As I look forward to attending next week’s StokerCon in Los Angeles aboard the legendary Queen Mary, I’m planning a series of blogs that takes readers behind the scenes of The Apothecary’s Curse. In this first post, I wanted to explore the locations I used for the novel (and perhaps hint at a couple other locations I’ll be visiting in the sequel). So without further ado…
Locations in the UK:
Gaelan’s ancestral home is in the Borders region of Scotland. His family name Erceldoune, shortened from his ancestor, Lord Thomas Learmont de Ercildoune, refers to an area that is the present day Earlston, Scotland. These lands are the stuff of legend, Lord Thomas, also known as Thomas the Rhymer was abducted by a fairy queen from the Eildon Hills not far from Earlston. It is said that Thomas lives still beneath the hills, an immortal like Merlin. The Borders is also the location of a ruined monastery (there is nothing at all left of the place) called Soutra Aisle, which is important to the second book (now a work in progress). Arthur Conan Doyle also comes from this area of Scotland.
Smithfield Market is a crowded, impoverished section of London that was a busy, important market for the buying and selling of animals–a veritable Victorian stockyards! It is here that Gaelan set up his apothecary shop about eleven years before events in The Apothecary’s Curse take place. Interestingly, William Wallace (you remember Braveheart, right?) was executed in Smithfield. What makes it even more interesting for Gaelan’s story (in the second book) is that William Wallace was a confederate and friend of Gaelan’s ancestor Lord Thomas. This is actually historical fact, but from a fictional point of view, would it not be just like Gaelan to be haunted by The Wallace’s ghost?
Simon Bell’s digs are in a much posher section of London, walking distance from Regent’s Park, where he would enjoy taking walks and riding with his beloved Sophie before her untimely death. It is in Regent’s Park he meets with Lord Braithwaite, who tells Simon about the star of a particular Bedlam freak show–a man with the uncanny ability to regenerate his bodily tissues, something that quite piques Simon’s interest for a very important reason.
Speaking of Bedlam, London’s infamous asylum was Gaelan’s home for five years, under the care of the ruthless Dr. Handley. Gaelan’s time at Bedlam scarred him for life (and that, in Gaelan’s case is a very, very long time). Bedlam eventually became the Imperial War Museum, which was undergoing renovation when Dr. Handley’s diaries turn up in the cellar. Their discovery sets off Gaelan’s fateful present-day story.
Locations in Chicago’s North Shore:
Dawes Park, Evanston, is where Simon and Gaelan run into each other at the start of the present-day narrative. It’s a beautiful, large beach fringed with boulders, which act as a breakwater.
Gaelan’s antiquarian bookshop sits adjacent to the El tracks just west of Northwestern University. The entire elevated system, which stretches from Chicago’s south side to the posh suburb of Wilmette on the north, is an old structure, and the various stations have beneath them little, nearly hidden, shops, diners, news stands, and yes, even bookstores. I set Gaelan’s shop as a two story, out of the way building, with his flat sitting above the shop, just as it does back in his Smithfield apothecary shop.
Many folks think that Chicago is flat as a pancake, geographically speaking, that is. Then how does Gaelan manage to tumble nearly 100 feet to the beach on his motorbike? Along Lake Michigan, as you head north of Wilmette, begins the Ravines–deep chasms and high bluffs along the lake. When it’s icy, it can be quite unnerving to drive along the twisty road, and Gaelan’s accident, given his state of mind, is pretty plausible!
Simon’s home in the present-day narrative is on a bluff above Lake Michigan at the end of a quiet, private road in Highland Park, Illinois, a very affluent Chicago suburb, dotted with graceful mansions along Sheridan Road. His mansion is based on one of my favorites. It’s quite gothic looking from the outside, and perfect for Simon’s reclusive writer existence.
Hope you enjoyed the tour; here are a few images to give you an idea of some of the places depicted in The Apothecary’s Curse.
The Apothecary’s Curse, nominated for a Bram Stoker Award (I won’t know until next week whether it’s won!), is available at all booksellers, online and in your neighborhood.