THE ONION GIRL: Jilly's Story

"I'm not as trusting as people think I am. Sure, I see the best in people, but that doesn't mean it's really there."

- Jilly

The hardcover edition of The Onion Girl will be published by Tor Books in October 2001. The cover illustration is by John Jude Palencar. The Canadian distributor for Tor Books is H.B. Fenn and Co., Ltd. There will be a British edition published by Orion, but the publishing date still needs to be scheduled.

The Onion Girl is set in Newford and environs, as well as the spiritworld. Seeing how this is Jilly's story, and she seems to know pretty much everybody in the city, the cast consists of many old friends from the various Newford stories, as well as some new faces.

"[De Lint's fiction] does what the best mythic fiction should do: it makes the reader look at the real world in a whole new way."

- Terri Windling, author of The Wood Wife

A little bit about the book...

Where do stories come from? Normally, from anywhere and everywhere, with too many threads in the pattern of the final weave for me to be able to say this came from here, that from there, except in the most general terms.

But I know where this story came from. I knew from the moment Jilly Coppercorn made her initial cameo in "Uncle Dobbin's Parrot Fair." I can't say I knew all the specific details of her life, who her friends were, her aches and joys, her losses and dreams, but I knew her. There was never any question in my mind.

I hadn't written more than a couple of stories before I also knew about the events that I later wrote about in the story "In the House of My Enemy." And very soon I also knew the story that would become The Onion Girl, but I put off writing it for years. It felt too much like it would be a closure and I didn't want to stop having Jilly pop up in stories the way she has over the years.
* * *
Back in my late teens, one of my favorite groups was the Incredible String Band. I enjoyed the usually buoyant input of Mike Heron a great deal, but I was particularly drawn to the lyrics of his partner, Robin Williamson. They were dark, but magical. Earthy, but whimsical. I think I write the way I do because of my early exposure to that strange dichotomy of moods and styles of expression that Williamson made appear so natural.

One of their albums (now available again on CD) was called The 5000 Spirits, or The Layers of the Onion. The analogy of relating something to an onion, of peeling back the layers to reveal still more hidden layers beneath, wasn't a particularly original concept even at that time, I'm sure, but it was the first time I'd thought about it and that analogy has stayed with me ever since.

Writing, for me, is a peeling back of layers, particularly with the Newford stories. The more I write about the city of Newford, the more I find hidden below the surface. In that sense, perhaps the city itself should be the Onion Girl. But the heart and soul of Newford has always been Jilly, her layers are as open on the outside as the bright neon lights and cheerful facades of stores and houses, but also as hidden within as what lies underground or secreted away behind closed doors.

Much of this book is set north of the city where Jilly spent her childhood, as well as in an Otherplace, but the city is never far away, and Jilly continues to reflect it, no matter how far away she might travel. The two are intertwined in my mind. I can't imagine one without the other. I always know Jilly is somewhere on the city's streets, even in stories in which she doesn't actually appear "on stage."

And happily, when I got to the end of writing The Onion Girl, I discovered that closure doesn't necessarily mean the end of a thing. It can also be a beginning.

Read an excerpt here

US hardcover edition UK hardcover/trade paperback edition

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Copyright © 2001 by Charles de Lint. All rights reserved worldwide.
Most recent update: September 1, 2001
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