The Astraea Estate: Fiction Built on Fact
Like the popular Downton Abbey's setting which is very much influenced by the very real and very historically rich Highclere Castle, the WEATHER WITCH series' (St. Martin's Press) Astraea Estate on Philadelphia's Hill is based on real historical homes. It is a place Jordan Astraea is taken from and a place she dreams of returning. She's had many fond memories start there--even though she has frequently felt forgotten by family in the sprawling home. It represents generations of the Astraea family, their changing tastes and fortunes.
Bran Marshall reads this description of the estate in The Hill Families of Philadelphia:
Theirs is one of the oldest and grandest houses on the Hill. Three and three-quarters stories high and an architect's nightmare, the house ambles across three acres, the original structure being built of fieldstone in a seemingly haphazard fashion, long flat stones jigsawed together in herringbone patterns creating a busy-ness of design that was at once striking and enough of an oddity that the last generation of Astraeas decided--rather than living in a stone spectacle--that section of the estate would house the growing multitude of servants. As a result, the servants are one of the best housed in all of Philadelphia, that too being a distinguishing oddity--and a costly one.
The interior of the house includes such luxuries as dumbwaiters, summoning bells, running water, decorative molding, wainscoting and chair rails, the first elevator in the New World, stormlighting, proper paint, and wallpapers and boasts multiple water closets, a warming kitchen, true kitchen, parlor, sitting room, living room, den, dining room, and six spacious bedrooms.
There are, of course, things omitted from the public record (as anyone would hope for their own home).
The exterior of "the original structure" is based somewhat on a house that stands at River and Main in Cooperstown, New York. The home is referred to as Pomeroy Place and is the first stone house built in the village, dating back to 1804. It has an amazing (and somewhat crazed) stone pattern that includes words
and a symbol created by the stones' edges. It is visually spectacular--especially the side facing the river.
The interior of the Astraea home is inspired by another stunning New York state home: Hyde Hall (constructed between 1817 and 1834). Hyde Hall is also in Cooperstown and lords over Glimmerglass State Park. The exterior is austere, imposing by most modern tastes, and composed of heavy and monotonous ashlar limestone blocks in a Neoclassical style.
As an author of paranormal novels, I should also tell you it is one of the creepiest places I have explored on my own--you are never alone roaming the estate of Hyde Hall.
The parts of Hyde Hall that inspired the Astraea Estate are, perhaps oddly, parts I have been unable yet to glimpse in person but have read about extensively (most notably the book THE LADIES OF HYDE HALL: HISTORY, HOSPITALITY, LETTERS, AND RECIPES, 1819-1963). One of the more notable things about Hyde Hall is the way in which the servants' quarters were kept. The servants at Hyde Hall lived in areas that rivaled many of the finest homes.
There are many other aspects of the Astraea Estate that are influenced by other historic homes and buildings, including New York's Nellis Tavern (St. Johnsville) and Hunting Tavern (Andes), Pennsylvania's Ephrata Cloisters (Ephrata), and a multitude of historic homes that I have either lived in personally, been the guest in, or merely visited as a patron. Exploration and research--even when building fictional worlds--is necessary and quite a pleasure!
Indulge--dive into research!
Downton Abbey, Setting, and the World of Weather Witch: An Introduction
Last Updated ( Sunday, 05 January 2014 22:45 )
With the long-awaited (okay, it's only been months but it feels like much longer to me!) return of Downton Abbey, it's put me in mind of my own recent series' setting.
The world of Weather Witch and that of Downton Abbey are separated by approximately seventy very important years, one ocean, and significant dark fantasy elements.
But for both series family and setting rule the roost.
The aristocratic Crawley family is not wholly unlike the Astraea family of Weather Witch, Stormbringer (releasing January 14) and Thunderstruck (May 20). They have money, assets, and important standing in their community. Well, at least the Astraea's did before Jordan's gala when their world was rocked by an accusation.
But I don't want to spoil anything if you have yet to read Weather Witch. So, in light of Downton Abbey's return, I want to focus on setting.
Setting can become a character all on its own. Downton Abbey's setting seems to be such a case.
Much of Downton Abbey is set in the very real (and very lovely) Highclere Castle in Hampshire (although the village of Bampton is used for outdoor scenes and some particular sets still required construction). That setting helps create the authentic mood of the show. And although the Weather Witch series is certainly fictional, real places inspired its setting again and again.
Growing up an hour outside Philadelphia and living and working in the Southern Tier and Central New York areas now, I have amazing opportunities to examine (and enjoy!) spectacular settings. These settings color the Weather Witch series.
The Philadelphia of Weather Witch is different from historic Philadelphia (and certainly different from current Philly!) because the history of that world is very different than ours. If you were dealing with a waterborne threat like the Merrow, you would build farther up the hills from the water, too (unless you want to be chum...). So Weather Witch's map of Philadelphia takes that history into account.
