Happy Tuesdays, squiders! Today I’ve got a guest post on process from Shalini Dua as part of the tour for her YA/NA fantasy novel, The Secret Lives of Royals.
Olivia can’t take it anymore. She’s had enough of the big city and it’s lack of fulfilling her dreams. Then, just when she’s about to give up and move home, out of the blue, she is offered her dream job. Olivia is suspicious but that could just be the New York in her. She decides not to pull at threads. Despite her best efforts to remain blissfully oblivious, the secret to her life upgrade is soon uncovered when she finds herself invited to be part of a secret society.
Olivia learns that there is a thin curtain separating our world from theirs. Just beneath the surface, an entirely different one exists. One that is controlled by those of Royal lineage. The chosen ones, the Royals, hold the fate of the world in their hands. Will Olivia be able to bear the weight of the crown?
Confessions of a Shopaholic meets The Adjustment Bureau, this contemporary fairytale is both relatable and aspirational. Taking a look at the current balance of media and power with a healthy dose of humor, fashion, food and wanderlust.
I’m getting a very weird feeling. I consider turning around and leaving, but getting a cab on a cold rainy night before 2AM is going to be tough as they don’t begin frequenting the area until the bars start to close, and the nearest Uber appears to be 25 minutes away. Plus, I did go to all of this trouble to get my lazy self dressed and over here.
There is a crest engraved in brass metal on the front of the red door, an intricately designed crown and some lettering. I tilt my head to read it all the way around. ‘Alea iacta est memores acti prudentes uturi modus operandi’ I read aloud, and below, ‘Posteriori’. I recognize the language as Latin from the three weeks we spent on it during Intro to Languages, which was designed to help us choose one to focus on during our tenure at the university.
Against my better judgment, I push on the heavy door, which creaks open. I enter into a cold stone-walled hall with a stone slab floor, lit by what appears to be a row of fire lanterns on each side. I guess this place is a bit behind the times in converting, or maybe they think it’s super ironic and hipster to not jump on the modernization bandwagon. Or maybe it’s me. I’m not exactly the authority on architectural trends. Maybe converted vintage is over and re-vintaged vintage is back in. Ugh, I can’t wait until I’m old and have an excuse not to be hip.
I walk down a windy stone hallway that seems straight out of a period film. Wow, they are really taking this theme seriously. How cool would it be if this stuff was authentic? I take a few pictures with my phone just in case. I mean as Cultures Editor, it’s always nice to be the one to discover the next big thing, like Connor said.
As I round the corner I hear, before I see, a British male mumbling to himself, apparently in debate.
“It’s so bizarre. But it couldn’t be. Could it? Stranger things have happened.”
I find myself face to face with a short-ish man, though taller than me, with glasses, wearing a sports coat with suede elbow patches. I scream in surprise and jump about five feet in the air. He seems slightly taken aback as well but less jumpy than me, or at least less vocal about it. He’s good looking in an intellectual sort of way and his dark floppy hair is conservatively combed back. I’m not sure if he’s startled by our unexpected encounter or my scream, but he does a bit of a double back.
“Sorry,” he recovers charmingly, “I didn’t see you there.”
“No, me either.” I try to breathe. I feel like I know him from somewhere.
“Stuart Stephens.” He proffers his hand in greeting.
“Olivia Grace Thorpland.” I shake his in return. “But you can call me Gigi.”
“Hello, Gigi. Nice to meet you.” He is impeccably mannered even after our near death collision. Must be the British thing.
“So are you here for the party too?” I inquire. “Do you know where it is?”
“Party?” he asks, confused. “No, I just had a meeting here.”
“Ah, I see,” I say, although I don’t, given the hour. I definitely know him from somewhere. Got it, he’s a comedian.
“Well, care to join me anyway?” I offer politely. After all, he’s British, I’m being a good ambassador. He appears a bit bewildered.
“No, thanks. I best be going.”
“Are you sure? My friends are in there.”
“Really? Your friends are in there?” He seems surprised to see where I’m gesturing.
“Yup,” I tell him confidently.
“Oh, well, thanks for the invite, but I’m completely sure. Thanks anyway,” comes his nervous reply. “But, can I ask you a question?” I nod. “Is this all, um, kosher?”
“I, I, don’t know.” I hesitate. Is he Jewish and British? Is that a thing?
“Well, I’ll let you get on,” he says. “Have a good night.”
“You too. Bye,” I reply. And with that, we walk off in opposite directions.
Finally, I reach a semi-circled entryway that has the option of five doors, one straight ahead and two on either side. These are not your ordinary doors either. They are heavy, arched, rustic, dark brown, slated wooden doors. I’m not really in the mood to crash a wedding reception, murder, or worse, a live band performance; and, given that anything could be behind these doorways, I’m about to give up on this expedition completely, when one of the doors, the entryway smack dab in the center, starts to creak open, apparently of its own accord. A feeling of unexpected dread overtakes me. I brace myself, unsure of what to expect to find behind it.
An international upbringing and a love of stories laid the foundation for wanderlust. Shalini aspires to spend her time country-hopping and consuming pop-culture, comedy and good food but the reality is often frantically downing coffee, meeting deadlines at exactly the last second and working her unglamorous corporate job to fund all of the other pursuits.
The Secret Lives of Royals is Shalini’s debut novel. Her other work includes published poetry and scripts only she has read.
GUEST POST ABOUT PROCESS:
My writing process is a bit haphazard and involves lots of procrastination. I get really hungry, get creative with my snacks, binge watch Netflix for a while. It’s the only time I clean my apartment. And then, just when I’m about to go to sleep, inspiration hits and I stay up all night writing.
Beyond the daily struggle, The Secret Lives of Royals has been rattling around in my head for years. Inspired by school history lessons, my travels and wanderlust for places I haven’t yet managed to visit, and by my love of food and art. I absorb inspiration from all of my experiences and I’ve been lucky enough to travel to a lot of places.
In addition to my suburban Northern Virginia hometown in the States, I’ve lived in London and New York and visited many wonderful and exciting places around the world. Walking past the eclectic doorways in New York, getting lost in the small back alleys of London’s side streets, enjoying cafes along the cobbled roads in France, sitting in view of the Italian ports and eating gelato, walking Barcelona’s gothic district, with its beautiful historical architecture, and visiting the palaces and mosques of pre-colonial India have all inspired so much of my storytelling.
I always wonder what is going on behind those varied and intricately designed doors as I’m walking past and what amazing things might have happened in the past that shaped our history. I think about the people who have walked these streets before me and imagine what their lives must have been like. Those musings eventually end up sparking story ideas.
Olivia’s story is a culmination of my journey thus far and the daydreaming I’ve done along the way. I tend to fill in the spaces in between my experiences with my imagination and google.
Shalina will be awarding a $50 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.
a Rafflecopter giveaway