I am so happy to host Piper Maitland (pictured at left), author of the novel Acquainted With The Night here on The Well-Read Wife today. Acquainted With The Night is the first book in a brand new series from Berkley books that is an awesome mixture of Indiana Jones, The Da Vinci Code, and Interview With The Vampire. Yes, that’s right: Vampires! I did a little happy dance when I first found out about this series, and I am so happy to have Piper on the blog to talk about the importance of setting in Acquainted With The Night. Keep reading after Piper’s article for more info about Acquainted With The Night including a book trailer. Take it away Piper!
Ask any writer and they’ll tell you that the geography of a novel is inseparable from character and plot. I’ve written seven previous books that were set in my native American South, places I knew intimately—Louisiana, Tennessee, Mississippi, and the Carolinas. But whenever I visited Europe, a different sort of novel tried to emerge. I pushed down the impulse, but just in case I changed my mind, I kept detailed travel diaries.
Pictured Above: A Tennessee sunset as seen from Piper’s farm.
On a winter morning in 2008, while driving to Publix Grocery, I began working on Acquainted With the Night. By the time I’d finished shopping, my characters refused to speak with a twang. They laughed when I tried to feed them grits.
I came home, unpacked my travel journals, and taped photos to a closet door. Then I waited. My heroine, Caro Clifford, still demanded to be British, and she kept throwing out phrases like “shut your cake hole” and “stone the crows.” I didn’t believe her for a second. Why was she putting so much effort into this fake background? What was she trying to hide?
The truth emerged in the first draft. I’d spent most of my life in the Appalachian mountains, and I realized that Caro had, too. When she was five years old, thieves had set fire to her family’s home in Crab Orchard, Tennessee. The murderers had come to kill Caro, too, but she hid behind a waterfall and evaded the men. Days later, her uncle Nigel, a British archeologist, rescued her:
They flew to England and made their way to a cozy, book-lined house in Oxford.
Uncle Nigel tucked her into a poster bed in the guest room. Caro tried to sleep, but a striped cat leaped onto her chest and begun kneading, its claws tugging the wool blanket. Tears pricked Caro’s eyes as she remembered her house in Tennessee—a white clapboard with green shutters, deep porches, and a flying pig weathervane. She remembered limestone, black dirt, coal mines, copperheads, biscuits, syrup running down the blade of a silver knife. Their driveway had a gate that ran on solar power and no one could pass through without a code—or so they’d thought.
A few days later, Uncle Nigel and Caro traveled to London and enjoyed tea at the Georgian Restaurant in Harrod’s (where, years earlier, I’d treated my own mother to a real-life “high tea”). Nigel began to fret about Caro’s American ways. Her parents had just been murdered, and the world believed that Caro was dead. How could Nigel keep her safe when her voice held a Tennessee twang? He decided to set down a few ground rules.
“Do you know what ground rules are, Caro?” he asked the child.
“You lay a ruler on the ground?” She wiped her eyes.
“You’re quite precocious for a tot. But you mustn’t tell anyone you are from Tennessee. Don’t even mention America. I don’t suppose you can tone down that Southern accent?”
“What’s an accent?” Caro asked. She was already confused. The British drank their tea hot, rather than iced, and their cakes were savory, garnished with cut-up plants. Uncle Nigel’s world was rather like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: the cream was clotted, and you were supposed to eat it. Plus, the English language wasn’t truly English.
Years later, after Uncle Nigel was murdered, he left enigmatic anagrams in his passport. As Caro unraveled the clues, she traveled across Europe. Naturally, I took her to places I’d visited. But no matter where she went, no matter how many British idioms she acquired, Caro was nourished by her Tennessee roots.
Piper, Thank you so much for stopping by! I find it utterly fascinating to hear how authors come up with the settings for their novels. Also, I am so happy to have a new vampire series to follow! – Mandy
More Information about Acquainted With The Night by Piper Maitland:
Title: Acquainted With The Night
Author: Piper Maitland
544 pages, Published by Berkley
Buy The Book: Amazon
A woman’s quest for the truth…A medieval icon that holds the clues…And an ancient book with the power to shake Christianity-and humanity itself.
London tour guide Caroline Clifford has never believe in vampires- until her uncle is brutally murdered at a Bulgarian archaeological site, and a vampire hunter who corresponded with him seeks her out.
Strange anagrams on her uncle’s passport lead them to a cliff-top monastery in Greece, where a shattering revelation connects a relic Caro inherited to an age-old text on immortality-and an enigmatic prophecy that pits the forces of darkness and light in a showdown that could destroy all they know… (Summary provided by Berkley.)
Check out a book trailer for Acquainted With The Night that sheds some light on Caro’s early years: