In late July of 2019, I visited Prague for the first time. Coming from Seoul (the sleek, unsleeping, fluorescent-lit city where I’d spent the last six years), I couldn’t quite believe Prague was real at first. A gingerbread wonderland of Art-Nouveau caryatids holding up sherbet-colored townhouses, under a sky so fresh and blue it seemed to come from a cheesy stock photo, the city captured my imagination. I spent my first three days there walking up and down the streets, taking picture after picture, and listening to lots of Florence + the Machine and Of Monsters and Men. Sitting on a crowded bench near Old Town Square, I scribbled out the first lines of what would become the story Summerweek.
This story isn’t technically historical, as it isn’t set in any real place; but if you can imagine a small, peaceful, Central European country, ruled by a succession of benevolent royal figureheads, you’ll have a good picture of the place where Belle Neumann grew up. It is the late 18th century, and Belle (a former lady-in-waiting) has lived a full year in the shadow of the scandal that drove her from the palace where she fell in love with her queen. Taking courage from the summer sunlight — and from a mysterious note that reminds her of happier days — Belle dares to hope that she and the Queen may have a second chance at love.
I’ve always loved fairy tales, and Cinderella in particular has made a pretty indelible mark on my psyche. Cinderella stories show up in ever corner of popular culture, even in places you wouldn’t think to look for them. Yes, Ever After, the beautiful 1998 movie with Drew Barrymore, probably added a few threads to Summerweek’s tapestry. But so did Pride and Prejudice, a Regency novel about lost chances, misunderstandings, and knowing when to stop catering to propriety and speak from the heart. Though Pride and Prejudice isn’t technically a Cinderella story, and neither is Summerweek, both stories have a lot of the key ingredients: a couple held apart by their stations in life; a few fated, magical meetings; a ball.
I’m almost always a fantasy writer. It’s very rare for me to write a story without a single ghost, witch, or prophetic dream to move the plot along. But when I was writing Summerweek, I never felt the need to add a spell or a curse or a supernatural being. This is a story about two women, their love, their insecurities, and what becomes of them. I like to think that the magic is still there, though; Summerweekis a fairy tale from the Once upon a time… to the happily ever after. I hope that you’ll read it in that spirit, and that you’ll enjoy the story as much as I’ve loved writing it.
Much love, and keep safe!
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