Guest Post: Worldbuilding in Ironskin by Tina Connolly
Hosted by Constable & Robinson this post is part of a blog tour to promote tomorrow’s ebook release of Ironskin by Tina Connolly! Ironskin is a Jane Eyre retelling featuring fey and a post-War world. To find out more about the book check it out on Goodreads.
The Worldbuilding in Ironskin
I absolutely love worldbuilding, and it’s been a lot of fun to delve deeper and deeper into the world of Ironskin over the course of the three novels in the series. Ironskin is set five years after a “Great War” between the humans and fey. I wouldn’t call it technically historical fantasy, but I read a bunch of books about the post-WW1 era to help give it a sense of place.
Along those lines, one of the things I had fun doing in Ironskin—and even more in the sequel, Copperhead—was putting in the fashion. Ironskin is a loose retelling of Jane Eyre, and once you know that, it immediately conjures up an entirely different time period—the late 1800’s. To help show that the setting was not the Victorian one you might be expecting, I dropped in a number of hints about later technology, and especially, about fashion, since that immediately illustrates a different era. Jane shows up in chapter one wearing T-strap shoes and a peacoat, over a dress with short ruffled sleeves—definitely not Victorian attire. Her sister, Helen, is more into fashion than Jane, so when Helen takes the lead in the sequel Copperhead, she can pick up a lot of details about people’s class and background from the outfits they’re wearing.
Another thing I’ve really enjoyed figuring out is the technology level. Before the Great War, there was trade with the fey for “bluepacks”, a clean energy that pretty much powered the city. Human invention lagged behind, due to the easy accessibility of this resource. But at the start of the war, trade stopped. The city ground to a halt as it struggled to rebuild itself from the ground up. Ironskin opens five years after the war, so some things have come lurching back, but some have not. And it’s set in the country, so naturally some technology that has come to the city is still lagging behind in the country. Thus, people have an interesting mix of all kinds of things: Edward Rochart has an ancient pre-war motorcar that’s running on its last bluepack; others have cars that are trying the newfangled steam and/or diesel, still others are simply using horses.
It’s been really interesting to not only build the world for the first novel, but then to extrapolate out as the series goes on. Copperhead is set six months after Ironskin, and it’s set largely in the city. So the tech has indeed advanced a smidge from what we’ve seen in Ironskin (or at any rate, we get to see more than Jane’s limited view from the countryside.) And then Ironskin #3, which I’ve just turned in to my editor, is set eighteen years later. So tech, fashion, mores—everything has changed again.
It can be challenging to worldbuild over the course of a series—especially when you can’t tweak, say, one little fact from the first book when working on the third—but it’s been really fun and engrossing as well!
Thanks so much for having me on the blog, Celine!