The Big Idea: M.A. Carrick
In the Big Idea post we wrote for The Mask of Mirrors, the first book of the Rook and Rose trilogy, we admitted we were going to lie to you.
Now we’re going to do something absurd: we’re going to ask you to trust us anyway.
Since before we even started writing this series, it’s had a theme song: “The Riddle” from the musical The Scarlet Pimpernel. It’s a trio about the characters all lying to and manipulating each other, and we love to sing it at karaoke. The final lines are so apropos, they might as well have been written for our story:
For we all are caught in the middle
Of one long treacherous riddle
Of who trusts who
Maybe I’ll trust you
But can you trust me?
Wait and see!
That riddle is at the heart of what our characters are grappling with in the second book of our series. Trusting someone is like handing them a knife, knowing full well they could sink it between your ribs. When you’re our protagonists, carrying whole rafts of secrets, trusting someone means handing them an entire bandolier of knives, and an anatomical diagram of where each might best be applied. Unsurprisingly, our main character Ren has a hard time doing that — especially since she got burned last book, putting her faith in someone she shouldn’t have.
What’s less expected, perhaps, is that she also has a hard time being trusted. Ren is a con artist, lying to people more or less every waking minute. But she’s done the one thing a con artist should never do: she’s started to care about her marks. So every time they express their confidence in her, it cuts a little bit deeper. She doesn’t deserve that from them, and she knows it.
And yet . . . trust is exactly what Ren needs. Partway through The Mask of Mirrors, another character managed to get an honest answer from her about what she wanted. The answer was: she wanted to feel safe. She used to think money would give that to her, because many of the disasters that have befallen her could have been solved, or at least made better, if she’d had money. We the authors posit, what she needs even more than that is trust: more people she can trust, and more trustworthy behavior on her own end.
The path there isn’t easy, though. Usually you start by trusting someone with small things, and if those go well, maybe some bigger ones, like easing into a swimming pool from the shallow end. But there’s still a point at which you have to decide whether to continue, past the point where your feet can touch the bottom. And sometimes . . . sometimes you don’t get the option of the shallow end. If you’re going in, it’s a headfirst dive into the deep end, or nothing at all. There comes a point in this book when Ren has to decide whether to dive or not — and then deal with the consequences of her choice.
The Mask of Mirrors was titled after the card of secrets and lies, in the divinatory pattern deck that plays a huge role in our story. That card was easy to name; in fact, it was one of the first we settled on. But the card for trust — which, when dealt in the veiled position, is the card of mistrust and betrayal — was much harder. When The Mask of Mirrors went to print, that one had the very unsatisfactory name of “Constant Ivan’s Oath,” with us shrugging and figuring we’d make up a folktale someday to explain why it’s called that.
Fortunately for us, we never actually mention that card by name in the first book. Because when we realized that was the one we wanted to name this book after, we knew an unsatisfactory placeholder with a nonexistent folktale behind it was not going to work. But one day Marie’s sleeping brain woke her up at seven thirty in the morning (a good three hours before her alarm) and proclaimed “The Liar’s Knot!”
For a story full of liars, in a city full of metaphors built around threads and fabric and knots, when we’d already written the line “Trust is the thread that binds us, and the rope that hangs us” . . . it wound up being absolutely perfect.