But What Do We Do On Our Hols? An Introduction to Lessons In Etiquette

21 May

Tom Brown’s Schooldays is one of those rare books that start a whole genre of British fiction. In its case, it started the Boarding School Story. These stories all tend to fit the same basic pattern; they’d set in a Boarding School and follow the adventures of the children as they grow from immature little brats to grown adults. Classically, these stories tend to range between stories praising wonderful schools (Enid Blyton was fond of those) and schools that are often a foretaste of hell.

[In real life, based on personal experience, I lean to believe more in the latter.]

These stories have many different settings. Malory Towers was set in a girls boarding school; the girls had silly little adventures, played pranks on their teachers and treated sport as serious business. Jennings was set in a similar school for young men. Harry Potter and The Worst Witch were both set in Wizard Schools. There are Finishing Schools, Military Schools and Space Academies. The older the intended audience, the darker the books. Charles Dickens depicted one of the worst boarding schools in fiction in Nicholas Nickleby.

And, I have to confess, Schooled in Magic falls into the same category.

But because these books are about the schools, they tend to ignore a simple question. What do the pupils do on their holidays?

Most boarding school stories rarely address this issue. The very format of the stories – following classes, sports and japes – tells against it. As I see it, the classical boarding school stories don’t focus on what the characters do away from school because it’s simply outside the story’s remit. When such stories do try to follow the characters into adulthood, they tend to have problems because the characters are shaped by the situation at school.

Being in school offers all sorts of room for stories, but it also offers a framework for storytelling that is lacking in the outside world. Authors are often unable to handle their characters outside the school format, so they resort to flashbacks and brief moments of discussion to handle the issue. Why not? The story isn’t about what the pupils did on their holidays?

When I devised the first set of plot arcs for Schooled in Magic, I decided I would try to avoid convention and have a set of books following Emily outside Whitehall School. Emily doesn’t live in our world, a world so familiar that it would be boring; she lives in a whole new universe. The Nameless World offers something stories set in our world can’t match – a whole new world to explore.

And so I came up with the idea of an adventure in Zangaria.

Personally, I would never have visited the homes of my fellow inmates at my boarding school. I saw enough of them during term time. And Emily would probably prefer to stay at Whitehall and spend her holidays in the library. But her closest friends are from Zangaria and so she is (reluctantly) dragged into travelling there for her holidays.

For Emily, this is a step outside the controlled existence she knew at Whitehall – and one hell of a culture shock. She moves from a lower-class existence in America (and then a student lifestyle at Whitehall) to moving among the monarchs, princes and princesses of the Nameless World. Worse, perhaps, one of her friends is going to meet her future husband during the holiday, a husband she won’t have chosen for herself. And yet she thinks this is perfectly normal.

How would an average person react to the blend of staggering wealth and luxury compared to grinding poverty, harsh laws and lives of desperation suffered by the poor? And, of course, there’s a deadly threat lurking in Zangaria, just waiting for Emily and her friends …

And it may be Emily’s fault that the kingdom is teetering on the brink of collapse.

Lessons in Etiquette, Book II of Schooled in Magic, is available now. Download a free sample, then purchase it from the links on this page.

Lessons in Etiquette

16 Responses to “But What Do We Do On Our Hols? An Introduction to Lessons In Etiquette”

  1. lamparty May 21, 2014 at 10:22 pm #

    Love the Cover! Need to sleep less, I have read them all!

  2. Gene Evans May 23, 2014 at 7:18 am #

    Emily’s American, I thought she was British?

