the small market town of Unthrang with its typical village green on which the mysterious Bacchic stranger, Issur, does his exercises in a posing pouch – scandalizing half the village and enchanting the other half.

Houses are very important in the Mountjoy novels – the Manor House in Unthrang which the covetous Digby so longs to possess in Unholy Harmonies; his neighbour Roxana’s house, with its astonishing classical swimming pool, or, in Unaccustomed Spirits, the haunted Haphazard House, with its permanent occupants Giles and Lambert, one a ghost from Elizabethan times and the other a veteran of the English Civil War.

The house when Quinta lives, in The World, the Flesh and the Bishop, has a Georgian façade, and then nestling within, an Elizabethan house, all beams and panelling and stone floors. I don’t know of any house like this in York, but I have visited one just like this at the other end of England, in Somerset. That came to mind when I was writing the book, when I wanted Quinta to live in a house that wasn’t quite what it seems, since Quinta’s life with her young daughter and the composer she lives with, Alban Praetorius, is also a façade.

But at the heart of the Mountjoy novels is Mountjoy Castle, home to the Mountjoys, a wild and wicked family who have lived there for more than a thousand years. When Prue Pagan in Children of Chance arrives at the castle, she is astonished equally by her surroundings and by the complex relationships and characters of the resident Mountjoys.

I’ve visited a lot of castles, but I particularly love the picturesque intimacy of Skipton Castle, in Yorkshire, where the old part of the castle and the modern domestic house live side-by-side, and so that became the blueprint for Mountjoy.

Apart from the main city of Eyot with its cathedral and choir school and cathedral close, full of scheming clerics, there are other places that appear from book to book. There’s the food emporium, Gumbles, one of those wonderful shops full of everything from exquisite Parma hams to rich dark chocolate, a feast for the senses. My characters shop there when they’re rich and can afford to, or when they aren’t, and it’s a treat to have even a small morsel of their delicious products.

That’s the base landscape for my stories, but sometimes I like to get away. In Volcanic Airs, Magdalena Mountjoy flees the winter fog and damp of Mountjoy Castle to stay in an extraordinary villa in the Aeolian islands off Sicily. and in Brotherly Love, it’s another ghost, a mediaeval Templar serjeant, who causes trouble in a staid Victorian terrace house in Eyot and drives Edmund Mountjoy and his long-suffering wife to take refuge in a charming house in Brittany in France.

Unfortunately, the ghost goes with them – in the world of the Mountjoys, ghosts know no boundaries. Because, in the landscapes of the mind, the novelist’s imagination can fly beyond reality to create entirely new worlds that entertain, delight and enchant.

***

And now, for the giveaway!

Which imaginary world would you live in if you could?  Please leave a comment below to be entered to win a copy of Children of Chance , the prequel of the Mountjoy series. In one week, I’ll pick a winner of this ebook!  It is available in any ebook format. Remember to write your email address in the comments so that I can contact you. If you don’t leave your email address, you will not be eligible for this week’s giveaway, or for the Giveaway Grand Prize in October.

For the Giveaway Grand Prize: Everyone who comments (and writes their email address in the comments) is eligible to win a lovely hematite bracelet and earrings. I’ll pick a lucky winner mid-October and can ship anywhere in the world. Good luck!

For more information on Elizabeth Aston, please visit her website and blog or check her out on Facebook or Twitter.  Her books are all available on Amazon.

***

Elizabeth Aston was born in Chile to an impeccably English father and a distinctly un-English Argentine mother. Educated by Benedictine nuns in Calcutta, Fabians in London, and Inklings at Oxford, she has lived in India, England, Malta and Italy. Her Mountjoy books (originally published by Hodder) were inspired by years of living in York, where her son was a chorister at the Minster, and depict the unholy, unquiet, and frequently unseemly goings-on of an imaginary northern cathedral city and its peculiar inhabitants.

Her other books include the bestselling Darcy series – six historical romantic comedies set in the world of Jane Austen, and a contemporary novel, Writing Jane Austen. These were inspired by her love of Jane Austen – her heroes, her heroines and her wicked sense of humour.

 

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23 comments to Guest Post: Elizabeth Aston on Novel Landscapes – and Giveaways!

  • There are so many worlds to choose from! My fantasy landscape/world would be Star Wars. I’m a sci-fi girl at heart. 🙂

    • I’m a HUGE sci-fi fan myself Karysa, and definitely Star Wars not Star Trek… 😉 My fantasy world would probably be one of Robert J. Sawyer’s Canadian just-past-the-future worlds like that found in Calculating God (populated by cool philosophical uber-rational aliens) or Rollback (ability to literally make yourself young again) – it’s just slightly off from the “regular” world with infinitely possible cool sci-fi abilities/phenomena. Am I eligible to enter a contest on my own website, btw? If so, jillelizabeth@jill-elizabeth.com. (teehee)

  • Dorothy - Squeak

    I enjoyed reading your guest post. Elizabeth Aston sounds like she has lots of landscapes in her mind from all her travels.

    Other than the fantasy world I live in day-by-day … I guess I would want to live in the times of nights in shinning armor!

