Gallery: The Rusted Lily

RELEASE DATE: May 1, 2022

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The legend of the Mistletoe Bride was already doing a number in my head for a good while, like this nagging little voice that wouldn't shut up but wasn't making itself heard often enough for me to pay full attention to it. I love the story, though, ever since I learned about it. It completely pushed all the right macabre buttons, but for a long time, nothing of any substance formed. 

Until I read Henry James's "A Romance of Certain Old Clothes", which was also written into The Haunting of Bly Manor on Netflix. Which, naturally, I watched after having fallen in love with The Haunting of Hill House. The idea of an old, old chest containing some pretty horrible secrets got me started on the book's main plot, and having an orphaned pair of siblings be caught up in the ghostly shenanigans happening in the chateau almost naturally fell into place in my head.

The Rusted Lily really focuses on the bond between Joscelin and Rosanna, with the gay romance really a distant third plot detail (probably even fourth). Secondarily, it also shines a light on the closeness of Joscelin and his protective older sister, Eulalie and, lastly, the fraught relationship he has with his harsh uncle. And it's this sympathetic bond between a little boy and his aunt (through marriage) that also dictates the nature of future hauntings, when Joscelin's much older. 

The setting itself, the chateau, is a character and very much front and center in the story. My inspiration for it was the Chateau Samsonova, an abandoned old place that's also a favorite site among urban explorers, so you can find dozens of great photos online. I didn't use the chateau's interior for a model, though -- only the facade and just let my imagination run wild beyond that. The conservatory isn't part of the original chateau. That was also a necessary addition to the book as a sanctuary for Joscelin and Rosanna.

And speaking of sanctuary, I also found another reason to turn to my favorite depiction of St. Aloysius, the patron saint of boys. I ran across that while writing The Flowers of St. Aloysius about six years ago, and I've gone back to it a few times already for inspiration. For this novella, I pretty much described the saint's adoring and fervent position on the prie-dieu in the book as well, with Joscelin taking the place of the boy saint in the only space he considered to be a true sanctuary: a cell-like room in a monastery.

I wanted to write the book as a classic ghost story, using the traditional setting and other tropes of the genre. And I had a lot of fun really diving deeply into it, seeing as how Victorian ghost fiction is my favorite literary genre and is up there with mysteries for my go-to read. 

art by shyaclo on freepik
For my musical inspiration, I turned almost entirely to Muzio Clementi's sonatinas. Ironically, the music's light and playful, which doesn't at all jive with the book's tone, but it really kept me mentally fed working through it. Joscelin's childhood, for instance, depended a lot on the sonatinas, which are traditionally used in piano lessons that help transition the novice into more demanding pieces. So there's this inevitable connection between the compositions and youth. 

The Rusted Lily is available in e-book for 99 cents and in print for $9.00. You can get a copy from different online retailers listed on the book page. Content warnings include murder, child endangerment, suicide of a side character, and a predatory man of God.