Who can say when a story really starts? Out of the mire of post-Roman Britain, the Arthurian Tales rose to prominence across much of Europe: a motley patchwork of stories, characters, and adventures that remain with us today. It is, I suppose, a great, collaborative tapestry, with new authors adding to the scenes for almost 1500 years.
Like many young writers, and especially those of the medieval inclination, I fell head over heels for Arthuriana when I was in college. Though I was acquainted with the stories thanks to Disney and Mary Stewart, discovering the age and breadth of these tales absolutely blew my mind. I felt a kinship, especially, withe Orkney brothers–Arthur’s nephews Gawain, Gareth, and Gaheris–and their subsequent myths that grew alongside the king, queen, and favored knight Lancelot. It’s where I also discovered the name “Anna Pendragon” in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s early 12th century Historia Regum Britanniae. Unlike so many other women in Arthuriana–there is always room for another Elaine, after all–she simply evaporated away.
I remember think that surely someone had written her story. Her name had been there for a thousand years, after all.
Well, most of you know how this part of the story goes. I started writing Queen of None, Anna’s story, more than a decade ago. I never gave up on it, but I also never knew exactly what to do with it. Every year I’d come back and edit it with the feeling that it was important, that the story needed to be told. But then I’d pack it away again, and work on something else. I even learned to love Lancelot.
Then, to my great surprise, Queen of None found a home with Vernacular Books and an audience of readers and reviewers alike. There were so many orders we broke the pre-ordering system. Dare I say, it was critically-acclaimed. It even won an award.
Late last year, Vernacular Books folded. We had planned to publish my already-submitted sequel to Queen of None, Queen of Fury this spring. After everything, I was gutted. Hwyfar and Gawain’s story in QoF opened up the world I wanted to see, finally departing the walls of Carelon and delving into one of my favorite parts of the Arthurian canon: Sir Gawain and the Greene Knight. Writing the book itself was an experience that changed me as a writer.
Knowing I was in the middle of a trilogy, it was very unlikely that I would find a home for all three. I certainly despaired a bit, I will admit. We all need our “Lancelot wandering in the woods” moments.
But despair didn’t last long. I had a whole bunch of lovely editors and presses reach out with interest almost right away–this community is nothing if not supportive. This story would get finished one way or another.
Ultimately, though, Solaris Books was where I landed. After talking with editor David Thomas Moore (an avowed Arthurian nerd like myself), there was really no doubt in my mind. David and the team at Solaris/Rebellion have a vision for this series far beyond what’s initially been done. It was always (at least) a trilogy, and so by 2025 we’ll have them all together: Queen of None, Queen of Fury, and Queen of Mercy. Collectively it’s the Queens of Fate trilogy.
I am beyond excited.
As we’ve been working on all this for a few months now, I’ve had a lot of time to think about the saga of this book. As a writer of Arthurian fantasy, it blows my mind regularly that my story might be someone’s first introduction to this great mythos. I am writing in a tradition that goes so far back, we don’t even really know where it begins.
And although my family, currently, is in the middle of a very difficult time, it’s important to hold this moment of joy as close as I can. That’s one of the things that has always drawn me toward Arthuriana: though it’s hailed as a golden age, it’s actively crumbling. The closer we get to the grail, the closer we are to Arthur’s death and the breaking of the Round Table. It is beautiful and terrible at the same time.
Thank you for being on this journey with me. Thank you to all my readers who followed Anna into the shadows. Her story is not over yet. And neither is mine.