God Save the Queen, Tea & Duran Duran

God Save the Queen (US | UK | AUS) is about vampires, goblins, werewolves, humans and in-betweens. It’s about politics, power and loyalty, with a healthy dose of sex and blood tossed in for good measure. It’s set in a world where the Victorian Era never ended, and the Black Death ironically created an immortal aristocracy.

It also never would have been written without tea and Duran Duran.

When I was but a babe in the wilds of rural Nova Scotia, the first hot drink I remember having was not hot chocolate, but tea. Tea, it was understood, fixed everything, complimented all food groups, and had magical properties. We brewed it by the bag if we had to, but the norm was to toss a handful of leaves into a pot, add hot water and spend the rest of the day picking the bloody things out of your teeth. My mother read tea leaves. In fact, she was quite well known for it. She said the leaves in the bottom of my cup told her I was going to be a writer (she also told me they said I’d meet John Taylor, but more on him later). People came from all over to have her read their leaves. Some of them came back every freaking week, eager to hear what she saw in the bottom of their cup.

I wondered if perhaps she should buy stock in Red Rose.

My mum passed away a year and a half ago. She never did buy stock in Red Rose tea, but she passed on her knowledge of the leaves, and when I have a cuppa, I almost always think of her. I also think of her whenever I see Victorian clutter, pink Christmas tree ornaments, big hats and Grisly Adams (don’t ask). Anyway, tea remains an important part of my life and my career. I feel I must also acknowledge Mum’s love of the supernatural as well, because this apple certainly didn’t fall far when it comes to things that lurk in the shadows. My mother also made up bedtime stories for me, and sometimes we’d plot them together.

I was also quite young when I stumbled onto Duran Duran and the aforementioned John Taylor. He was tall and lanky with cheekbones you could park a car under and a head of amazing hair. I should, at this time, lay the blame for my love of hair dye at Mr. Taylor’s feet.

My mother also should have bought stock in Clairol.

John Taylor was the first Brit I ever fancied. The first in a looooooooong line of self-deprecating, witty, deliciously accented, and fabulous looking fellows who have inspired my muse. The first book I ever wrote was about John Taylor falling head over heels for a young lady who looked suspiciously like my ideal self. I was 12. It has been since destroyed. And yes, it was awful. So began my obsess…er, infatuation with the UK.

So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that one day I was sitting on my chesterfield (that’s a sofa in Canadian) drinking a lovely cup of Earl Grey, thinking about this career the leaves had thrust upon me, and I thought, “What sort of book do I want to write? What sort of book would I love to read?” The answer came surprisingly quick. I saw all these books being written about historical figures where they were fighting demons and vampires, and I realized I wanted to read one where the historical figure was a monster. Queen Victoria seemed the obvious choice, though I’m not sure why. Perhaps it was that horrible little cap thing she always wore later in life. Actually, it was because she had the longest reign of any monarch in British history. What if she was still on the throne?

I knew she wasn’t going to be my main character. No, she was going to be an antagonist for my hero. And my hero… she wasn’t going to be your average ‘special’ urban fantasy character (not that there’s anything wrong with that. I love those heroines!). No, I wanted to write a character who was the monster, because let’s face it, who is more interesting – Angel or Angelus? Stefan or Damon? Sleeping Beauty or Maleficent? So, my character wasn’t going to be perfect, or even overly nice, but I loved her from the first time I imagined her world through her eyes. I loved her, and I planned to dress her up in pretty clothes that I would love to wear, and give her pretty colored hair (that didn’t require root touch ups every month), and surround her with pretty boys who had delightful accents and cheek bones you could park a car under… you see where I’m going.

Xandra Vardan never would have happened without Red Rose, Duran Duran and my mother’s creepy, porcelain-headed dolls dressed in Victorian gowns. So, thanks Mom. Thanks for making me tea-dye lace and paper pictures to put on the Christmas tree. Thanks for making tea I had to sift through my teeth. Thanks for listening to me tell you about the stories I wanted to write, and for listening to ‘Save a Prayer’ and ‘New Moon on Monday’ more times than any sane person ought. And thank you Red Rose for being the solution to all life’s problems, and the magic that continues to bond my family to this day. Thank you Queen Victoria for the era that bore your name and wore its dysfunction like a crown. And thank you John Taylor, wherever you are. I would still like very much to meet you some day, but I’m afraid I’m married to a lovely man of Scottish descent, who doesn’t have an accent but makes a fine cup of tea, so you’ll have to settle for just being friends.

And a huge thanks to YOU, dear reader. If you’ve made through all of this, then you’ll probably like my book. God Save the Queen can be found at your local bookstore. I hope you enjoy it. I did.