Interview: Charlotte E. English on “Mr. Drake and My Lady Silver”

In the frozen depths of winter, 1812, Phineas Drake struggles to make ends meet. Wearing away his youth making plum-cakes for the people of Lincoln-on-the-hill, he dreams of a better life.

Out of the faerie realm comes Lady Silver: beautiful, angry—and determined. Desperate to reverse an ancient curse, she will stop at nothing to find the traitor, the hobgoblin Wodebean.

Together, princess and baker’s boy make a formidable team—and so they must, for their quest will take them deep into the lawless depths of the Hollow Hills…

Mr. Drake and My Lady Silver is available for a limited time in The Realm of Faerie bundle.

Enter the Realm of Faerie, a world of beauty, danger, and enchantment. But remember the legends if you want to make it back home again…


The Greestone Stairs. That was where she had last seen Wodebean—disappearing, so she had thought, through a Solstice-Gate, and back into Aylfenhame. But when she had gone through herself, he had been nowhere in evidence. Invisible? Or had he, somehow, contrived to go somewhere else altogether? The rose had not been a typical example of his arts; it was too delicate, too pretty, and above all, too useless. She did not see that there was much chance of a market for such a frippery, or not one that would much interest Wodebean. He did not deal in trifles.

So: why had he been carrying it about with him?

She got out of bed and lit her sole candle, but its wan glow did not afford her any glimpse of the odd rose in any part of her room. The flower proved to be absent from her chest-of-drawers, and her closet too. Where—

Oh. It darted into her head, then: a memory of the rose, lying on the counter in the baker’s shop, and of herself, walking away without it.

‘Fool!’ she cried. The one link she had with Wodebean, and she had left it with that blank-faced baker’s boy? Who knew what he might have found to do with it by now?

“Cabbages and sugar,’ she muttered with a sigh, discarding her nightgown—ouch, the sudden bite of the cold ate at her perishing flesh before she contrived to don her undergarments, and her favourite carmine gown. Half-boots! And today, a hat, for perhaps she ought to make some small concession to appearances once in a while. Away she went into the dark early morn, the sky snowless by some small blessing, though a brisk wind did its best to carry her hat away again.

‘Come now!’ she protested, clutching her bonnet as she hurried through the empty streets. ‘Propriety dictates that I must have a hat! You would not wish to expose me to still more censure, surely?’

The wind, being an uncaring sort of fellow, did not lessen its importunity one whit.

— from Mr. Drake and My Lady Silver by Charlotte E. English

The Interview

Mr Drake & My Lady Silver, like all of your Tales of Aylfenhame books, is a historical fantasy set during the Regency era in England—as well as in the otherworldly realm of Aylfenhame. Why did you choose to write in Regency England?

This was actually my first historical fantasy series. I love history, and I read a lot of historical fiction, so I was eager to travel back in time. I chose the Regency because it’s the period I’m most familiar with and feel the most comfortable spending time in. Why? Well, I became a huge fan of Jane Austen around age 15 (it all began with that certain TV series of Pride and Prejudice…), and since I followed that up later in life with a passion for Georgette Heyer’s books, I ended up loving the whole Regency period.

All of the books in Tales of Aylfenhame begin with an introduction by the troll Ballingumph. How did you come up with Ballingumph’s character, and do you plan to write any stories about him?

Mr. Balligumph is secretly one of my favourite characters. He appeared one evening over dinner, during a conversation with my husband, who said, why don’t you have a storybook narrator for this one? Which I thought was a fantastic idea, and I immediately decided on a loveable giant manning the toll-bridge into my fictional Lincolnshire town. So Balli the troll was born! He doesn’t have his own stories yet, but I’d like to change that. I do extra short stories for my Patreon audience sometimes, so he’ll likely end up holding forth on there in due course.

Each book in your Tales of Aylfenhame series has a different set of protagonists, and can be read stand-alone, but there are a few things that appear across the stories and tie them together. Did you plan all of the connection points, or did some pop up on their own as you wrote the books?

When I wrote the first book, Miss Landon and Aubranael, I expected it to be a one-off standalone. One of the major connection points across the series—the long-ago disaster for the fae royal family—popped up entirely by accident about three quarters of the way through. And I was intrigued by it myself, so I did a book two, and now we’re at book four… I’m not much of a planner, so this kind of fortunate accident happens all the time!

