I don’t know exactly when I started writing Cantata in Coral and Ivory, but it was over twelve years ago. At the time I had been writing seriously for publication for several years, and had made a couple pro sales: a short story and an article in an RPG magazine. I had also finished three novels, needed a new project, and was in the mood to write a regency. (I’m a Georgette Heyer fan). But I’d learned enough about the publishing industry by then to realize that if I continued jumping genres like I had been, I was going to make a lot of extra work for myself—particularly in the area of market research. And market research is borrring!
After some thought, I decided that if I was going to specialize in one genre only, it should probably be Fantasy and Science Fiction, because I loved worldbuilding so much. But there was no rule I knew of that said a fantasy book couldn’t have a romantic comedy-of-manners feel to it. And, I had even recently started building a shiny new fantasy world to do fairytale retellings in. Fairytales and comedy-of-manners sounded like a great combination. There was just one little irregularity…
When I made the geography of the world, I had done so by randomly smashing tectonic plates together. And it wasn’t until I had started building a basic “history of civilization” for it that I realized that the continent I had chosen to have my people moving about on and fighting over was approximately the same size and geographic position as Africa.
Comedy-of-manners fairytales in pseudo-Africa?
So that became the plan: to write something mannerly, witty, fun and romantic, with a fairytale plot and an exotic African-inspired setting.