Humanity has always built along waterways (for obvious reasons0 but building by dangerous waterways is...dangerous. Yes, we do it all the time now, building again and again where water and storms wipe our homes away, but perhaps the Philadelphians of Weather Witch are more sensible, in at least that respect.
So, off and on for a few posts, let's examine setting and see where and how the fiction and dark fantasy of Weather Witch was pulled very much from fact.
Updates and Upcoming Events
WEATHER WITCH released June 25 and has gotten great reviews from very bright readers!
The event at the Green Toad was a nice way to ease into the release of a new series with great friends and long-term fans showing up. Some of my workshop attendees also stopped in and updated me on THEIR upcoming books! It was terrific to hear about writers moving forward!
The event at Mysteries on Main Street was terrific--historic snacks, mask-making, ice cream making and a brief book talk and signing. I loved signing books to ship to internationals! A BIG thank you to Patty and Priscilla at MoM for arranging that!
The blog tour is still going strong--jump in for a chance to win some cool prizes including YOUR silhouette cut by ME.
ALA in Chicago was wild--signed 100 copies of Weather Witch in under 60 minutes at the RWA booth and met some great readers (and reunited with others!). Then we raced off to Barbara's Bookstore in Burr Ridge (a lovely store) for another event!
Two events have been rescheduled due to the health of one event point person and because of some shipping and press confusion with the other--but both are being rescheduled to be even bigger and better!
Three events remain at this moment:
July 5 at Strafford, PA's Tredyffrin Public Library (For all ages: 3-4 pm Book talk and high tea with Duchess Delany; 4-4:30 pm Book singing and Steampunk book sale; 4:30-5:30 pm Mayfaire Moon presentation of corsets! For teens only: 5:30-6:30 pm Steampunk top hat craft.7:30-10 pm Midsummer Night's Steam Ball with DJ Matt Holtzer REGISTER in person at Tredyffrin Public Library, call 610-688-7092, or e-mail tpugliese[AT]ccls[DOT]org. Space is limited so reserve a spot ASAP! (582 Upper Gulph Road)
July 6 at Exton, PA's Exton Mall's Books-a-Million Signing and chat from 1-3! The store's moved to a bigger and better location and I'm looking forward to seeing everyone there!
July 9 at Enola, PA's Cupboard Maker Books just outside Harrisburg! My signing and book talk starts at 5:30 and then I return for Book Club! This is a new book store for me and I'm excited about being there!
WEATHER WITCH Steampunk Book Release Author Events
Last Updated ( Tuesday, 21 May 2013 17:41 )
The Thunderstruck Tour for WEATHER WITCH (In-Person Events):
WEATHER WITCH's RELEASE DAY is Tuesday, June 25!!!
- Tuesday, June 25, ONEONTA, NY: I will be hosting an interactive steampunk-themed party and book signing of WEATHER WITCH at the GREEN TOAD BOOKSTORE from 5pm-7pm.
- Wednesday, June 26 TBA Somewhere in NY
- Thursday, June 27, JOHNSTOWN, NY: We're returning to MYSTERIES ON MAIN STREET for a steampunk-themed party and book signing of WEATHER WITCH!
- Sunday, June 30, CHICAGO, IL: ALA: Signing from 11-12 at the RWA booth!
- Sunday, June 30, BARBARA'S BOOKSTORE, Burr Ridge, IL. 2-4pm, free writer's workshop and book signing of 13 TO LIFE and WEATHER WITCH
- Monday, July 1, CHICAGO, IL: ALA
- Tuesday, July 2 TBA Somewhere in NY
- Wednesday, July 3 TBA Somewhere in NY or PA
- Thursday, July 4 Just having some fun with the fam!
- Friday, July 5 STRAFFORD, PA: Tredyffrin Public Library This is an all day event! Steampunk arts, crafts, culture, music, games, and me! And that's just the beginning! I hope to see you there! (582 Upper Gulph Road)
- Saturday, July 6, EXTON, PA: Books-A-Million in Exton Mall. I'll be returning to the wonderful BAM for a fun chat and WEATHER WITCH signing.
- Sunday, July 7 Family fun and soaking up history
- Monday, July 8 Family fun and soaking up history and spooky stories
- Tuesday, July 9 TBA Somewhere in PA or NJ
- Wednesday, July 10 TBA Somewhere in PA or NJ
- Thursday, July 11 TBA Somewhere in PA or NJ
- Friday, July 12, ALBANY, NY: Colonie Centre Barnes & Noble at 131 Colonie Center Suite 355
Albany, NY 12205. Free writer's workshop and WEATHER WITCH book signing! The fun starts at 1pm!
- Saturday, July 13, HAMILTON, NY: Colgate Bookstore This is one of the most beautiful bookstores in Upstate New York and we're going to have some steampunk fun! (More details TBA)