Lingering in Londinium; or, Monasteries of the Imagination

English School, 19th Century, Snow Hill, Holburn, London

English School, 19th Century, Snow Hill, Holburn, London. By Anonymous (Christie’s) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

My imagination is a monastery and I am its monk. — John Keats

It occurs to me that it’s not just characters who choose us, but it’s places that choose us, too. When it comes to Watcher of the Skies, I had a great many plans. I thought that the first part of the book would take place in Britannia (England), an alternate history version where the Romans never left and the Angles, Frisians, Jutes, Saxons, etc., were assimilated as a servant class (those that didn’t ally with the Welsh and eventually end up part of the monarchy, that is). Then I was going to travel to the New World, to an America only a few decades into colonialism, with a great Cherokee Nation, and many wonderful wilds left to behold. I had everything planned.

But that didn’t happen. Instead, I have lingered in Londinium. It’s a great deal different than London of our world, of course, but there are a many similarities. (I think of the worlds as having the same base melody, but different harmonies…) Where Westminster stands is a similar great building, but dedicated to Venus. The Tamesis is the river upon which the bridges rise and fall, and Roman walls still stand strong. Regardless, while the book has gone to the Lake District and back, I’ve returned again and again to the Roman sites of London, the busy streets, the rainy walkways and quaint inns. It’s become home for Joss, and I really didn’t expect that. But it also has become a sort of tomb, as more and more characters find their end there or, in some cases, find themselves trapped there. It’s a city changing fast, as the New Marians are taking control over the city and tearing down Diana’s banners and buildings and building their own to the Queen of Heaven.

At any rate, this picture feels about right. Granted, the skyline would be a bit different, but I like to think that the Roman style eventually evolved with a Persian influence and the Gothic still survives in Second World.

Which is all to say, as per usual, the novel is taking me on an adventure that’s been unexpected every step of the way. In spite of my best planning. In spite of my attempts to wrestle it into submission. And that’s why I keep doing it, even though it’s been hard, even though life has been conspiring to make it impossible. Whether I’m writing straight fiction or genre, that unforeseen quantity truly remains as close to magic as anything I’ve experienced in my life. And it’s not just something I experience. As I’ve gotten to know writers over the last decade, I see that it happens to them, too. And artists. And musicians. That chord of creation strikes us all, often unbidden, and we’re the ones that have to preserve it. And that brings us together in a way that is truly remarkable. A community of monks of the imagination. Or something like that.

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