Queen's Gambit Book Club Wrap Up


1} "Where did the idea for The Queen's Gambit come from?"

When I was sixteen, I was sitting in Mr. Clark's geology class with my writing notebook open and I wrote the words The Queen's Gambit. With that came the image of a young queen standing on a castle tower. And I knew that I would write a book with that title someday. For for over a decade I wrote other stories. Then, around 2010 (I think...?) she was there. The young queen on the tower.

This is a picture of that notebook, and my early attempt at lettering. Thanks you Mr. Clark for not giving me extra homework when I spent most of the time in class doing things like this.

This is a picture of that notebook, and my early attempt at lettering. Thanks you Mr. Clark for not giving me extra homework when I spent most of the time in class doing things like this.

For for over a decade I wrote other stories. (There part of a pirate trilogy written in that time.) Then, around 2010 (I think...?) she was there. The young queen on the tower. I saw her face, her copper colored hair, her bearing. As if I had a camera in my hand, I opened the lens to see Ainsley Rise. There was Gaulter Alden, Aedon, Crispin, Edythe. Ainsley Rise. The fens. And finally, the rich, green country of Aemogen. The entire scene was before me, the customs, traditions, their paced, and at times sedate, way of life. But knowing that a Queen's Gambit was a chess move where you sacrificed the queen to win the game, there was a threat coming soon to this pastoral nation. I stepped back from looking at Aemogen and that's when I saw him, Wil Traveler, walking through the Aemogen Pass. Ah. I had my threat. 

I knew nothing about him. Nothing of where he had come from. I knew very little about the continent beyond Aemogen itself. And so I looked at the rest of the map. And there was the mighty and ruthless Imirillian empire. My jaw dropped at the immensity, and I thought, "We're in for some trouble."

A movement from the corner of her eye caused her to turn, twisting to the left, lifting her knees slightly off the ground as she rocked back on the balls of her feet. There, coming down the path in the shadow of Ainsley Castle, was a young man Eleanor had never seen before... She appraised the stranger. His clothing—black, all of it, with worn boots and an old cloak—betrayed him as a traveler rather than an Aemogen farmer or tradesman. His pace was easy, but his eyes were watchful as they surveyed the ancient exterior of the castle, dropped into the garden, and then settled on Eleanor’s figure.

He considered her—as she considered him—and as he neared where she worked, he gave her a nod.

‘Good morning,’ he said.

‘Pleasant day,’ Eleanor responded, her eyebrows drawn together. It was far too early for visitors.

2} "How did you come up with the name Aemogen?"

Well. As easy as some of the characters were to name (meaning, they introduced themselves) it took me a little poking around to find out what the country was called. I knew the feel it had. I knew the tone it would set. But I couldn't yet find it. Then I thought of Shakespeare's character Imogen, and I knew that my country was similar to that name. Then it came, Aemogen.

‘Just wait until Old Ainsley fen,’ she said.

‘What is at Old Ainsley fen?’ Wil asked, curious.

‘That is where Aemogen keeps all her ghosts.’

3} "Which characters most surprised you?"

Most of the characters who surprised me are in the second and third book. In The Queen's Gambit, we spend most of our time with Eleanor's advisors and friends. And the denizens of Aemogen being what they are, being surprising is not something they are known for. That being said, I was pleased to watch Aedon, and see his distrust of Wil turn into a deep friendship where he shared confidences he spoke of with no other. And Wil valued this. I was charmed by the level of affection Wil felt and showed to Edythe, and subsequently to Blaike. 

Who did I especially enjoy spending time with? Thayne, the ex-patriate Marion, Fen Lord of Old Ainsley. 

‘What bothers me is, I swear I have seen him before, but I can’t place his face.’

‘You have not traveled much in the North, have you?’ Eleanor asked. ‘Perhaps you and he met in Marion?’

Thayne stood and walked towards the window, looking down on the soldiers gathering around fires in the courtyard below. ‘When I look at that young man, I can’t help but feel I am staring into the eyes of a ghost.’

4} "How long did it take you to write The Queen's Gambit?"

I'm not exactly sure. As I shared in Monday's post of introduction, The entire trilogy is more like a three act play than a traditional trilogy. Gambit is act one. The trilogy was written as one (long) story. Also, fun fact, I wrote the first draft of The Q the same time I wrote the first draft of Imirillia. People are usually surprised to hear that as The Q is so different from the Books of Imirillia. Yes. The telling of the stories demanded different writing styles.

5} "I loved the Seven Scrolls, how did you come up with those?"

I love the role the Seven Scrolls play in Eleanor's life and especially Wil's. When writing the books, it wasn't a matter of making the Scrolls up, it was a matter of listening and scribbling down as quickly as possible what the characters were reading aloud. There was not a lot of pause taken as to what the scrolls would say, because they were already in existence in the story. My job was to not mess up the translation.

‘There are not two directions, neither are there four; all direction is infinite,’ Wil answered her with a line of text they had translated the night before. ‘Life is not so simple, Your Majesty. It’s not just a matter of one way or the other.’

‘Life may be unknowable, but self is not,’ Eleanor replied with an Imirillian quote of her own.

A few fun facts: (SPOILER ALERT regarding some plot elements!)

- I learned that Eleanor does not have a favorite flower. Edythe's favorite is the rose. This is never discussed in the books, but that's one of the details I noticed when spending time on Ainsley Rise.

‘I heard once,’ he said, interrupting her thoughts, ‘as a small child, that the gardens of Aemogen were incomparable.’

- When Wil Traveler comes into Eleanor's room before riding into South Mountain fen to confront Thistle Black? I thought he just came in to insist she wear some of the jewelry. When he turned around, I saw he was holding an apple, and had a rather set expression on his face. And I thought, "Oh dear, he's going to pierce her ears. He's going to pierce her ears! What a presumptuous--!"

‘Right,’ Wil said as he stepped away, opening the bag onto the top of a nearby bureau. He picked something up between his fingers and turned back towards Eleanor. A small unripe apple was in his hand. ‘I don’t think you are going to like this very much.’

- Do you remember the conversation between Aedon and Wil in Calafort? I hadn't realized it had happened. It wasn't in the initial drafts. I can't remember who told me, whether it was Aedon or Wil, but they thought it was important that I know that exchange had taken place.

‘Then quit hiding behind her maid and tell Eleanor again, straight out, why you think it’s a good idea,’ Aedon counseled. ‘Eleanor has never once let her temper trump her reason. She will think through your words, even if she finds you annoying in the process.’

Laughing, Wil gave Aedon a double take. ‘I don’t hide.’

‘You don’t hide’ Aedon said thoughtfully, ‘except form Eleanor. She seems to have that effect on you. Something is said and you disappear, distancing yourself for a few days.’

Wil almost responded by asking, Do you want to know why?

And Aedon, as if he could read the question in Wil’s face, shook his head. No, he did not.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed reading The Queen's Gambit. Up next, The Ruby Prince!