So, you’re curious about those unicorns. Well, here’s a little glimpse behind the creative curtains.
As you might have noticed, in Hoard It All Before (and the rest of the Circus of Unusual Creatures Mysteries) I took one of the most beautiful mythical beasts and turned it completely on its head.
Or its horn.
Gotta Have the Unicorns
I don’t know if it’s because I was obsessed with them as a kid (and would swear up and down that they were real, evidence be damned!), but I knew I had to have a unicorn or two in this series. In fact, Fergus was the character who sprang to life the soonest after Duncan and Cordelia.
With Fergus, I knew I wanted to go against what everyone expects from a unicorn. Innocent, pure, lovely? Nope, toss those descriptions out the window. In little time, I had a lusty, chain-smoking, sometimes wise-cracking unicorn running across my pages.
But what’s with the laps? You can blame Paris, France, for that.
Before starting the first draft of Hoard, I had recently been to the Cluny Museum in Paris. My main reason for going there was to see a series of six tapestries from the 1500s collectively titled “The Lady and the Unicorn”.
I’ve known of and loved these tapestries since I was a kid (again, the unicorn obsession). You’ve probably seen them yourself (if you haven’t you can take a peek at the website listed below), and you might remember one panel in which a unicorn lays down in a lady’s lap.
Which is just a heaping helping of sexual symbolism.
Really, the whole series is a sexy bit of sewing, and the final panel shows the lady touching (oooh, touching!!) the unicorn’s horn. So, if you were wondering about Fergus’s desire to lay his head in his lady friends’ laps, well, there you have it.
Taking Inspiration from Beagles
Okay, a nicotine-addicted, horny-toad of a unicorn is one thing. But a unicorn that goes around stabbing people? Isn’t that going a bit too far from the “innocent beast” image?
Now, I didn’t invent the Kailin from scratch. You can blame her violent tendencies on the Chinese. And on Peter S. Beagle.
If you’re not familiar with Beagle, he wrote The Last Unicorn, a book and movie I couldn’t get enough of as a kid (I know, big surprise…). I even had a huge crush on one of the movie’s characters. Yes, I had a crush on a cartoon character. Shut up!)
Anyway….sometime in 2020, I came across one of his novellas, The Story of Kao Yu, which he revealed was inspired by a Chinese legend.
In this short tale, Kao Yu is a judge who travels around a region of China hearing cases with his two assistants and cook. Kao Yu isn’t anything like Judge Javert. He’s very honest, intelligent, and fair.
Because of his good nature, a mythical creature, the chi lin (a Chinese unicorn) shows up when needed and assists him in cases where the defendant needs to be punished or persuaded.
And by assist, I mean she stabs them to death with her horn if they’ve lied at any point in their trial or show no remorse for their deeds.
Anyway, I won’t give away the ending of this beautiful tale, but Kao Yu finds himself facing the wrong end of the chi lin’s horn when he loses his heart and his head to a dishonest woman.
Deadly Unicorns? Like I’m Going to Resist That?
Like The Last Unicorn, I fell in love with this story the instant I read it. So, when it came to calling in some authority figures for Hoard, I decided to make them in the form of a dimwitted judge and a stab-happy unicorn traveling across the region.
I altered the name of chi lin to Kailin (pronounced KYE-linn, rhymes with pie tin), and in keeping with unicorn stereotypes, I made her irresistibly beautiful. So beautiful that, even though she doesn’t have a lap, Fergus is utterly horn over heels for her.
This attraction came out of the blue when I was drafting Hoard, but in Tipping the Scales (Book 2) I enjoyed playing with the smooth-talking Fergus turning as awkward as a pre-teen at his first dance.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this peek behind a couple of my unusual creatures. If you did like it, let me know and I’ll include more of these over the coming months : )
Want to See the Whole Sexy Series?
If you’d like to view the story behind and photos of the full series of panels of “The Lady and the Unicorn” at the Cluny Museum, please visit…
Haven’t Read the Story Yet?
You can pick up Hoard It All Before in paperback and ebook formats at most major retailers or directly from me at my Payhip Bookstore.
And if you want to continue the tale, you can pre-order Tipping the Scales from a few retailers.