ORIGINS OF MOTH AND SPARK
It began here:
“The fact is, that you were sick of civility, of deference, of officious attention. You were disgusted with the women who were always speaking, and looking, and thinking for your approbation alone. I roused, and interested you, because I was so unlike them.”
–Elizabeth to Darcy, Pride and Prejudice.
There are very few literary couples more interesting – or fun – than Elizabeth Bennett and FitzWilliam Darcy. So when I realized it was time to write the love story that had been fighting to get out of me for years (I shudder to think of myself as “romantic”), what better inspiration than these two characters?
Now let’s add a war. There’s actually one going on in the background of P&P (probably one of the Napoleonic wars), but hardly anyone realizes it – there’s one tiny allusion at the end in a sentence about Lydia and Wickham: “Their manner of living, even when the restoration of the peace dismissed them to a home, was unsettled in the extreme.” Since I wanted my love story to be on a bigger scale, I decided to foreground the war.
Then stir in some dragons. It turns out almost everything is better with dragons.
With my couple, my war, and my dragons, I had what I needed to start, and the book began. It twisted and turned and shapeshifted in the way that books have of doing, and ended up something very different from what I had imagined when I set out. When it came time to choose a title, I was stumped. Everything I chose emphasized one thing over another: the love story vs. the adventure, dragons vs. politics, hero vs. heroine, epic fantasy vs. novel of manners. So eventually I went for the symbolic. There are moths in the book, and sparks, and they have real significance for the narrative, but they also represent the tension between desire and immolation, love and power, self and other. ·
Ultimately, for me, the book is a love story with an adventure, or an adventure with a love story. But it’s out of my hands now, and its “aboutness” will become what readers make of it.