“The idea for these two books came to me as I was completing The Tears of Artamon [series] and I realized that I wanted to write about some aspects of those events—but from the ‘enemy’ point of view,” Ash said in an interview. “Celestine de Joyeuse is a minor player in ‘Artamon’ but I was so interested in her character that I knew I had to return to find out more. Even then I knew that she had a secret—and a traumatic past. However, with every story I write, there’s always a defining scene or image that comes to me very early on and that I know instinctively carries the seed for what’s to come. In this case, it was the image of a little girl being woken by an agonized voice crying out in the darkness…and tiptoeing through the dark to her alchymist father’s study to see a powerful aethyrial spirit trapped in a beam of dazzling light emanating from a crystal on her father’s desk…”
In the novel, Eugene of Tielen has conquered most of the western quadrant, except for Francia. “Due to his greed for power, six of the seven dragon daemons known as Drakhaouls are at large, wreaking havoc, and threatening to release their master, Prince Nagazdiel,” Ash said. “Caught up in the turmoil are Celestine and Jagu, agents of the Francian Commanderie, who are striving to prevent this catastrophe.”
Flight, like the other Artamon books, is set in an alternate eighteenth century, so Ash tries, wherever possible, not to introduce elements that would jar in such a setting. “Every so often, this misfires!” she said. “Recently my French translator and copy editor, Colette Carrière, contacted me with a query about the timescale involved in sending messages whilst at sea. I have to get these things right as experts in their own fields will notice otherwise. Or if not, there has to be a very plausible reason (explained by the magic systems or the relevant world-building) for things to be otherwise. So I’ve read fascinating books on seafaring and travel in the eighteenth century, not to mention quite a few on alchemy and angelography.”
Ash is a musician by training and this story is steeped in music. “Celestine learns her craft as a Skylark chorister at the convent of Saint Azilia (the patron saint of music) and her talents bring her to the attention of a young court composer, Henri de Joyeuse,” she said. “Having spent much of my student days singing and acting, I had such a lot of fun writing about Celestine’s musical education and her first ventures into the world of performing! … But music has a much deeper spiritual significance in the story as well, for Azilis, the spirit who sings to light the way for the souls of the dead to find the Ways Beyond, has vanished from her shrine.”
Ash is currently at work on a new project which is set in the same world, but roughly one hundred and forty years before any of the Artamon stories. “I’m really excited about it as it enables me to travel to parts of the Artamon world that I’ve never visited before,” she said. “This new series, provisionally entitled, To the Angelspire, grew out a tiny seed planted toward the end of Flight.”
She promises there will be dragons.