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Hobbies and Pastimes | H&S Author Notes, Part 4

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This is the final post of Author Notes for THE HEIR AND THE SPARE. Herein I disclose some of my thought process in choosing characters’ hobbies and pastimes.

Slightly less spoilerific than the previous posts, but SPOILER ALERT nonetheless.

The Hunt 

My favorite childhood game is hide-and-seek. I loved hiding, I loved seeking, I loved the countdown and the “ready-or-not” chant, the safe base, the “ollie ollie oxen free” capitulations. I’m also a sucker for variations, such as No Bears Out Tonight and Sardines. Even thinking about them lights a spark of happiness in my brain.

So, when it came time to choose a “game” for Capria’s Royal Academy, it’s no wonder I went that direction.

Hide-and-seek and its variants are only fun if all the players respect each other. As with most children’s games, it’s easy to pull out of balance, to turn innocent play into sneering mischief. Which is, obviously, what my characters did.

I still think it would be fun to play, though. That’s partly why Iona embraced the challenge after her first year.

Duke and Dullard

Quote from THE HEIR AND THE SPARE by Kate Stradling: "For this many players, I only know Duke and Dullard." ~ Iona of Wessett | Created with

In my original skeletal outline, there was a time skip between the day after the Caprians arrived in Wessett and the day they decided to travel to Sorrow’s Linn. I was partway into the river section of the draft when I went back to flesh out that interval, including the card game and the archery tournament.

The card game felt particularly indulgent. “Duke and Dullard” is a rebranding of Scum / Dog’s Butt / President / Rich Man, Poor Man / Dai Hin Min / etc. I figured that any game with more than three names across multiple cultures is ripe for importing into a fantasy world.

This particular card game also holds a special place in my heart. My backpacking group played it through Europe in 2002, in train stations and hostels and wherever else we liked. (All of eight people might recognize this Easter egg, but only if they read the book. I do like my obscure references.)


I’ve not previously written a main character who’s a musician. Not even sure any of them have music as one of their hobbies. When I was young and naive, I thought my own career path would go that direction, but I had that aspiration nicely rooted out of my plans. When I switched to words as my preferred creative medium, I shut the door on music and have mostly left it out of my books.

However, years of involvement gave me a significant foundation. I’ve had lessons in piano and voice, participated in orchestras (string bass) and choirs (soprano), accompanied church choirs, took a semester of pipe organ, and taught myself some basics in cello, harmonica, guitar, bass guitar, drums, and mandolin. I’ve forgotten more than I remember, instrument-wise. Currently, my only musical endeavor is as a once-a-month church organist, where my primary skill lies in incrementally lowering the volume of my prelude so that overly chatty congregants will lower their voices as well.

(Yes, crowd manipulation. Sorry, not sorry.)

I’m not sure why I allowed Iona to be a musician, except that she slid so easily into that role. It was comfortable and familiar and oddly nostalgic to write, which was nice. Proof that, as an author, casual hobbies and bygone pursuits have their purpose after all.