Saturday, March 21, 2009

Couple of MLAS Q & A

Kind reader, Eva, writes with some questions about My Lord and Spymaster. I thought I'd bring 'em out and talk about them here. (She says it's ok.)

Eva writes: First- did Adrian ever have feelings for Jess? I can't tell if he views her as merely a friend or a woman that he believes is off-limits to him but has secretly lusted after.
When Adrian first knew Jess, she was only twelve. He was about twenty. Eight years is a huge barrier at that age.
In a way, Adrian never 'reset' that distance between them. Even when she's grown, he sees her as 'the child grown up.'

The original relationship between them would have been . . . smart-mouthed preteen and her very cool uncle or Olympic hopeful and the silver-medallist who's coaching her.
That is to say ... close, but never sexual.

Eva writes: Is Annique the only Frenchwoman that he claims to have loved?

We haven't met Adrian's woman yet.
I think she's going to turn up in Maggie's story.

Eva writes: By the way, I am seriously waiting on pins and needles for Adrian's story...... Hint, hint ;)
I plan to start Adrian's story as soon as I finish up the Maggie manuscript. That'll be early in 2010.
I haven't the least idea what I'm going to write.

Ah well, we wrestle only one alligator at a time.

Eva writes: what role has Eunice played before she began rescuing women? Was she a spy as well? Why is she protected by Lazarus? You drop sooo many hints about her but I'm just not sure if I'm putting the pieces together in the correct way.....
Leesee ...

Eunice is the daughter of a duke. (That's why she's 'Lady Eunice'.)
She was married at sixteen to a very unpleasant man, twice her age, who physically and emotionally brutalized her. He obliged everyone by dying when she was twenty-five.
(May we speculate that she helped him to his reward? That would be so satisfying.)

Eunice was left a widow with a miniscule income, an irreconcilable split from her family, and a burning desire to right the world's wrongs. By sheer force of will, she became a power in charitable London. Check out any well-run orphanage or home for wayward women; she's probably on the Board of Directors.

Standish is the love of her life.
(How could he be otherwise?)
She met him when she was in her late thirties and long past any thought of falling in love with anyone. He was doing a 'dig' of a Roman site in a ditch in East London. When they met, he was firmly -- if somewhat ineffectively -- protecting his pottery shards from the local disadvantaged youths who were sure he'd uncovered gold.

As to Eunice and Lazarus.
Eunice amuses Lazarus, which is reason enough for him to let her play in his part of town.

There's some practical reasons as well.
When he identifies himself with a force that brings food, clothing and medical care into his territory, Lazarus plays the good guy, and wins approval in the hood. That's the same reason he protects the Reverend.

Also, Lazarus doesn't want the daughter of a duke killed on his turf. He's tolerated by the authorities, in part, because he keeps that sort of thing to a minimum.

He finds Eunice useful as an object lesson. Having a place girls can run to is a salutary lesson to pimps who batter the merchandise.

And when he protects Eunice, Lazarus places a limit on the power of the most brutal and stupid of his gang. She becomes, symbolically, his power to do any damn thing he wants. It's a symbol that costs little to maintain since she's already well protected by her connection to the British aristocracy and, in later years, by Sebastian.

I think Lazarus is maybe a little cowed by Lady Eunice. She's intimidating when she sets her mind to it.

Now Eunice was never a spy. She's a flaming radical and has dicey intellectual ties all over France, but she's not really a political animal. She's a hands-on, practical sort.

Because of these ties, she's an excellent source of what we'd now call intelligence. She's first to hear the latest intellectual news from Paris. She's on an in-your-face framiliarity with half the criminal element of London. And she's related to everyone powerful in and out of government in England. (She's Galba's second cousin on his mother's side.)

Meeks Street uses her when they need a safe place for women who are hurt or on the run. She's willing to provide introductions to British Service agents who need to move into the fringes of the 'ton'.

Eva writes: why is there so much animosity\anger between Josiah and Lazarus? Aren't they related?
Josiah and Lazarus came to London as young men to seek their fortune. They worked together, getting rich and trusting each other and being rivals a little bit.

What drove them apart was Jess' mother. Lazarus had her. Josiah took her away.

After some serious conflict, they patched up an uneasy tolerance. For years, Lazarus envied Josiah his little family. Envied him the extraordinary child that Jess became.

Then Josiah was out of the picture. Lazarus stepped in.

In the years she was with him, Lazarus was training Jess to be a master thief and part of his gang. Someday, if she got strong enough and mean enough, he would have made her his successor. He thought of all this as 'teaching her the trade.'
He's not a nice man, but he wished her well. He loved her in his way. And because he loved her and the world is a dangerous place, he didn't cut her any slack when it came to following the apprenticeship he'd set her.

Family quarrels are the bitterest. But it's still family. Despite his words, Lazarus wouldn't have let Josiah hang. He helped Jess when she came to him. He would have intervened more directly if Josiah had actually come to trial.

Now ... as to why he scared her to death when she came to him for help ...

Jess betrayed him. She chose Josiah instead of him. He's pissed off at her, and he's hurt.

From a practical standpoint -- Lazarus is good at seeing things like this -- Jess isn't really safe walking the streets of London unless she's a true part of his 'gang' again. He can't just decree that she is. He needs to sell it to his people. Her fight with Badger is a 're-initiation' into the gang. It is the ordeal that transforms her from spoiled-aristocrat-outsider-who-deserted-us into 'one-of-us'.

