The Spanish Obsession (Or, My Own Experience with Frequency Illusion)

Let’s say your mom (or grandmother, aunt, etc.) calls, and tells you some distant family member had a baby – a little girl named Alice. Over the next week, you meet a woman named Alice, see an advertisement for “Alice Through the Looking Glass”, your book club decides to read “Go Ask Alice”, and just as you turn on the radio one night, you end up being treated to “Nights with Alice Cooper”.

Okay, perhaps things haven’t been quite that obvious, but have you ever learned about something new, or even simply spoke about something which you wouldn’t normally mention, only to suddenly hear it everywhere? Colloquially, this is known as Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon, but for the purpose of this post (and for the sake of my inner spellcheck, which wouldn’t know what to do with those names), I will call this either “the Frequency Illusion”, or “the Illusion of Frequency”, depending on which phrase I believe best fits my sentence.

When I started writing LA BASTARDA, I had tried for ages to find some story set in medieval or Renaissance Spain. I’m much closer to the Spanish-speaking part of my heritage than I am to the Irish or German, though I’m very much aware that Spain and Mexico are NOT the same. Trust me, I learned that loud and clear when I was very young and a teacher told me I wasn’t Mexican, I was Spanish. Turns out, she thought I was too light & thought I’d been brought up thinking Mexican = Every Spanish-speaking person. Anyway, I noticed there weren’t a lot of Spain-themed historical fiction books in English, and the ones that were tended to Anglicize everything – Felipe becomes Philip, Beatriz becomes Beatrice, and the Spaniards (due to being on the losing side of history, no doubt) have that sly, sneaky portrayal I so adore.

So, of course, I decided to write LA B, and in 2014 I set to work, finishing in 2015, beginning my second book in 2015, as well as planning and sketching out the third and fourth novels. In that time, I’ve come across quite a bit of media set in medieval/Renaissance Spain, including:

  • The Spanish Bridegroom, an older novel which didn’t really show up on my radar until I was ready to publish. If I remember correctly, Felipe is Philip, but despite my hangups, the book is still incredibly engaging for an older piece of fiction. This book was the first Jean Plaidy book I’d ever read, and I think it was a perfect introduction for me, even though it was in a later time period.
  • The Queen’s Vow and The Last Queen, both by C.W. Gortner. Both recent pieces of fiction (2012 and 2006, respectively), I had never heard of either the author nor the books until I started looking into publishing LA B. I have yet to read The Last Queen, but I did enjoy the storytelling in The Queen’s Vow. TQV actually “gave” me permission, in a way, to deviate from the known history, which shows in LA REYNA, especially since there wasn’t a lot recorded about Alionor, the main character, even though she was Queen at the time.
  • Grudging: The Birth of Saints, which I actually learned about through Twitter thanks to #PitMad, is a fantasy set in a world with a heavy amount of medieval Spainish influences – including a well-known saint/pseudo-god, to those in the area, named Santiago. Santiago, or Saint James, is one of the best-known Iberian legends, telling of the evangelism, martyrdom, and subsequent burial of Saint James (“Iago” in the local tongue) in Galicia, western Spain. If you’ve ever heard of Santiago de Compostela, el Camino de Santiago, or have seen seashells laid in the roads or walls of cities all across Europe, you know a portion of the legend.
  • Isabel“, “La Corona Partida“, and “Carlos, Rey Emperador” were actually part of what helped to inspire LA B. I spent a good chunk of writing listening to “Isabel” through Hulu, taking in how the characters were portrayed, and though it wasn’t on purpose, a few of my “ideal cast” members actually came from the series. I enjoyed the show simply because I enjoy period pieces, but it was actually pretty accurate as far as TV shows are concerned. I can’t wait until “La Corona Partida” and “Carlos” are available in the USA – my life will be complete.
  • The Assassin’s Creed movie, due out in December. This one actually came to my attention a while back (I have a thing for II and all its DLC), but the details weren’t known to me until just a few weeks ago – it’s partially set during the Spanish Inquisition (how unexpected!). 15th century! Sevilla! I’m drooling, even if the movie itself is mostly set in the present, and the “genetic memories” scenes may not be an accurate representation of the time period. Allow me my fangirling, okay? 🙂
  • The Spanish replica of a 17th century galleon, El Galeón Andalucia, taking part in a US Tall Ships tour – which happens to take place in my area!

Ultimately, all this has been a major influence on my choice to write and continue writing. I don’t know about you, but when I discover a topic I enjoy, I try to go out and find other things either set during the same time period, or in the same countries. I also believe in the universe giving “signs” to show when something is a good or a bad idea for me – and all of these works of art (yes, even the ship), each with their own followings, have helped me to realize that I did the right thing by publishing. It’s my hope that The Trastámara Series will one day inspire someone else to write, much like all of these pieces inspired me in their own ways. 🙂

Have you experienced a frequency illusion? If so, what was the subject? If not, what was the best/funniest coincidence you’ve ever witnessed?

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