THE LOTUS PALACE is my fifth book and the start of a new historical romance and mystery series set in the Tang Dynasty. But how did the setting evolve?
In my novella, “Capturing the Silken Thief”, the song girl Jia and the scholar Luo Cheng talk about a luxurious pleasure house called “The Lotus Pavilion” where the wealthy go to drink and be merry. Of course, they can’t afford it themselves, Jia being a struggling musician who’s been hoarding coins hoping to buy her freedom and Cheng being a poor farm boy who is dependent on the charity of a public official to fund his studies for the imperial exams.
These two young lovers, struggling to make ends meet, both dreamed of a better life. When I was coming up with this story, I needed to make it relatable to modern readers even though it was set over a thousand years ago. To give the story more depth, I drew on my experiences.
I went to UCLA for my bachelor’s degree and in the mornings when I didn’t have class, I would walk through Westwood, the college town across from campus.
One day, I was passing by this restaurant and caught a glimpse inside. It was gorgeous! There was a skylight over the top of it and I remember trees and greenery and everything looking very fancy. It was called the Hamlet Gardens and a quick look at the prices told me it was way out of my college freshman budget. Later I told my best friend about that place and how when I graduated, I’d go back there to celebrate.
The Hamlet Gardens became a symbol of success. We would mention it occasionally and my friend even offered to take me there on a special occasion, but I refused. Not until I graduated.
Funny thing is the place closed down before then. LOL.
But I still remember those times and working sixty hours a week, then pulling all-nighters to pass my classes. I remember all the hopes and dreams and the feeling that all things were possible.
So I made The Hamlet Gardens into The Lotus Pavilion. A luxurious place that seemed unreachable until the hero and heroine accomplished their goals.
When I brought the Lotus Pavilion back for my mystery series, my publisher thought that the word “Pavilion” wasn’t as evocative as “Palace”. So The Lotus Pavilion became The Lotus Palace, a series revolving around the hopes and dreams of the pleasure quarter, a melting pot inhabited by scholars and courtesans, noblemen and maidservants.
An epilogue: Apparently the Hamlet Gardens is now a restaurant called the Skylight Gardens and is open for business. Maybe one day, I’ll finally go there and have a drink.
THE LOTUS PALACE, a historical romance and murder mystery set in the Tang Dynasty, is available now in print or ebook.
When a famous courtesan is murdered, a clever maidservant teams up with the notorious playboy and failed scholar of the Pingkang li to solve the crime, but can they defy the bonds of class and culture to find love and happiness?
You can also get a peek into the pleasure quarter in the introductory short novella, CAPTURING THE SILKEN THIEF.
Amazon B&N Jeannie is offering a signed print of THE LOTUS PALACE to one (1) lucky commenter! Do/did you have a Hamlet Garden, something that is your personal symbol of success? Giveaway ends @12am est on 9-22-13 with the winner announced shortly thereafter. Good luck all you Manic Readers..
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