Frequently Asked Questions

What are the rules that govern arcae?

- The moment a human being is born, the Fates assign them an arca (plural: arcae) and place it anywhere in the world. The person is given no clue as to what or where their arca is.

- It could be any kind of object: simple (a flower pot), complex (a mobile phone). It can’t be living (no animals, plants) but it can be organic (a pearl, feather). The Fates create arcae to blend in with the mortal world, so a person in the C19th might have a frilly bonnet as their arca, whereas a person in the C21st might have a beanie hat.

- A human being cannot die as a result of damage to their physical body only – their arca has to be damaged before they are mortally injured. Obviously their physical body can still be harmed, but healing time is a lot quicker than in our world, for example:

A cut - 1 day to heal

A broken bone - 1 week to heal

A severed hand - 1 month to grow back

- If an arca is damaged, the body will be injured in direct correlation (like a voodoo doll). I.e. if the hands are broken off a clock arca, the arms will break off the corresponding human. If woodworm eats through a wooden table arca, the corresponding human will also be riddled through with holes.

- A person can live forever if they possess and look after their own arca. They will not deteriorate with old age and ill health, but the elements will age their physical bodies to a certain extent. They will always have a glow of life and vitality.

- Some people, Effie included, are born with the gift of being able to recognise arcae for what they really are. The majority of the population feel no glow of life when they pick up an arca, and assume it is just a regular object.

Do animals have arcae?

No. That is one of the fundamental differences that separate humans from animals. You can find the mythological explanation for the existence of arcae in Chapter Eight of The Pearliad.

Has the Roman Empire conquered the whole of the world?

Pretty much, yes. The USA and Australia were colonised by the Empire hundreds of years ago (rather than by the British, French and Spanish as in our universe), although now officially they have ‘independent’ status. Issues of citizenship will be further explored in the later books.

Will we see more of the Roman Empire in the other books in the series?


Do you see a lot of yourself in Effie?

Yes, disconcertingly! It wasn’t intentional on my part - although I did give her one of my most debilitating traits: blushing. I blush at the slightest embarrassment or naughty word, so when I imagined how Effie would react to something, that seemed like a realistic character attribute.

The characterisation of Effie was very important to me; I was asked during the editing process to make her more of a ‘bad ass’. At that time, the general consensus from my proof readers was that Effie was a bit of a wet blanket. However, when I went back over the manuscript I realised that I couldn’t change anything about her … it wouldn’t have been right. Tansy is the girl on the Indigo Isles who has always longed to leave her home, not Effie, and therefore Effie’s decision to travel to Roma for the sake of thousands of people she doesn’t know is, in my opinion, much braver.

I hate the fact that there only seems to be one hard and fast definition of a “strong” young heroine in literature – typically she is “feisty” and impulsive, she jumps into situations with some reckless need to prove that she is just as capable as a male and ends up ruining the plan; however, she’s still likeable because she cracks some witty, withering jokes that show she’s cool and admirable. It is my view that women cannot be seen as a straight forward feisty-weak binary. Effie listens to male advice because she has lived an incredibly sheltered life and has suddenly been plunged into a terrifying situation in a world that she has never experienced before – I just didn’t think that her natural reaction to that would be to go off on her own, disregard Hamish’s instruction and protection and somehow manage to achieve her goal.

For me, Effie’s emotions and reactions are realistic. When she starts off her journey she is extraordinarily naïve and unexposed to the ‘real’ world around her, but it is her experiences in that world that will test her mettle and shape her character. As she says in the final chapter of The Pearliad, “I had been tempered in the furnace of Stickings’ making, and I had come out stronger”.

Do you have any questions about The Pearliad that you’d like me to answer? Comment on my blog, or send them to