I started writing about Elizabethan England by accident, Jim Baen suggested it to me and I, of course, followed his advice.
Major Jameson and the vampire Karla appear in Lucy’s Blade, my Elizabethan story almost by accident. LB is a story within a story – it starts and ends in modern London. I needed a couple of unusual characters to represent Commission enforcers; the Commission is the third arm of the British secret service, the one that deals with paranormal problems. So Jameson and Karla were born and lived for a page or two.
I could not get them out of my mind and wrote their story in “As Black As Hell”. The title came from Shakespeare’s Dark Lady Sonnets. To me Karla was a metaphorical Dark Lady.
But then I had an idea. Suppose Karla was literally “The Dark Lady of the Sonnets”. I reread the Sonnets and came across the following:
“Then will I swear beauty herself is black, and all they foul that thy complexion lack.”
“So shalt thou feed on death, that feeds on men, and death once dead, there’s no more dying then.”
So Karla was the Dark Lady!
And I had my title:
“For I have sworn thee fair and thought thee bright, who art as black as hell, as dark as night.”
This brings me to my latest effort.
The story I have just delivered is a commissioned urban fantasy with an erotic element so, naturally, I set it in Jameson and Karla’s London and I looked to Shakespeare for inspiration.
I came across this line:
“Beauty is a witch, against whose charms faith melteth into blood.”
And this struck me as my theme. I envisaged an amoral witch whose beauty turns out to be as important to her fate as her magical talents (twas ever thus, girls).
The quote is from ‘Much Ado About Nothing’. In Elizabethan English, ‘t’ and ‘th’ are homophonic so it could be ‘much ado about noting’ or ‘observing’ or, in modern English, ‘stalking’, a chase plot came to mind. The witch is being pursued, both literally and figuratively.
Finally, Shakespeare had worked one last pun into the title of his play. N’thing was a contemporary euphemism for a vagina so ‘much ado about a woman’s favours’.
I had a character, a setting and a plot.
Beauty is a witch!