There’s no way I can sort out my thoughts on what was a most incredible week, so I’m just going to offer a top ten list. I began last weekend at the Baltimore Book Festival and had a lovely time on panels and signing books, thanks to Laura Kaye and the whole Maryland RWA staff and volunteers for being amazing. Then it was off to London for research, alongside dear friend and fabulous talent Elizabeth Kerri Mahon of Scandalous Women fame.
10. The Spaniard’s Inn – A charming pub that has been featured in many a literary world and work, from Keats having “enjoyed many an ale here” as is immortalized on a bench outside, to being mentioned in Bram Stoker’s DRACULA, this Hampstead classic pub proved delightful and charming and full of literary as well as literal spirits.
9. Finding the streets upon which two of my main characters live. I just had a wonderful time wandering until I found the right spaces that my characters agreed with. They told me things about their lives that were important to know, as I’m still in the “getting to know you” phase of my first ETERNA FILES novel. I decided upon the Knightsbridge and Aldwych areas for Lord Black and Harold Spire, respectively. It’s such a privilege to walk the paths they’ll walk. That tactile connection provides an inexplicable bond that I can’t really explain or quantify, it just helps.
8. The Pre-Raphaelite exhibit at the Tate Britain. No artists move me as thoroughly as the Pre-Raphaelites, while their private lives were quite daunting for many of the women involved in them, their art none the less moves me spiritually and aesthetically. I appreciate the romanticism and spiritualism present in these works and this collection was exquisite. Seeing Millais’ Ophelia moves me every time, and getting a chance to see and appreciate more of Edward Burne-Jones and William Holman Hunt was divine. It was nearly all of my favourite art in one set of rooms. What a treat.
7. Signing stock at Forbidden Planet! The folks at this store are some of the kindest, most knowledgeable and most wonderful people in the world of Sci-Fi and Fantasy. Danie Ware specifically took time out of her VERY busy schedule to make sure stock of DARKER STILL was in house for me to sign, brought me tea, made me feel utterly at home amidst her own whirlwind tour of her own fabulous novel. So, my UK friends, you can now get a SIGNED copy of DARKER STILL from Forbidden Planet, AS WELL as pre-order a signed copy of THE TWISTED TRAGEDY OF MISS NATALIE STEWART, as I signed book plates for the staff to insert into the books when they release next month! We’re only a month away! *happy dance*
6. Walking along The Thames. I feel that rivers tell you about the soul of a city. I am invigorated by water and so walking along this river that I’m sure I walked along in past lives, I am always charged, vibrant and inspired.
5. Kensington Palace. Birthplace of Queen Victoria, this charming palace has been renovated with fascinating exhibits and an amazing display featuring Queen Victoria’s charming courtship with Prince Albert. It truly is a love story for the ages, and they had her wedding dress and accessories, some of which were designed by Albert himself, letters, notes, quotes, it was wonderful. As I posed near one of Queen Victoria’s portraits, an elderly British woman passed by and patted me on the head, saying: “Very regal.” See? I belong with English Royalty, surely… I was charmed by the entire grounds and was so glad to be inside those walls that shaped the often troubled childhood of the monarch that so profoundly influenced the period most important to me.
4. Parliament: Gorgeous. Gothic. Overblown. Amazing. Built to celebrate Queen Victoria. Fascinating. Breathtaking. I love every inch of this quintessentially Victorian building. I dearly enjoyed this tour and look forward to following my character, Lord Black, and his best kept secret, his brilliant secretary, Rose Everhart, through the halls of the House of Lords.
3. An INCREDIBLE production of Chekhov’s The Three Sisters. Beautifully done, in a fresh and exciting new translation gorgeously, simply and effectively staged, and so movingly acted I cried a lot in the front row, the actors beautifully close in the appealing space that is The Young Vic. I'm fascinated with Chekhov's "Masha" characters and I'm inspired to work on some thematic pieces involving them, some of my favourite characters in the 19th century canon.
2. Hugging a TARDIS. TWO OF THEM. Thanks to my dear friend Shalene’s husband Andrew, not only did I get to spend quality time with this delightful family but Andrew enabled a private tour of some of the iconic BBC studios, inside the Doctor Who room filled with treasures from the seasons and an old-school Doctor 5 TARDIS. I was a little hard to control.
1. The Harry Potter Studio Tour. I had to go there alone, which was kind of difficult, because it’s hard being THE MOST PASSIONATE FAN THERE. No one was as excited as me. At least, no one brave enough to show it. Oh, I showed it. I wasn’t dressed in any sort of costume, though most people think my every day clothes are a costume, and yet my Malfoy tendencies were still in full effect, as evidenced by the girl behind me in line who said: I like your jacket. Very Narcissa. I smiled and replied: "I am." Once inside, I nearly knocked kids over to run into the Great Hall when they opened the doors. The full Great Hall set is so utterly breathtaking, even without the ceiling of sky and candles and only stage lights above. When the guide asked the crowd to state their house, I was shocked when no one matched my enthusiasm. There were a few mumbles drowned out by my shriek of: SLYTHERIN! The guide: “So I hear a few unenthusiastic Gryffindors and one VERY passionate Slytherin.” Guide turns to me and is sure to point out the specifically Slytherin things about the room. Once inside and spending a little too much time around the Malfoy costumes, I had several people say that I could “step right into the films”. I’d thank them and offer up a very Slytherin smirk. I held it together, mostly, until I got to the huge full room model of Hogwarts used for exterior shots. Some of the most beautiful music written for the films was playing, the theatrical lighting rendered the model into breathtaking beauty, and I just burst into tears for sheer love of this dear, beloved world.
You see, I’d been writing since I was a child, but I gave it up during college because I thought my ideas weren’t worthy. Harry Potter inspired me in a way nothing else had done since childhood, and I frankly owe my career to it, and so much of my favourite things and people and projects in life have been tied to the fandom. So yes, I cried, because it’s worthy of tears when something means that much and is that magical. I know my dear friends in the Harry Potter fandom will understand this transcendant experience.
I ended the week in Oklahoma City as a Literary Guest of Honour at the OCTIPODICON Steampunk Convention, where the attendees and fellow "Professors" were some of the most delightful lot I've ever met. We had lovely and engaging panels on 19th century issues and trends in Steampunk and Gaslamp Fantasy. I delighted in some fellow Goth friends who charged the DJ during the ball to demand some VNV Nation and we danced our hearts out in corsets and flouncing black layers. I had a wonderful time talking about my books, old and upcoming, and as always my favourite part of conventions is doing dramatic readings of my work, I read a short story, "Too Fond" which will be coming out soon on Tor.Com as a part of their "Ghost Week" Halloween offerings, stay tuned. I also got to share insights and information about my upcoming novel, THE TWISTED TRAGEDY OF MISS NATALIE STEWART and I became even more excited for it's release, I cannot wait to share it with all of you.
So all in all, what a week. What an amazing set of journeys.
And London, Oh... I love you, London, always have, always will, and I can’t wait to return to you again soon. Eternally your magical changeling, Leanna.