Hearth High - The Setting

Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay

Much of The Mythic is designed to reflect tropes and high schools, being a staple of fiction, aren’t short on literary devices. So if Hearth High—with its mean girl cliques, toxic bullies, and overly strict bespectacled Principal Duckworth—feels familiar, even stereotypical, it was designed to be.

Hearth High was also supposed to be the primary setting for most of the domestic action in the first four books. I had grand plans to make the school its own character over time and thoroughly ape everything from Harry Potter and Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Glee and Beverly Hills 90210—the latter being one of my favourite TV shows. There are remnants of that plan in Book One. We’re introduced to Hearth High in the very first chapter and it is indeed where much of the early action in Book One takes place.

School Bored

However, over time, rather than the location Hearth High became simply a location, employed merely when required, its influence waning with each book. Looking back the cause was plot-crunch. One central note I got on the draft of Book One was that it took too long to get going and that I had all these superfluous characters who disappeared part-way through the novel. To get Lucy to Aedea sooner I removed several Hearth High chapters, along with sub-plots that introduced other students and teachers.

Also, during the writing process, Henry and Big Bear assumed the mentor role that I had originally given to Mr Twist. The overall idea was for Mr Twist and Lucy to interact primarily at school so, without him as a substitute-father, there was a lot less need for Hearth High as a setting. Yes, I did shoehorn Henry into the place as a teacher, but you’ll see there aren’t many moments of he and Lucy together there. At school they needed to protect their secret identities so I naturally wrote them interacting elsewhere.

Further, most of those extra students and teachers who I had introduced in the original draft never found their way back into subsequent novels. Again, I did manage to slide some into later books—mostly the teachers—but without the foundation in The Mythic the school itself could never flourish in the way I had initially intended.

Off The Map

The school isn’t modelled exactly on any real or fictional institution. I wanted it to be nebulous enough that readers could imagine it taking place in their own school. In my head it is a patchwork of several schools I attended. The Hearth High school hall is based on the hall from Hāwera Primary. The classrooms/hallways are set in a hallway that looks like one from my own high school, St Patrick’s College, Silverstream. The administration buildings are based on the ones from Hāwera Intermediate.

Dress Blues

Similarly, the uniform—for the girls a white shirt/blouse, blue-plaid skirt, and blazer—wasn’t meant to reference any specific real-world or fictional uniform. I actually wanted something that could easily be mimicked for cosplay. Remember, I had originally planned for Hearth High to become a character on its own and hoped I could create some icons from various elements, including that uniform.

In earlier drafts of Book One a lot more is made of the uniforms—there’s a blue blazer with embroidery that Lucy uses to stop a fire and not being able to afford a replacement was a major plot point where I showed off Duckworth’s cruelty and Mr Twist’s humanity. The blazer featured a distinctive crest with a bovine theme—appropriate for a school based in a dairy-town.

Bonus Round

Although its influence was severely reduced, Hearth High does host some significant scenes in the first four books. I’m especially fond of the Cheese Ball (that pun is a favourite of mine), the laboratory scene where the dissection movie comes to life, and the moment in Book Four where Lucy, Amber, and Henry face off against the Sebastian Grieve characters.