“Inspirations and Influences” is a series of articles in which we invite authors to write guest posts talking about their…well, Inspirations and Influences. In this series, we invite writers to talk about their new books, older titles, and their writing overall
Today’s guest talking Inspirations and Influences is Kate Milford, who will give us the scoop on the fictional city of Nagspeake. Today is the last day of Kate Milford’s Bluecrowne kickstart campaign, so we’re thrilled to give Kate the floor to talk about the wonderful world she’s created in this story and in her Arcana series overall.
Please give a warm welcome to Kate, everyone!
It’s the last day of the Bluecrowne Kickstarter campaign, which officially met its goal a couple days ago. Hooray and thanks, especially to the fine folks here at the Book Smugglers, who were kind enough to review it last Friday. I thought I’d spend today telling you a little bit about the place where Bluecrowne (as well as my next two publisher releases) is set, which is a sort of home-away-from-home for me: the city (or, more properly, the Sovereign City) of Nagspeake.
I’ve been visiting Nagspeake for about seven years now. My oldest contributions to the current blog of the Board of Tourism and Culture date from 2009, but the site was up for a couple years before it went to WordPress, so I think 2007 is nearer the mark. Seven years of exploring and writing and having my suggestions for posts mostly scoffed at and then being sent on a coffee run instead. The Board itself would drive anybody crazy, but I’ve stayed all that time because the city itself is just my cup of weird, and although my NBTC credentials aren’t really good for all that much other than jimmying open the occasional locked door, they do get me into interesting places now and then. It was probably inevitable that I’d wind up writing about the place.
In the past two years, I’ve written about it three times, in Greenglass House, The Left-Handed Fate, and now in Bluecrowne. It’s unique in that it has maintained separate nationality since its founding, the date of which varies depending on whom you ask. It even managed to remain neutral during the War of 1812, and this neutrality is what brought the protagonists of Bluecrowne and The Left-Handed Fate to Nagspeake. It’s been a hub for smugglers throughout its existence, which is how it came to be the kind of place where Greenglass House, an inn that mostly caters to smugglers, could exist.
It’s also a place where the City Archives are intentionally burned every 25 years in order to “free” the city from the burdens of history; where ironwork moves, shifting slowly over the course of the day like the tendrils of a plant following the sun; and where they take their folklore seriously. Quick story to illustrate the latter: I was privileged to be asked to help with the editing of a new edition of a book of classic Nagspeake folklore (The Raconteur’s Commonplace Book) at about the same time I was writing Greenglass House. Because of the amount of written Nagspeake history that’s been destroyed over the years, the notes of the original editor of the Commonplace Book were thought to have been lost, but the head of our project unearthed a cache of previously unknown writings, hence our new edition. Great, right? Except because the Commonplace Book is such a big deal in Nagspeake and because the circumstances under which our new editor recovered the writings was—well, I assume they were dodgy because he claimed to have found them in his own attic but I’m pretty sure he lives in the first floor of an apartment building—because of those things, our team was certain if we didn’t work more or less in secret, another publisher would swoop in and steal everything and publish first. (Steal everything, I have to wonder now, or steal everything back?) As a result, I had to sign an agreement not to discuss the project in public or by phone under any circumstances, and we had to conduct all of our meetings in the dead of night in the boiler room of the university where the primary editor works. This, by the way, is not even in the running for the weirdest thing that’s happened to me in Nagspeake.
One of the things that I’ve always found particularly interesting about the city is how much of its folklore has to do with itinerant peddlers. (If you’ve read any of my other books, you probably know I have a particular interest in traveling things: medicine shows, fireworks companies, peddlers, musicians.) In Nagspeake, there are a bunch of stories about a group of dubious characters called the Yankee Peddlers, one of whom, a chapman called Ignis Blister, sells “infernal devices and sources of light.” It was this character that inspired the idea of the conflagrationeer in The Broken Lands, to which I’m returning in Bluecrowne. The peddlers of Nagspeake have always been lurking in the back of my mind as I’ve written about the other travelers in the world of The Boneshaker. Now I guess it’s time to let them loose in their native habitat.
I hope you’ll enjoy this first visit to a city I have come to love, if warily. Happy exploring.