I’m a big fan of anthologies and short story collections and have been fortunate to have work included in a number of them over the past few years. The Asylum Anthology by Perfectly Poisoned Anthologies is a little different though. It takes place in a shared world, an asylum, and it really piqued my interest when I spotted the call out for authors on Facebook.
Writing a story for a themed anthology is something that I have done and really enjoyed, but a shared world is entirely different. All the authors have to work together to ensure their stories make sense and feel appropriate.
The Asylum Anthology is historical fiction, set in Barrow Haven Asylum in the year 1890. The asylum is a private facility in rural England that houses some of the country’s wealthiest insane. The publisher provided a brief synopsis and it was up to each individual author to come up with their stories.
So how do you go about creating a story in a shared world?
Research, Research, Research
I knew there would be a lot of research required and historical fiction was a new genre for me to try, but I was excited. I did some reading up on Victorian asylums before I began my first draft, but no real research was carried out until draft 1 was complete. I wrote my story, Stolen Identity, as I do all my stories, one page at a time and allowed the characters to take control. I had anticipated a rather dark and grim story of revenge, but the characters had other ideas. With a maximum of 15k to tell the story, quite a lot gets cut as the editing gets underway, but it is a great way to learn about fluff and filler, and remove unnecessary rambling.
Once my story was complete, the real work began. I had to make sure the story was historically accurate. My story took place over the summer months and the Asylum had a rose garden which was of particular importance, so I needed to research the weather for the year 1890. This turned up some interesting facts and I discovered that the winter of 1890 was exceptionally cold, and December 1890 became the coldest on record.
It wasn’t just the weather, the clothing, food, transport, and even the popular male and female names for the year 1873 (when my main characters would have been born) were looked at. I also looked at popular surnames for wealthy families. The most interesting part of the research for me was the treatments that the unfortunate patients in these asylums were subjected to. A lot of my research brought me to accounts of patients who were housed in public asylums, so it was a little tricky to find information on institutions for the wealthy. From knowing what the treatment rooms looked like to how the treatments affected the patients was vital in order to create a story and characters that would feel real to the readers.
It was the research and the accuracy of the details that really brought my story to life and all of this was added during the second and third drafts.
Editing, Editing, Editing
It is true what they say, that the real works begins after the first draft has been written. Once I had my historical facts in place, there was still a lot of work to do before turning my story over to my editor. I am fortunate to have some wonderful beta readers and each of them read my story and offered valuable feedback. I then reread my story taking note of anything that didn’t feel right, correcting typos, and doing a general tidy. After that, I sent the file to my kindle as I find this helps me to distance myself and read as a reader. I made notes once more and applied these to my draft, which at this stage was probably draft 4 or 5.
My final draft before sending to my editor looked at setting, description, and dialogue. I read through the story looking at each of these in turn.
Communication, Communication, Communication
A shared anthology requires communication between all the authors and a private group was established where we could ask questions. Questions included ideas for place names, the exact location of the asylum, the type of rooms, the interior layout, and so on. There were even discussions on the type of foods served, the furniture in the rooms, whether patients had private rooms, and so on. I feel this communication ensured the stories all matched on certain elements, even though we were all creating unique characters. We were also able to check that no main characters had the same names or that our stories didn’t overlap. We were provided with details for Dr Marsh along with his physical appearance and reminded that he could not be a main character in any of our stories or involved in any romances. By discussing things with the other authors, Barrow Haven really came to life and there were little details that I might never have thought to include. It also gave the whole project a real sense of working together to create something amazing.
A Shared World Anthology Requires Teamwork
Writing for the Asylum Anthology was a new challenge for me, one I thoroughly enjoyed and would highly recommend. It does require teamwork and communication, but still gives you the freedom to write your own story.
Would I do it again?
Perfectly Poisoned Anthologies are wonderful to work with and I’m delighted to say I will be taking part in more of their future anthologies both this and next year. I already have my story complete for their Bronte inspired anthology and I can’t wait to begin work on my story for the Dark Romantics Poe inspired anthology.
c) Amanda J Evans
About Asylum: An Anthology:
Asylum is the new historical anthology from Perfectly Poisoned Anthologies.
The year is 1890. The Barrow Haven Asylum is a private facility in rural England housing some of the country’s wealthiest insane. Some inmates are truly insane, some banished by family members, others perhaps feigning insanity and with questionable agendas.
Ten stories of shock and suspense brought to you by ten of your favourite authors.
Publication date January 20th
Featuring Stolen Identity by Amanda J Evans
Two different lives
Fated to help each other
But will they both survive?
Seventeen-year olds Emily Brown and Clara Brunsworth are from different worlds. One rich. One poor. While Emily is scouring the streets looking for a way to help feed her family, their two worlds collide.
As their friendship blossoms, Emily agrees to swap places with Clara for one evening. Unfortunately, fate has other plans and Emily ends up imprisoned in Barrow Haven Asylum where secrets and a dark family history is revealed.
Can Emily uncover the truth before it’s too late?
Can she become the girl she loathes, or will Barrow Haven and its tortures trap her forever?
Find out in this prince and the pauper style retelling from award winning author Amanda J Evans.
Order your copy online here.