I’ve not gotten a chance to meet Tina Connolly or to read IRONSKIN but I want to do both. IRONSKIN has an intriguing premise and is already added to my “to read someday” bookcase. Tina has a wonderful website that all authors should take a look at—simple, clear, concise—exactly what I’ve been telling authors to do for ages. ~JLB
So I've been reading over Jennifer's suggestions for the "Tell Me" post. And I'm lucky because I've already gotten to talk about a few of my favorite things in IRONSKIN. For the Tor newsletter I got to talk about "The Books in the Book.".. (Ironskin has a number of imaginary books in it, which was quite fun to think up.) And for Mary Robinette Kowal's blog I talked about My Favorite Bit (which includes a note about the textual joke I had to delete).
But I haven't had a chance to talk much about the setting for IRONSKIN, so I thought I would do that. IRONSKIN is not alternate history, but it's set five years after a Great War between the humans and the fey, so I ended up doing a bunch of research into the interwar period in Great Britain, to help me give it a sense of place.
More specifically, IRONSKIN takes place both in the country and the city. There are several key locations – Silver Birch Hall is Mr. Rochart's half-destroyed estate in the country, where we start the novel. Relations between the humans and the fey used to be more cordial – humans have been trading with the fey for cheap clean technology for a long time (making the tech in IRONSKIN both ahead and behind of where you might think for post-WW1). But other relations between the fey used to be more cordial as well. And Mr. Rochart's estate is an example of fey architecture from long ago. It has been bombed and half of it is destroyed, but what is left shows the inhuman logic of fey building; staircases that don't lead where you expect, hallways that double back. A good place for a gothic setting!
Jane leaves the estate to attend her sister Helen's wedding in the city. The wedding is held at the posh home of Helen's fiancé, Alistair. This is a narrow house on a city block in an expensive part of town. I knew a few key features about it for IRONSKIN. Whereas Mr. Rochart's house in the country still has a strange amount of fey tech left running, Alistair has been trying much of the new updated technology. So there are gaslights instead of the blue lights of the old fey tech. Helen and Alistair's home becomes much more prominent in book two, and so I now know about Alistair's game room in it, its parquet floors, and just how far Helen's bedroom is from the foyer.
Another setting that comes up in both IRONSKIN and the sequel is the foundry. This is where Jane ran for shelter after the war, when she was dealing with the aftereffects of the shrapnel that had scarred and cursed her. A man named Niklas runs the foundry, and it is down by the waterfront, in a very seedy part of town. As if there wasn't enough iron onsite, it's surrounded by iron, ensuring the fey cannot get in.
Of course, in addition to the buildings, there's also the outside locations—the moor and the forest, both outside Silver Birch Hall. The novel begins in early spring, and the moor is dotted with cowslips (which remind Jane of a day 5 years before, when she marched into war with her little brother.) The forest surrounds Silver Birch Hall, is practically trying to eat it. I live in Portland, where we are constantly dealing with invasive natives in our forests and parks—ivy and Himalayan blackberry are two of the worst offenders. In that spirit I hung the forests around Silver Birch Hall with poisonous mistletoe, a parasitic plant that just happens to like silver birches.
I'm now working on the sequel, and it's been fun developing the new settings—IRONSKIN is mostly set in the country, but the sequel is mostly in the city. In addition to the places we've seen before, like Helen's house and the foundry, there are some new key settings, including several society houses, a flamboyant actress's artsy home, and a used bookstore. Of course!
Thanks for having me on the blog today to talk about IRONSKIN, Jennifer!