    Thanks

    Dorothy
    http://alaskanbookie.blogspot.com/
    Twitter –>> @akchocoholic

    • Thanks Dorothy – Elizabeth does indeed seem to have a wealth of experience to draw on, doesn’t she? I’m with you on knights-in-shiny-armor, btw – as well as in the whole fantasy-world-inside-my-head thing! 🙂 Thanks for visiting/commenting…

  • Hmm…it would be hard to choose between ancient Greece and Egypt! With modern plumbing of course 🙂

    • OF COURSE with modern plumbing Nikki – I actually was going to pick Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander version of Scotland – but only if I could have all the mod cons! I am NOT a roughing-it kind of girl… 😉 Thanks for your comment!

  • Krystal Larson

    I have so many “bookscapes” I would love to choose from! I’m leaning towards somewhere in the future in the galaxy Andromeda…I love that name^^ Thank you for the great giveaway! edysicecreamlover18@gmailDOTcom

  • As I kid, I always wanted to live in Narnia! The kid in me wants to live at Hogwarts, and the adult in me wants to live in the world of the Black Dagger Brotherhood created by J.R. Ward!

    Thanks for the guest post and the great giveaway!

    darlenesbooknook at gmail dot com

    • Dorothy - Squeak

      Darlene you are soooo funny. I want to live with her. I never thought of Black Dagger Brotherhood. Or maybe with Jacob in the Nightwalkers! LoL

      Dorothy
      squeak(dot)ak(at)gmail(dot)com

      • Teehee – Darlene is pretty great, eh? Thanks for commenting Dorothy – and for entering the contest! I don’t know the Nightwalkers books, but if it’s anything like Black Dagger Brotherhood, well, I’m gonna have to investigate… 😉

    • Narnia would be an excellent place Darlene, I agree! Hogwarts is a good one too – I am actually doing a guest post swap next week (8/25) with Erin at Pagan Spirits (http://erinoriordan.blogspot.com) on back-to-school reading that talks about all the schools I’d like to attend, and Hogwarts is definitely on the list!! You’ll have to check it out and let me know what you think!

      And hm – to be a Female in the world of the Black Daggers would, I suspect, be a VERY interesting experience… 😉

  • I would love to live in the Tudor period I am so in love with anything from that time period, living in the castle’s, the Hampton Castle still stands in England, my dream vacation is to go there and see them, they give tours, but I think the other time for me would be in Egypt when Cleopatrica was alive, she fasanates me. Thanks for this giveaway Jill Elizabeth. 🙂
    nataliej0209@yahoo.ca
    http://booksfromthepurplejellybeanchair.blogspot.com

    • Thanks for your comment Natalie and you are most welcome for the giveaway – especially since you *really* should thank Elizabeth, who deserves all the credit! 🙂 I agree about English history – I have been to London and surrounding areas and could spend forever wandering through the castles and towers and cobblestones… Again tho – I’m with Nikki on modern plumbing, medicine, hygiene… (teehee)

  • Leigh Ann Gregoire

    Oh goodness, so many to choose from. Alas, I am a child of the 90’s so I might have to choose Hogwarts, but I’ve loved the atmosphere in Stravaganza: City of Masks by Mary Hoffman.

    Leigh Ann
    insanityisnormal@gmail.com

    • Thanks for visiting/entering the giveaway Leigh Ann – and for mentioning Stravaganza, as I wasn’t familiar with it before, but after checking it out on Amazon, it’s my latest kindle find!! 🙂

  • April

    My world would be of fantasy or the paranormal. I grew up enjoying Pier Anthony’s world of Xanth and now-a-days I’ve kind of grown attached to world of the paranormal as in C L Wilson’s books or maybe Christine Feehan’s books.

    • I loved the Xanth books April – especially the whole idea of a just-the-other-side-of-normal Magic-ized version of Florida… I don’t know how I’d necessarily fare in a paranormal/supernatural world, but I love reading the stories and would certainly at least like to visit! 🙂 Thanks for your comment…

  • West Of Mars — Win A Book! » Blog Archive » Children of Chance by Elizabeth Aston

    […] our friend Jill-Elizabeth: I have a guest post from author Elizabeth Aston featuring two great giveaway opportunities, one for the prequel to her Mountjoy series and one for jewelry (a bracelet and […]

  • Reina

    Hogwarts is up there (love to meet Snape!), but I’d be most interested in visiting Regency England. Evocative worlds Aston creates and I enjoyed reading about her inspiration.

    • Hm – Regency England would be a wild time too, I agree Reina! Or maybe pre-Revolutionary France? Again, as long as I could count on some mod cons, the possibilities are almost endless… 😉 thanks for visitng/commenting!

  • Jill,
    So sorry for our delay in posting this. Elizabeth asked me to to announce the winner, since she wasn’t able to at the moment. Moving, etc.

    She’s pleased to announce the winner of the Giveaway: Leigh Ann Gregoire!

    We’ll be emailing her a copy of Children of Chance.

    Thanks everyone for your wonderful comments!

    All my best,
    Beth

    Beth Barany
    Book Marketing Consultant & Coach
    http://www.bethbarany.com

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