Thursday, June 2, 2011

B is for Beauclair

Of the many locations mentioned in the world of Goldstone Wood, Beauclair comes across as perhaps the most light-hearted. We only get glimpses of it in Heartless. We see its crown prince, Gervais, who is currently banished from his father’s house for excessive gambling debts. We hear rumors of Amaury, the palace where Gervais’s father, Grosveneur hold’s court, and we know that Grosveneur is famous for being a patron of the arts. Even Leonard the jester performed in Amaury and has letters of recommendation from King Grosveneur when he decides to try his luck at Oriana.

But really, do we know anything more about Beauclair?

Beauclair has a rich history in the world of Goldstone. Unfortunately, very little of this history gets mentioned in Heartless, and we only have bits and pieces to guess from. We see the town where Una, in her desperation, finds Prince Gervais and seeks his help and mercy. It is a rundown, dirty sort of town full of rundown dirty sort of people. Not quite what you would expect after all the rumors told of Amaury Palace’s opulence.

We also know there is a place called Gris Fen somewhere in the kingdom. An enormous swamp from the way Gervais describes it, solitary and uninhabitable. Again, not what one would expect in a nation acclaimed for its love the arts and its wealth.

And there certainly is wealth to be had in Beauclair. We know that from our overheard conversation between Prince Gervais and his man, Andre. There is a widow looking for a new husband who has enough money to tempt even the crown prince to turn to her as the solution to all his money problems (though he’d rather face a dragon than marry her . . . What a charmer she must be!). She is, in fact, rich enough to stop and consider whether or not she wants to marry a prince. Gervais may be her favorite, but when he slips away, she is more than happy to consider one of her ten other ardent suitors.

Beauclair is a bundle of mysteries and apparent contradictions. A peaceful nation at present, but perhaps not always so. There’s a gaudy veneer over some deep-rooted problems . . . that is, if Prince Gervais is any indication of the true state of things!

On to the basics. How did Beauclair come by its name?

Hmmm. Well, its origin is of much less interest than the actual kingdom, I'm afraid. When I first began writing Heartless as a short, stand-alone fairy tale, I had no interest whatsoever in delving deeply into the histories or politics of the world. I simply wanted to write a fairy tale! So I named the various kingdoms simple names. Parumvir was called Greenhills. Beauclair was Bluegrove. The only nation that kept its name through every draft was Southlands!

Later, I decided to make Heartless part of a much more complex series of stories I had been working on for several years . Once that decision was reached, there came the question of renaming the places. Parumvir was not a difficult choice for me. It is based off of the Latin word for “little, or insufficient” and the word for “man.” “Little Man,” or “Small Man.” (Mind, I’m no Latin scholar, so this is not a direct translation, merely the roots from which I got the name!) Later on, in Moonblood, it is revealed that the first king of Parumvir was also nicknamed the Smallman King.
Beauclair, alas, has no such interesting history.

I knew I needed a distinct sound and feel for the nation from which Prince Gervais stems. I needed it to be similar to Parumvir, due to its geographical proximity, but it also had to be different.

I blush now to admit it, but Beauclair got its name simply because French was the language I studied in school. I always liked the name “Fairlight,” who was a character from Catherine Marshal’s novel, Christy, and thought “Beauclair” a close enough translation of that name. Also, I liked keeping it a “B” name. I was pretty used to Bluegrove by that point, and Beauclair was a natural switch.

So, yes. Although the nation itself has a rich history (at least in my mind and notes) of kings and betrayals, uprisings and intrigues . . . its name was purely a matter of convenience!

Thus are the author’s secrets revealed.


Faith King said...

I always liked the name “Fairlight,” who was a character from Catherine Marshal’s novel, Christy, ...

That's so funny, because our novel has a forest named Fairlight Forest. Laura chose the name, but I remember thinking of Christy too after she wrote the first scene taking place there. :-)

Naming things is a very imprecise science for me. Sometimes characters, places, or even titles tell me what they are right away. Sometimes there is a method to my madness (for example, I am working on a series right now with close ties to Shakespeare, and the central family all have names of Shakespearean characters). Sometimes I will wait and wait and fret and fret over names.

By the way, I forgot to mention yesterday, I'm really looking forward to your A-Z posts!!

Anonymous said...

Christa again!

Just from the name Beauclair, I knew the country was related somewhat to France. The names of people (Gervais, Grosveneur, and Andre) and places (like Amaury Palace), the love of the arts, and it's geography ( it's south of Parumvir, right?) also helped with the whole feel of knowing someplace that's familiar yet different.

Anne Elisabeth Stengl said...

I really wanted to create a sense of the familiar with this world. I tried to keep the kingdom names somewhat normal sounding and the societies highly recognizeable . . . that way, when we delve into the Faerie World in later books, it will (hopefully!) seem that much more fantastic.