And ... Ummm ... wandering into deep theoretical, pseudo-literary territory here ...
Jess' return to the padding ken is a symbolic death and rebirth. Lazarus (the name indicates rebirth from death ... ...) is the past that must be conquered and reconciled with. She makes this passage through the underworld in the company of Sebastian, (who is named after the saint who restored sight and speech and freed prisoners.)

Eva writes: And the woman who Lazarus had hostage until she was practically in labor- does he actually care for her? Why did she go back to him with the baby?
Second question first. She went back to Lazarus because women are such fools.

First question. Yes. Lazarus does love her.

We only see one moment of a long, tumultuous relationship, and we only see if from the outside.

She's going to 'reform' Lazarus in the end, I think, and he'll call her 'Fuffy' even when she's old and grey. They end up in Baltimore, become respectable, and their many descendents brag about their aristocratic roots.
If only they knew

Eva writes: I truly loved MLAS but I would have liked another intense, passionate scene between Jess and Sebastion.
I wish I'd had a little more time with MLAS. I write slowly, and there's stuff I didn't have time to get quite entirely right. I would have liked another sex scene, too.

Eva writes: firmly believe your books would make fantastic movies.
From your lips to Hollywood's ears ...


  1. Anonymous12:01 AM

    Just checking...Adrian is about 12 in Maggies book, right? So he and his woman meet as kids?
    I too think the books would make fabulous movies...although it would take a great director to handle Annique's blindness and vision recovery well.
    And I'm fascinated by the back story about Eunice. Altho I can't quite see her killing her abusive husband. Standing up to him, leaving him, yeah...
    Fluffy--boy, I would love to read her story. It would make a fascinating novella...not exactly a romance, of course.

  2. I love these Q and A posts!!!

  3. Hi DLS --

    Yep. Adrian is about twelve. His girl is the same age.
    I'm having a hard time getting their 'voices' right just at the moment.
    I will persevere.

    I dunnoh about a movie. But I'd love to see TSL as what they call a bande dessinée -- which is French for those adult comic-book-kinda-things that Neil Gaiman writes.

    Or a manga.
    I would be floating on the ceiling if somebody decided to make a manga of it.

    There is not (jo coughs) much chance of that.
    But one can dream.

    I can't see Eunice killing an abusive husband either, I'm afraid.
    We come to Eunice at the end of a long time of becoming what she is -- if you see what I mean.

    There's compassion that comes out of pity and understanding. Compassion that embraces human mistakes and weaknesses from the outside, as it were.
    Then there's compassion because you've been there and done that.
    That's more Eunice, I think, that second one.

    Fluffy's story ... (g) No. Not a romance.

  4. Hi Kat --

    I do too. (g)

  5. Anonymous10:23 PM

    Okay, major squee at the prospect of meeting Adrian's girl in Maggie. Now I'm all curioius about whether Grey knows about her from Doyle or his own super-spy capabilities.

    When I was reading MLAS, I thought of Eunice as Dorothy Day--someone who was a Party member, but rejected ideology for something else that we might call a religious/spiritual sensibility. I figured Lazarus leaves her alone because she's not a threat in the conventional sense. Like him, she has her own set of rules; she's not interested in the solutions proffered by the government/system/whatever. So, they kinda get each other.

    Adrian's story is on deck--life is good for your readers.

  6. @ Annie --

    I'm all curioius about whether Grey knows about her from Doyle or his own super-spy capabilities

    They both know. Adrian, uncahracteristically, imagines he's playing it closer to the vest than he actually is.

    As to Eunice ...
    By 1802, most English intellectuals had stepped back a dozen paces from the French Revolution, them getting disillusioned by what happens when you actually hand power over to the masses.

    Eunice, who started out knowing just how badly men act, was neither surprised nor disillusioned when they up and did so.

  7. Do they ever release the book equivalent of Director's Cuts? I would love to see a version of your books as you would have put them out, without the restrictions of genre and publisher demands. I suppose it would be boring for the author, to revisit earlier work, but so fascinating for the audience.

  8. Hi Martha --

    Some stuff gets pulled because the Excellent Editor says, 'pull it.' She keeps me focussed. Her 'nose' for plot structure is better than mine.

    Actually, the entire population of Grand Rapids has a nose for plotting better than mine.

    But most stuff that gets written and polished and then pulled out, I pull from the manuscript, loosening its little fingers and casting it out into the darkness.

    This sorta stuff gets yanked out of the Third Draft, generally, of Seven.

    Let me select an out-take that's in mid-draft condition and magic it back into existence and post it.

    There's generally a good reasons why these scenes didn't make it into the next draft. Mostly they're fairly boring.

  9. Anonymous7:55 PM

    So glad an Adrian book is in the works and am eagerly looking forward to it. I love Adrian.

  10. @luckycat6 --

    I had never intended to give Adrian his own book and his own lady. He was going to be a secondary character only.

    I kinda got talked into this.

    But now that I'm writing his book . . . it's a big challenge. I only hope I can do it right.

    A young Adrian appears in 'Forbidden Rose' as a strong secondary character. This is six or seven years before he met Annique. If you had a reallllly annoying younger brother, that's what Adrian is like, except armed.