The Word Nerds are pleased to welcome Anne Lyle as our guest today. She’s written the very fun Night’s Masque trilogy and was willing to do a Q&A from across the pond.
WN: What was the inspiration for the Night’s Masque series?
LYLE: It all started about eight years ago when I picked up a non-fiction book about the murder of Christopher Marlowe and the possible links to his alleged career as a spy for Sir Francis Walsingham. I was fascinated by the crossover between the theatre and politics in the Elizabethan era and thought it would make a great setting for a fantasy novel.
Later, when I was looking for a name for my protagonist, I discovered that one of Walsingham’s other spies was a man named Maliverny Catlyn, and it was so wonderfully distinctive a name that I knew I had to use it. However not much is known about him, so I created a character from scratch based almost solely on the name. For example, Maliverny is a French name, so I made him half French on his mother’s side – which made for some interesting complications!
WN: Night’s Masque had a lot of characters in it. Who was the most fun to write? Who was the most challenging? Why?
LYLE: Most fun to write? That would be a close-run thing between Coby and Ned, my two secondary protagonists. Ned’s a bit of a jerk but also quite vulnerable (he’s a gay man in a world where sodomy is punishable by hanging), so I have a soft spot for him; Coby is just the stuff of my youthful tomboy daydreams 🙂
The most challenging was Mal’s twin, Sandy, as he’s not quite right in the head – for reasons that will become clear if you read the novels. Capturing his skewed outlook whilst keeping him relatable was tricky, to say the least; I’m not sure how well I succeeded.
WN: What did you learn about the writing process by the end of writing the third book that you wished you’d known at the start of book one?
LYLE: That it would be a lot easier to write the final book in a series if I’d really had a clue what I was doing when I started out! I’m a mostly organic writer; I like to discover the story as I go along, but I also need a basic outline once I head into the first draft or I run out of steam. I’m still working on getting the balance right between those two approaches.
WN: What’s your favorite word and why do you like it?
LYLE: I don’t have a single favourite word – I love linguistics and etymology, so all words (and languages) fascinate me. Also, being a writer of historical fantasy and a history nerd in general, I know a lot of wonderfully obscure words like “fewmets” – a medieval hunting term for deer droppings.
WN: What books have captured your attention lately?
LYLE: I’m very much into post-medieval fantasy these days. Some of my recent favourite reads include “The Thousand Names” by Django Wexler, “Promise of Blood” by Brian McClellan and the Dagger and Coin series by Daniel Abraham. For relaxation I’m really enjoying Mary Robinette Kowal series The Glamourist Histories, which are basically Jane Austen with magic.
WN: What’s next for you as a writer?
LYLE: I’m working – somewhat slowly and haphazardly – on a new fantasy project that’s set in an entirely fictional world. This is a whole new challenge for me; I have to make up everything I need, instead of being able to pop onto Wikipedia whenever I’m stuck for ideas! It’s somewhat like Night’s Masque in that it’s going to be full of intrigue and adventure in a setting that’s definitely “early modern” in its historical flavour (though more 18th century than 17th) but it has a completely different magic system. I’m working on the outline at the moment, so it’ll be a while yet before it’s ready to send to my agent.