All my books include some kind of problem for the protagonists to solve, and for the most part I base them on real life stories.
Take the Emperors of London. They’re called that because their parents, who were siblings, called them ridiculous names. And because they are one of the most powerful familial networks in the country in the 1750’s.
Ranged against them are the Dankworths, an equally powerful family who are still recovering from supporting the wrong side in the Jacobite Rebellion, ie the losing side.
That’s the basic premise of the story, anyway, and with every book I write, I’m finding out more and more about the shadowy life of the Stuart family after they were deposed in 1688.
I discovered that the son of James II, called by Jacobites James III, and by Hanoverian loyalists as the Old Pretender, was a melancholic. Probably bipolar, considering his swift changes in mood and his reputation as a brooder with fierce temper tantrums.
He married in 1719, to Maria Clementina, commonly known by her second name. She bore him two children, two sons, and then she left him to enter a convent. Not because she was particularly religious, but because she couldn’t stand living with him any more. Witnesses reported blazing arguments and weeks of sulking, mostly on his part.
So here come the “what if”s. A writer thrives on the “what if” moments!
What if, before he married in 1719, James married another woman, her identity often confused with his official wife, because her name was Maria, too? What if he put her aside when he married Clementina, but after Clementina left him, his advisors begged the shadowy wife to return to him because only she could control his moods? What if they had children? And what if Maria, afraid for the safety of her babies, sent them away to be brought up elsewhere?
I tested every step of the argument, and found it all possible. Marriage was an irregular affair before it was regulated later in the century. James, the Old Pretender, was known to have mistresses, and there was plenty of time for him to sire enough children to make this series possible. He died in 1766, a long and unproductive life, but he remained mired in politics to the end of his days, trying to alter the fate of Europe and building a network of advisors and supporters.
The bombshell about the children gave me the cue for the Emperors of London series. That, and the volatile state of politics in the 1750’s. With the adult Prince of Wales dead, and the new Prince of Wales under the control of his mother and her (some say) lover and close advisor, both unpopular with the people, that gave another party the way in to power.
The Emperors set out to discover the children, and neutralise them. The Dankworths want to find them and marry them off to their own children, getting a foothold in power that way. The Young Pretender just wants them dead.
The three-pronged aspect gives me a great choice of stories, and I can flesh them out with sumptuous romances. The more I discover about this period, the more fascinating it gets. And my scenario becomes more real.
The stage was set. I don’t reveal all the secrets in the first few books, but I do make it obvious for anybody who is interested in the era.