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People who inspire us: Meet gothic fantasy writer Nancy Baker
We are fortunate to have the opportunity to meet plenty of engaging characters at ELLE Canada: designers, photographers, makeup artists, musicians, actors—and writers. We also get to work with some pretty incredible women—some of whom are behind the scenes here at ELLE Canada. One of these remarkable women is
Nancy Baker. By day, she’s the one who keeps our finances in order; by night, she writes gothic fantasy novels. She has just finished her fourth book,
Cold Hillside. (It took her 20 years, but, hey, it was worth the wait!) Because fashion plays a key role in her imaginative second life, we asked Nancy to write a short blog about her latest book.
"When people ask me why I write fantasy and genre fiction, I usually say something about it being an opportunity for me to use my imagination. However, if I’m honest, I think my greatest pleasure comes from dreaming up the costumes my characters are wearing. "I’ve had a secret love of fashion since I was girl, though you wouldn’t suspect it given my modest wardrobe of flood pants and peasant skirts. In my early teens, I would trace the images of the women from the pages of Simplicity pattern books and then design clothes over their outlines. I still have a folder full of costumes for super-heroines, queens, warriors and rock bands. "Clothing in fiction, as in life, isn’t a frivolous detail; it’s a key indicator of character. When Ardeth, the grad-student heroine in my first novel.
The Night Inside, becomes a vampire, the first thing she does is hit Queen Street to get a Louise Brooks bob and a wardrobe worthy of any
1990s media-influenced creature of the night: short skirts, punk-band T-shirts and sunglasses. "I had even more fun with my third novel,
A Terrible Beauty, a retelling of
Beauty and the Beast that was influenced by fin-de-siècle symbolist art. The “beast” is a 3,000-year-old vampire named Sidonie Moreau, who possesses a wardrobe of elegant Edwardian gowns and a
collection of unusual necklaces collected over centuries. "In my latest fantasy novel,
Cold Hillside, I designed clothes for the Faerie Queen herself. When her city’s annual tribute to the Queen falls short, the heroine must navigate the treacherous politics of the Faerie Court, where the Queen’s will determines reality."
Her skin was white, as white as the face of Jennon. Her hair was white as well, the length of it now braided and knotted into a fantastical headdress across her brow. Crystals sparkled in it, flashing blue and green and red in the fading sunlight. More jewels hung from her ears: clustered, glittering fruit. Her dress was encrusted with them, beaded crystals covering heavy silk the colour of pearl, outlining the lift of pale breasts, the extravagant narrowness of her waist, and the flare of her skirts.
Against all that white bedazzlement, her eyes were black. "For getting a secret fashion fix, nothing beats writing a character who can summon an haute-couture wardrobe across time and space with a mere thought."
Nancy Baker’s fourth novel, Cold Hillside
, has just been published by ChiZine Publications and is available in physical and ebook editions through Indigo, Amazon and your favourite bookstore. She indulges her love of interesting clothing by writing fantasy novels and shopping at Annie Thompson in Toronto.
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