Here is a gallery of photos to help you visualize the world of The Phoenix Crown, including the research trip Kate Quinn and I made to San Francisco. To enlarge and scroll through each set of images and descriptions, just click on one of the thumbnail images, then press ESC when you're done.
Known as 'fengguan' in Chinese, these were first crafted for China's empresses and later worn by wealthy brides of the aristocracy because they were 'empress for a day' on their wedding day. The key element was the use of blue kingfisher feathers. The blue in the feathers are an optical illusion due to the structure of the feathers and the colour never faces. Antique phoenix crowns are rare due to the fragility of the feathers.
The Research Trip
Kate Quinn and I went to San Francisco for a week to research the 1906 earthquake, Chinatown, grand mansions and anything else we could squeeze into our time. Yes, research often sends authors off in a different direction than what we originally planned, or gives us ideas for adding detail and authenticity to the story. The great thing about two historical novelists on a research trip together is that you don't have to worry that your travel companion is getting bored of museums!
Grand Homes of California
Thanks to friends with great connections, we got private and very in-depth tours of Filoli Historic House & Gardens and Carolands Chateau. We wanted to see not just the upstairs, but also the downstairs. These stately homes did not disappoint.
Chinatown burned to the ground in the fire that followed the earthquake, so there wasn't anything much left in the way of original buildings. Here are some historic photos of Chinatown. The Chinatown you see today was built after the earthquake. Chinatown's business leaders decided they needed to fight racism by remaking it into a tourist and commercial district. Thus was born the pseudo-Chinese architecture that's been imitated in Chinatowns all over the world and later, the highly commercialized Chinese New Year's Dragon Dance parade.
Alas, Kate and I were not able to visit France together for research, but my husband and I went there on vacation; before heading home, we spent a few days in Paris, which allowed me to take some photos of scenes and locations we wrote into the book.
There is no squealing sound like the squealing of authors who've found exactly the map they needed. We need maps to know where to put buildings, streets, and parks. We need maps so our characters can make their way from one location to another.