    I think it was due to her having a library ticket in SIM I instead of a library card.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard May 23, 2014 at 7:23 am #

      Being British himself, Chris often uses British terms instead of American terms. For that matter, this is the first time (to the best of my knowledge) that Chris says Emily is American. The last I heard, Chris was planning to keep her nationality vague. [Smile]

      • chrishanger May 23, 2014 at 4:08 pm #

        Yep. I’m British. I can sing all three verses of God Save the King. Well, I can hum it … (Actually, there are four verses. But no one in Scotland will admit to knowing the fourth.) Chris Date: Fri, 23 May 2014 06:23:50 +0000 To: christopher_g_nuttall@hotmail.com

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard May 23, 2014 at 4:17 pm #

        This verse: “Lord, grant that Marshal Wade, May by thy mighty aid, Victory bring. May he sedition hush, and like a torrent rush, Rebellious Scots to crush, God save the King.”? [Evil Grin]

        Don’t think it’s an official verse now but I don’t blame the Scots for “not knowing” it. [Smile]

      • chrishanger May 23, 2014 at 5:31 pm #

        Yep. That one. Chris Date: Fri, 23 May 2014 15:17:15 +0000 To: christopher_g_nuttall@hotmail.com

    • chrishanger May 23, 2014 at 4:06 pm #

      Brits have library cards too. I did want to leave her nationality a little vague, as Paul says. She isn’t going back to our world, so it doesn’t matter where she comes from. But the first editors picked up on the ‘not in Kansas’ line and she ended up more American than British. Chris Date: Fri, 23 May 2014 06:18:11 +0000 To: christopher_g_nuttall@hotmail.com

  3. Andrew Crossman May 25, 2014 at 4:16 am #

    Well, for an American, she has an extraordinary memory for English history.

    • chrishanger May 25, 2014 at 6:06 pm #

      I’d bet I know American history better than the average American More seriously, American history would be too close to her own world (if, of course, we assume she’s American.) And America didn’t really have kings – even George III wasn’t on the same level as King Randor, for better or worse. Chris Date: Sun, 25 May 2014 03:16:40 +0000 To: christopher_g_nuttall@hotmail.com

  4. Joel May 26, 2014 at 3:22 am #

    Dear Christopher,
    How do you do it? I not sure if I am correct in thinking so, but you seem to be the fastest writer in the world or at least Amazon.

    The rate you produce captivating stories for us to burn through is staggering and I love that part.

    But sadly it brings me to my main grip. STOP PRODUCING INTERESTING NEW SERIES / STAND ALONES!!!

    Your stories are just too good to go, “oh that was nice, oh well till the next book”, they are like “F5 F5 F5, come on NEXT BOOK!!!”. So now I got 3 interesting series, I am KIVing from a single author, all good series, all which I want the next book now, and which I need to know what happens next. (At least your books do not end is super cliff hangers, that will just be painful agony)

    Anyways, all that to say… keep it up, write faster still and I so need to read Nelson part 3 😛

    • chrishanger May 26, 2014 at 12:43 pm #

      As a general rule, I try to avoid cliffhangers outside chapters – I’d only do that if I knew the next book was well on the way. (Technically, I might have done that with Retreat Hell, but it’s not quite the same.) But I don’t want to fixate on one particular series at a time. SIM, for example, had 14 books in the planned story arc; I don’t want to write them all one after the other. Chris Date: Mon, 26 May 2014 02:22:22 +0000 To: christopher_g_nuttall@hotmail.com

      • Joel May 27, 2014 at 7:08 am #

        14 Books…
        11 More to go sia…

        Hope you do not plan a career change any time soon sir 😀

        I am happy and scared at the same time.

        Wheel of Time and Wars of Light and Dark, both which I read in my younger years really scared me off Saga(s). There is long winded and then there is WoT.

      • chrishanger May 27, 2014 at 4:55 pm #

        I’m hoping that each of the books will more or less stand on its own, but as the series advances it may become harder to do so. (And I need a tropes page. Sigh.) Chris Date: Tue, 27 May 2014 06:08:55 +0000 To: christopher_g_nuttall@hotmail.com

  5. Fred Baer April 10, 2019 at 5:02 am #

    I read Lessons in Etiquette for the second time and was once again amused by the references to King Gama and Prince Hildebrand, but Ida expect better.

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