What’s your favorite part about the world you’ve created in Aylfenhame?

It’s hard to pick a favourite. Other than Mr. Balligumph, though, it’s probably the fact that it gives me such a wonderful excuse to play with fairytale and folklore. Each book has its own unique elements in that respect, and I get to spend time reading and researching weird, wonderful little folk tales every time I’m ready to get started with a new installment. It’s huge fun, and now that I’m talking about it I want to get on with book 5…

Jane Austen is one of your favorite authors. What do you enjoy about her books, and have they influenced any aspects of your own stories?

I love her gloriously happy endings, her razor-sharp wit, her fantastic characters. There’s also a baseline integrity to her worldview which I appreciate, even if some of those early 19th-century morals haven’t survived into the modern era. And while I’ve never tried to ape Jane Austen in my own books, my love for those things probably comes through. I like to write about memorable, different kinds of people, lower-key conflict (no grand melodrama for me!), and plenty of humour. Plus, of course, everybody gets to live happily ever after.

The main character in your Modern Magick series is an agent of the Society for Magickal Heritage—her job is to track down and rescue endangered magickal creatures, artefacts, books, and spells. In addition to being published in ebook form, this fun and charming series is available online as a fantasy serial. Why did you decide to follow this approach, and how many more stories do you plan on writing in this world?

I’ve been intrigued by serialised fiction for a while, perhaps from the sense that, if Wattpad or its ilk had been around when I was a teenager, I’d have been utterly glued to it. And you know, when you find a story and a set of characters that you love, what do you want to do but sink in deep and stay there forever? Serials really lend themselves to that desire to just live in a story for as long as possible, and that’s why I wanted to write one—because I get that as a writer, too. That being the case, we’re at book 9 and counting, and I expect to write lots more episodes of Modern Magick in years to come! It’s the closest thing to pure fun I’ve done yet.

You’re from England, but now live in the Netherlands. Has this geographical change affected your writing?

It’s hard to trace a direct impact, but I think my choice of setting for a few of my series has been influenced by a degree of homesickness. Not that I don’t love my adopted country—I do! And I hope to write some directly Dutch-influenced stories in time. But for the past few years I’ve been writing series set in the England I left behind, and I think it makes me feel at home. The Tales of Aylfenhame, of course, have a more personal setting still; I chose Lincolnshire, which is where I was born and where I grew up. Mr. Drake and My Lady Silver is set in the city of Lincoln itself, my home town, and I loved writing it. It felt like going home for a few weeks.

“Wonder Tale” is another term for a fairy tale, and it’s a perfect fit for the magical stories in your Wonder Tales series. What inspired this series, and do you plan to expand any of the stories into series of their own?

This series was one of those that I didn’t quite plan. I began with Faerie Fruit, because I was in a highly fairy tale mood at the time, and I wanted to write an odd, dreamy, fae-tale of my own. I love them, because I have a highly whimsical imagination at times and the Wonder Tale really lends itself to that. Having done one, of course, I wanted to do more, so I went on to do Gloaming, and that’s when I decided to group these kinds of stories together—I’d call it a collection rather than a series, if I could. I don’t currently plan to expand each individual tale into a series, because I’ve two or three ideas yet for more, very different wonder tales I’d like to do. Maybe when I’ve exhausted that well of concepts, if that ever happens…

What are you working on now, and what’s fun about what you’re writing?

I’m actually doing another Regency historical fantasy series at the moment, though it’s very different in character to the Tales of Aylfenhame. This one’s fun because it combines my interest in creepy, Halloween things with my favourite period of history, together with influences from some other things I love, like the Addams Family. What could be more entertaining than grabbing up several things that thrill you, chucking them in the cauldron and mixing them up? What I ended up with this time is the House of Werth series, about a highly supernatural family and the series of disasters they end up falling into. I can’t wait to write more!

About Charlotte

English both by name and nationality, Charlotte hasn’t permitted emigration to the Netherlands to change her essential Britishness (much). She writes colourful fantasy novels over copious quantities of tea, and rarely misses an opportunity to apologise for something. A lifelong history buff and Jane Austen fan, the Tales of Aylfenhame series combines her love of Regency history with her deep appreciation for fantasy, whimsy and magic—and all things fae.

Find Charlotte

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