Behind The Scenes: A Tiding Of Magpies

It’s Monkey Queen anniversary week! We’ll be celebrating all week with a look behind the scenes at all four Monkey Queen novels and much more, and we’ve reached the fourth and most recent book, A Tiding Of Magpies!

I had been toying with when to make the Big Reveal that happens during this book when the idea for the story came to me. At first, I thought it would wait until later in the series, but I felt it wouldn’t be fair, and it was limiting my plans for further books. Then one day, I happened to be poking around the TV Tropes web site, and I wound up on the Tanabata (Qixi) page and read about the cowherd and the weaver. Story ideas started bouncing around in my head, but I was reluctant to act on them at first, because Barry Hughart had already retold the story in Bridge Of Birds, my all-time favorite novel. I then realized that he’d published the book thirty years earlier, there was plenty of room for another re-telling, and it was a perfect place to put the Big Reveal.

I mentioned earlier that I try to get each Monkey Queen book up to 40,000 words or more. This one was falling short, until I decided that to help the plot make sense, I needed to tell the story of Qixi/Tanabata as it happened in the Far Lands. Thus, “The Author, The Archer And The King Of Magpies”, which you can read here. Both the author and the archer are based on real people, but I am sworn to secrecy about who they are.

Other notes: I was glad to bring back Glien and show he was more than a one-joke character after all. Beth’s wand was supposed to be more traditional looking, but I liked the design Willow came up with for the cover and ran with it. I still love the scene in Wonderland – I wanted to show that, in a way, the regulars and staff there are an extended family, and if you mess with one of them, you mess with them all. The kitsune was inspired by Willow’s many drawings of them, and I hope we get to see more of her and Toyotoki. And Auntie Ting was one of my favorite characters to write ever. I want to bring her back someday.

Favorite Line (taken out of context): “I don’t want to lose you.”

Favorite Reference: Beth geeking out over Bridge Of Birds. She has excellent taste in books.

Most Obscure Reference: Beth’s t-shirt in the first chapter. If there’s any justice, though, fame will soon come for…SPACE CATS!!!

The BAKA! Slap: Technically, I know it’s Japanese, and the Far Lands are more Chinese in spirit. But I knew that I needed a painful way for Auntie Ting to make a point, and this isn’t Earth anyway, so I went with it. And I’m still amused by the fact that the only character who gets the baka slap twice in the book is…Michiko.

And I do have something to say about the Big Reveal: It’s for real. It’s not a dream, not a hoax, not an illusion. And it will continue to affect Michiko and Beth down the road.

Did you know: When I came up with the idea for the 2015 April Fool’s joke – give three short story titles and make the readers guess which one was real – “A Game Of Scones” was one of the joke titles, and an obvious one at that. So naturally, my brain came up with the plot the next day. I’m quite fond of this one; it’s a bit different, it’s sweet (no pun intended), and I like how Beth is the one who comes up with the solution in the end. (And FYI: I may still write “Hound Of The D’Ubervilles” someday.) Read it here, or click the “short story” tag to read them all!

Saturday: A surprise!

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