Real-Life Inspirations

Much of Hyacinth & The Secrets Beneath takes place in the sewers of London. I’ve never been in them, but photos like these by Jon Doe gave me an idea of what it would be like to explore them.

Sewer Photos by Jon Doe. Used under a Creative Commons license.

While she’s in the sewers, Hyacinth encounters the Toshers, a colorful group of scavengers hunting for magical items. Believe it or not, I didn’t make them up. In the Victorian era, there really were Toshers scavenging for “tosh” in London’s sewers! Here’s a period illustration of one.

The Toshers had many legends. One was about a pig who wandered into the sewers and ended up growing to enormous size. That tale provided me with the inspiration for Oaroboarus, a giant pig Hyacinth meets under ground. At first, I thought about having Oaroboarus speak, but then I remembered another famous local porker. In 1785, Londoners flocked to see “the Learned Pig,” who would communicate by picking up printed cards in his mouth. I decided Oaroboarus would communicate the same way.

The climax ofHyacinth & The Secrets Beneath takes place in the Crossness Sewage Pumping Station. I guarantee is the most beautiful sewage pumping station you will ever visit.

Photos by Andrea Vail. Used under a Creative Commons license.

If you’d like to visit the real-life locations that inspired the book, I’ve plotted them out on a map.