While the events of my first novel take place in Limani, a free city-state that acts as a neutral zone between the British and Roman colonies, I’ve gone farther abroad in book 2 of the Steel Empires series, Steel Magic.

Toria and Kane, a bonded warrior-mage pair and journeymen mercenaries just starting out, have left their hometown of Limani before. But this time, they’re leaving as adults, with their entire careers and lives ahead of them. Their first mercenary contract brings them to the city of New Angouleme, capital city of the British colonies to the north. There they meet with the head of the New Angouleme Center for Magical Education, where everything is not as it seems…

Clockwise from left: Gardens of the The Cloisters, exterior of The Cloisters, and view from our hotel room near Times Square (filtered to show a certain magical aura…)

How did the name New York City turn into New Angouleme in my world? Per New York City’s Wikipedia page: “The first documented visit by a European was in 1524 by Giovanni da Verrazzano, a Florentine explorer in the service of the French crown, who sailed his ship La Dauphine into New York Harbor. He claimed the area for France and named it “Nouvelle Angoulême” (New Angoulême).” In my alternate history, the region of our France is territory that has been changing hands between the British and Roman empires for centuries. Turns out that our buddy de Varrazzano was an explorer who found better funding from the British at that point in history! (Think Christopher Columbus sailing for the Spanish rather than Italy…)

Back in the real world: In August 2014, when I first started writing this novel, my little sister was in a dance show in New York City. I drove up with my parents for the weekend to see her performance and managed to squeeze in some research while I was there. My mother and stepfather had both lived in the city at different times in their lives, so when I told my mother what sort of thing I was looking for, she knew exactly where to take me. The Cloisters is an amazing museum and provided exactly the sort of inspiration I needed.

All three pictures above are relevant to aspects in the first half of Steel Magic, but to explain more would give too much away right now!

Steel Magic comes out July 6, 2016. The pre-order link will be available Tuesday, May 24, to accompany the full cover reveal. Keep checking back for more information and special behind-the-scenes exclusives!

Because the answers they seek aren’t found in New Angouleme, so Toria and Kane end up across the sea….