I’ve always been drawn to stories. The way authors create worlds that seem so real and craft characters as complex and compelling as the flesh and blood people around us is a type of magic all its own. From an early age, I knew I wanted to do the same—to wrap my readers so fully in the worlds I create that, even if only for a moment, they could find rest between the pages of my books. I can’t say I had a lightbulb moment when I made this decision. It grew as a natural thing, artfully woven into the fabric of who I am.
My love of history grew in a similar way. I can’t remember a time I found the depth and complexity of it anything but interesting. When I take a step back and think about it, it makes sense my love of stories would flow into a love of history. For history, at its core, is one giant story filled with worlds that use to be and people as interesting and complicated as our favorite fictional figures. From kings and queens, to peasants, politicians and everyone in between, history is also a sum of individual stories. Each of these stories feed into the larger narrative of history. Some we have been taught from a young age. Others we have discovered on our own volition. But all have played a significant role in shaping the world as we see it today, every beautiful, horrible, lovely, wretched part of it.
Over my years of studying the past, I have found myself more drawn to these individual stories and untold narratives than the broad-spectrum view of history we are so often taught. History, I believe, is in the heart of these individual stories and to truly understand and appreciate it as a whole, we have to start by understanding and appreciating it in its parts. As I’ve done my own deep dive into the past, I’ve come across so many incredible women whose stories have gone untold or been misrepresented. Several I can’t shake, and I plan to tell as many of them as I can so their legacies are not forgotten. But the ones that have continually pulled me back have been Mary Stuart and Elizabeth I.
While their story is not a new one, the queens themselves and their intertwining narratives are more intricate than they are so often portrayed in books and film. They were cousins by blood, queens by birth and rivals by the circumstances of the times they lived in. As female rulers during an era where such a thing was less than favorable in public opinion, the ties of blood, position, and expectation that bound them together also set them at odds. From birth to death, they existed in a complicated dance that continued even after Mary Stuart was beheaded in 1587. Like many other stories in our past, a single decision or different set of circumstances could have altered the final outcome in ways we have no way of knowing. There are a lot of interesting “what if” questions when it comes to the two queens and their individual and collective story. The Crimson Time series, in part, is my exploration of some of those questions.
The Crimson Time series is also a byproduct of my own quest for answers. It has become a vessel for healing, or at least I hope it will be. Like Adelaide and many others, I have had my fair share of trials and unanswered questions. I’ve had to mourn the loss of what was in the past, what is no longer in the present and what should have been in the future. To be honest, I am still walking that line between past, present and future, trying not to lose myself too much in any which one.
The balancing act is not easy. I have a natural tendency to look back, ask questions and relentlessly pursue answers, but I’m slowly learning some answers are not ours to know. Sometimes the healing isn’t in the answers themselves, but in the asking and in the person we become by fighting tooth and nail to remember our past, live in our present and hope for our future. We should ask questions and look to our past, both personally and historically. It has shaped and molded us into the people we are, but getting lost in either the beauty or the pain of the past only robs us of a future beyond our circumstances. At the end of the day, it is up to us to choose how we walk that line.
A healing quality exists in art and the creation of it. Artists paint the feelings they can’t express in words, and dancers let their feet carry them through movements for the same reason. As a writer, sometimes your story is the hardest to tell. So when words fail me in the communication of my own story, I tell another’s. In the case of the Crimson Time series, I share bits and pieces of me and my story in each of my characters, but the main narrative is largely Adelaide’s. While we are similar in many ways, I am not her, and she is not me. But the heart of what we share is the everyday fight to put the broken pieces of ourselves and our stories back together again.
I don’t know what that looks like for me yet. In all honesty, I don’t entirely know what it will look like for Adelaide either. But in learning Adelaide’s story, those of various women in the past, the bits and pieces of my own and the many stories I have yet to tell, I hope you find the courage to embrace your individual story. Every beautiful, horrible, lovely, wretched part of it.