Velvet was meant to be a novella. It’s odd that when I first started getting published, I struggled with the short story and novella, but as I continued, the reverse began to happen. Novellas became easier and more familiar than a long form novel. Once the story hit about 25,000 words I knew I was past novella territory and I either had to embrace the novel again or switch gears and rethink the idea. Unfortunately for me, this is not how my muse works. Once I am involved with a story I am committed to see it through to the end. These characters also had a hand in forcing my creative boundaries to expand the story I once believed was meant to be a short.
The “idea seed” for Velvet came from the last page of Vogue. At that time I was devouring every page and word in that magazine. Design and style has always been an interest and for some reason, at that moment, I found Vogue to offer a wealth of inspiration. It was on the last page or as they call it, “last look” that the idea for Velvet was derived. They were featuring a velvet shoe and upon seeing it, an entire story came flooding into my head.
The characters came fast and furious. Virago, an obvious play on words, spoke clearly and directly to me. He had a story to tell and somehow it involved the velvet shoe. I also knew it would take place in a fictional world somewhere between Elizabethan and Medieval times. I knew this because Virago’s voice was lyrical and poetic, Shakespearean even. Through my research I discovered the laws of sumptuary of the 15th century and also the laws enacted by Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I. The further I read, the clearer it became what Velvet would be about. I won’t get into the laws of sumptuary here, except to say that your position dictated what you could and couldn’t wear.
This discovery began a yearlong furlough into 15th century, Elizabethan, Edwardian and Medieval culture, costume and language. I spent quite a bit of time studying the coronation of Elizabeth I and also maps of castles to ensure I used proper words to describe the rooms within the Duir’s fictional palace. So much of the story takes place within its walls that it really is its own character. Sylvain, Virago’s brother, and also my personal favorite character in the story is born blind. He is a strong and independent character and in being such, I wanted to make sure his abilities were accurate and described respectfully. He also assists his brother in tailoring the fated coronation vest. Through research I discovered an article where a blind woman described how as a young girl, learned not only to sew but cut her own patterns. Velvet was and remains a turning point for me as a writer. I feel it is my creativity at its most generous. The muse shared with me, and it is my hopes I have shared with those who read this story.
If you have read it, please feel free to contact me with your thoughts.
Here's a little bit about Velvet
In a land where cruelty is disguised as allegiance, loyalty is masked by obligation and the laws of sumptuary govern the people, nothing is more dangerous than Velvet.
The first novel from Xavier Axelson is set against a backdrop of decadence, privilege, and intrigue. Virago, the royal tailor, makes a discovery that will test the bonds of brotherhood, unravel the forbidden secrets of his heart and threaten the very fabric of his existence.
“The sea is dark as the grave, and as good at keeping secrets.”
“Who are you?” I asked. Since I’d boarded the ship the day before, I’d conversed only with Seton and my brother, Sylvain. I’d yet to earn my sea legs and everything seemed strange.
“I am Adis, wife of Doremme, the man whose ship you stand upon.” She came closer. “Secrets are only as powerful as those who carry them and the sea is a perfect place to bury what haunts you.”
“You talk as though you know me, and as I am a stranger on this ship, I know this cannot be.” I was about to bow and take my leave when she laughed.
“Fear is not your way, tailor. You were the royal tailor of the king whose land we left, were you not?”
Were the royal tailor… Her words struck at my heart. I felt this truth so keenly that I gripped the ship railings to steady myself.
Velvet at Seventh Window
Velvet at Seventh Window