Sweet City – Introduction

Image by anncapictures from Pixabay

What would happen if the Joker ran Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory?

I suspect it would be even worse than the horrors inflicted upon Lucy and Amber during the events of The Mythic and the City of Sweet Sorrow. As a reminder – or revelation if you ignored the spoiler warning – they are hunted and kidnapped, imprisoned in a slave mine, Lucy is water-boarded but with food (food-boarded, I guess), they barely avoid lobotomisation, and they’re both forced to speak in rhyme.

But that initial question is one I wish I’d asked myself before starting Book Three because it would have saved me a lot of time!

While the Mad Catter character contains parts of Mr Joker and Mr Wonka, the city itself owes more to fairy tales. It is built on a bedrock of appearances being deceiving, the cautionary message central to many fairy stories. Every facet of Sweet City is too good to be true, from the apparently loving Matron Goose and jovial mascots, to the dream of existing on a diet of eclairs and lemonade that quickly turns into a sugar-fuelled nightmare. However, getting to that point was a nightmare of its own.

Personality Trope

Each book in The Mythic Series is built around a central trope or genre. 

Book One is the classic hero’s quest – the chosen one undertakes their trial-by-fire. 

Book Two is based upon the ‘we need X to stop Y’ trope that is especially prevalent in super hero stories. 

Book Four is a political thriller full of power games, attempted assassinations, and palace intrigue.

Book Three started out as an ode to prison escape stories. Originally Sweet City consisted of a sugar mine, Lucy and Amber sharing a cell in a single gingerbread tenement slum prison, O’phion guards working directly for the Mad Catter, and a tale that referenced everything from The Shawshank Redemption to Hogan’s Heroes.

Prison Brake

But in the first draft the prison storyline melted into a mess of underwhelming action. 

It was made worse by the fact Big Bear and Henry’s part of the book came out even better than I had hoped. There’s nothing like a B-story being sublime to put pressure on the A-story to shine.

As I grappled with rewriting the prison scenes, I reminded myself of Lucy’s personal arc in the book. I had already established that she would fall out with Henry over her lack of commitment to her mission, so I wondered what would happen if I also had her fall out with Amber. 

From there I jumped to the idea of them being physically separated in prison, and personally separated through the Horse of Death’s machinations (which was originally to be the reason Henry had lost faith in her).

By throwing Lucy in with a set of new characters around her age I could show that she had learned some lessons about leadership from her first two adventures, but that she still had a lot of room for improvement.

Fear-y Tale

Through the Big Bear/Henry part of the novel I also realised the book wasn’t a prison-escape homage at all, but a horror story – and I love horror, especially horror movies. That led me to fairy stories, which already provide so much raw material for the horror genre and from which I’d already heavily cribbed from for other parts of the book.

Taking inspiration from the witch’s house in Hansel and Gretel and Pleasure Island from Pinocchio, I reimagined Sweet City itself as a character and turned up the dial to sickening, literally and figuratively. Once I set the scene, the new characters and concepts of this awful place practically wrote themselves. Your nightmares can thank me later.

Bonus Round

For the longest time Book Three was simply known as M3. I couldn’t come up with a name that felt right which is odd for me because usually titles are a breeze. It was my husband coined the nickname ‘Sweet Sorrow’ for Sweet City thus providing the children with a bittersweet name for their prison and The Mythic and the City of Sweet Sorrow with its title.