Friday, 26 April 2013

Location, Location, Location - A Guest Post from Emma Newman

For the past week I've been doing some posts about things I love, and now it's the turn of one of my new favourite authors (read my review of the first Split Worlds novel here). Emma Newman is here to do a guest post about the setting for her Split Worlds fantasy series. So Emma, why Bath? :-)

Bath (picture: Michael Maggs)
The first novel of the Split Worlds series Between Two Thorns is set in modern-day Bath and its secret magical reflection Aquae Sulis. The reflected city is in the 'Nether' – a place between the mundane world (like ours) and Exilium, where the Fae are imprisoned.

Why Bath?

I've always been fascinated by the city's history. I've been there more times than I remember; my family have lived nearby for many years and for the last five I've been close enough for day trips. The city is dominated architecturally by the Georgian era and as a result, I couldn't help but wonder what it was like in the eighteenth century at the peak of its popularity.

The more I learned about the city, the harder I found it to walk around without imagining the people who used to live there. I'd look at the terraced Georgian houses and imagine them lit with candlelight and full of beautifully dressed men and women in the social crush of the season. Instead of cars queuing to get into a car park, I'd imagine carriages with horses snorting and puffing plumes of steam into the air as they waited. I walked into lampposts a lot.

I visited the beautifully restored Assembly Rooms and walked around in a daze. I was caught between a longing for a time of such splendour and gratitude that I'm living in the 21st century and have freedom and rights denied the women of that time. Now I think about it, I think a lot of Cathy's struggle emerged from this.

I learned about 'Beau' Nash, who became the city's Master of Ceremonies in 1706 and was fascinated by how he transformed the social fabric of the city in only a decade. He laid down a famous 'code of behaviour' which encouraged socialising between the gentry and the aristocratic elite – something that had never been seen before. It was one of the critical factors in the success of the city.

The secret reflection of Bath

In Between Two Thorns the reflected city - Aquae Sulis - is very similar to eighteenth century Bath. There are a number of reasons for this, but the principle one is that Nether Society is stagnant in comparison to the mundane world, principally because people don't age there. It's been a long, long time since those in power last visited and understood the mundane world.

The Aquae Sulis of the Split Worlds series is still run by a Master of Ceremonies, a Richard Angustifolia-Lavandula, who runs the city and its social events just like Beau Nash. However, there is an additional role in the power structure; Censor of Aquae Sulis, which brings me to the Roman-inspired aspects of the reflected city.

The Roman element

Of course, Aquae Sulis was the Roman name for the city and they bathed in the same springs that were popular in Beau Nash's time and are still enjoyed today. I wanted to call the reflected city something different as people often use names and language to differentiate themselves. None of the Great Families would ever want to have the city they live in associated with mundane Bath, filled with the people they look down upon!

The Roman Baths
In Roman times, one of the powers a Censor held was the ability to judge an individual's assets, consider their behaviour (i.e. whether they'd acted with bravery or cowardice in a battle) and assign them to a particular social class as a result. Clearly this made them incredibly powerful and that's the same of the Censor in my novel. Claudia is Richard's sister and arguably the most powerful person in the city. She is the one who decides whether a resident of another Nether city may enter Aquae Sulis and participate in the Season, and also decides who may or may not become a permanent resident.

It's my hope that when people read Between Two Thorns they'll feel some of that magic of the eighteenth century social whirl. It's also my hope that they'll also see how far we've come in the mundane world…


Thanks so much for stopping by, Emma!

Between Two Thorns is the first book in the Split Worlds series, from Angry Robot Books. The second book, Any Other Name, is out in May!


  1. I regret not going to Bath when I visited England a couple of decades ago...

    1. Bath is one of those places I really really want to visit but haven't had a chance to yet. It looks so beautiful doesn't it? Hope you get the chance to come to the UK again - World FCon? :-)

  2. Fantastic guest post, and I'm seeing this book around a lot. I almost went to uni in Bath. Bath Spa Uni. GORGEOUS campus and amazing English Lit course.

    1. Oh wow, I bet that WAS a lovely campus! Bath is so pretty. Did you do Eng Lit at uni in the end? I took classics (ancient Greeks and Romans) and focussed a lot on ancient stories and literature as well as the culture, but I always wished I could have done Eng Lit as well! :-)

      P.S. Between Two Thorns is really good! :-)