Log in

No account? Create an account

October 23rd, 2016

Elza and The Eagle's Heir

One of the things I'm enjoying most about writing The Eagle's Heir with Amy Griswold is writing AU Elza.  (The Eagle's Heir is an interactive novel we're writing with A Choice of Games, due out early next year.)  The premise of The Eagle's Heir is based on a very simple historical change -- France won the Battle of Waterloo because Comte d'Erlon did succeed in reinforcing General Honore-Charles Reille at Hougoumont Farm, thereby forcing Wellington's retreat before Grouchy arrived.  It was, as Wellington later said, "a damned close-run thing" when one choice altered the course of history.  Because of this the British and Prussian forces were divided and Wellington evacuated Brussels and retired to the coast, the usual maneuver for a British expeditionary force that has been cut off.  The subsequent crisis in Parliament caused the fall of Castlereagh's government and the formation of a government that agreed to a much more favorable peace treaty with France than the one Castlereagh had supported at the Congress of Vienna.  Napoleon retained his throne and those territories currently held by France with the exclusion of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany and the Grand Duchy of Warsaw.  Europe settled into an exhausted peace.

The Eagle's Heir opens twenty years later, in 1835.  You, the main character of the interactive novel, have grown up with Alexandre Walewski, Napoleon's illegitimate son with Maria Walewska.  You are also Madame St. Elme's grandchild and she is the Emperor's spymaster.

In the real world, Elza had reinvented herself after the Hundred Days not as a soldier or a courtesan but as an author.  Though under the Restoration her books were banned in France and published in Munich or Brussels, she sold thousands of copies of her "scandalous" memoirs that made a popular case for the Empire and a moving account of those she had loved and lost.  She had also written several novels and a travelogue of Egypt.  Yes, Elza went to Egypt, climbing through the cisterns of Alexandria, journeying up the Nile to Abydos, and offering one of the first accounts of the Temple of Hathor at Dendera with its astrological ceiling dating from the reign of Cleopatra.  If the pen was the only weapon left to her, Elza proved amazingly adept at fencing with it.

However, in The Eagle's Heir, her life has taken a different turn.  Fouche was of course never trusted by Napoleon after his betrayal, and he was dismissed from Imperial service in 1815, just as he was in real life by the Bourbons.  Those who had worked tirelessly for Napoleon's return from exile were exalted, including Madame St. Elme, who had carried vital messages back and forth to Elba.  (Really does any reader of her memoirs believe she went to Elba in February of 1815 on a pleasure cruise?)  By 1835 she is the Emperor's spymaster.  It's fascinating to write her as she might have been if her worst imaginings hadn't come true, if she hadn't lost Michel and most of her friends and come out on the other side as a tireless advocate.  What if instead she had won? What if recognition and responsibility had come her way instead of blacklisting?  What if she had Michel at her side and the Emperor's trust?  She's taken a turn more toward Charmian and away from Beatrice, if that makes sense.  And Alexandre is her Caesarion.

The question for you as the main character is: is he yours?  Do you want to put Alexandre on the throne?  Or his half brother raised in Austria, the Duke of Reichstadt?  Or do you want to defy all the powers of Europe by running up the banner of revolution in 1835?  There are many different options to explore of history as it might have been.  What would you choose?  And can you succeed?