From art to costume to story
I promised you to share things about Stardark (Sterrenduister) and its publishing journey. So here you go! But first of all, what is the story about? I'm glad you asked! Stardark follows an astronomer, Isra, who tries to protect the world from a sun-swallowing darkness. The government of her country, however, does not her warnings. You can read more about it here.
Isra is one of my favourite characters. She also has a rather specific source of inspiration, and it ties in neatly with one of my favourite events...
Elfia! It’s a Renaissance fair kind of thing in the Netherlands at castle the Haar. Prettiest castle we’ve got, in my humble opinion. It takes place in April, and my brain is still recovering from a post-Elfia depression. Some things are just so great that it makes ordinary life seem so... Ordinary, you know? Elfreat location, great market, great food, but most importantly, great people. Somehow, only the kindest of folks end up on festivals like this. Even the weather started out great, but as this is the Netherlands, sunshine does not last forever... We therefore fled a little early.
The start of the day (at a stage in the same style as my costume) and the end of the day...
But what has this fantastic party to do with my upcoming novel? I’ll get to that…
Many visitors dress up for the event. So did I. My character is called Lady Astra, guardian of the night skies. I made the costume in 2021. The year of extra free time, so to say. I think you can tell. Everything you can see is based on an astronomical instrument. There’s an orrery and a Saturn-like planet on the staff, a telescope strapped to my arm, a sextant on my belt, an armillary sphere attached to my shoulder, astrolabes stuck to the headpiece and a zodiac ring forming the backbone of the wings. Juggling rings, a yoga mat and Christmas ornaments have been sacrificed to craft this costume. I won a costume contest with it too last year, so I guess that sacrifice was totally worth it. I have a few WIP photos here, but let me know if you want to know more about the outfit - I might write a more detailed blog post about how I made it.
This outfit design didn’t fall from the sky (even though it looks like it did). It was based on a drawing: A Stitch in Space. I drew that for a contest on DeviantArt (no winner this time, though I became a finalist) and it shows a woman in a crazy outfit restoring the night sky. In her case, she does it with needle and thread.
And now, we finally get to the point where Stardark, and especially Isra, comes into view. The artwork triggered something in me… Why would someone want to restore the night sky? What happened to the stars in the first place? And who exactly is this woman?
A fragile, first version of my main character was born. Sadly to say, she immediately threw the crazy costume made of astronomical instruments into the thrash bin. Can’t blame her; why would you wear this? It might be one of the more comfortable costumes I ever made, but it is still far from practical. And my main character turned out to be a rather practical person. So here, I ended up with two characters: one that fitted the art and costume, and one that would end up in Stardark. So Lady Astra and Professor Isra. But the idea behind the art is still very much alive in the character of the novel. The stars succumb to darkness, and Isra will go far to protect the little light that’s left.
So yeah, that's basically how the very first idea for Stardark was born. This is not the first time that an artwork or a costume inspired a character, but it always differs how much of that initial inspiration ends up in a story. Lady Astra and Isra do not look alike, but I have another character, Cascade (Morgan's juggling alter-ego from a State of Equilibrium), who is pretty much a one-on-one copy of a costume. It's great that I can act out my characters a bit, but I'm glad that the vast majority of my characters develop without a costume or drawing. I already write slowly; imagine how long it will take to write a book if I first have to sit behind a sewing machine or photoshop for dozens and dozens of hours, haha!