The Castaway Prince – the inspiration behind writing a crossdressing character
The spark of inspiration for The Castaway Prince first came when I saw a submission call from NineStar Press, my publisher, for stories featuring crossdressing. I immediately thought of writing a story where the crossdressing aspect would be featured as part of a grand, dangerous adventure, like in the tale of Ferdinand of Aragon disguising himself as a servant on his journey to marry Isabella of Castile in order to escape the pursuit of her relatives, who were vehemently opposed to their marriage.
Crossdressing for the purpose of hiding one’s identity to fulfill a quest or to avoid persecution is a well-known theme in literature, starting from Thor dressing as the goddess Freyja and Loki accompanying him as a bridesmaid to retrieve Mjölnir in the Poetic Edda, through Viola disguising herself as Cesario in William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, to the gender-swapping Jacobite siblings in Georgette Heyer’s The Masqueraders, Eowyn revealing herself as a woman before the Witchking, and Yentl posing as a boy to study the Talmud.
However, it was important to me that crossdressing wouldn’t be used merely as a plot device, as it so often had been, but to portray it, as sensitively and respectively as I could, as being intrinsic to the character. That wearing women’s clothing wasn’t just something the character did to hide his identity, discarding it afterward as unnecessary, but was instead a part of that identity, something that the character wanted to come to terms with, embrace, and celebrate.
This was how the character of Prince Stephan was born—a young spoiled royal, who, after being bullied by his family for his orientation and unmistakable draw toward feminine attire, flees his homeland in the guise of a noblewoman, accompanied by Warren, his loyal valet. Fearing for his life as his brother, the crown prince, wishes to be rid of him permanently, Stephan plans to throw himself at the mercy of his former lover—who happens to be the prince of a rival country. With the sudden threat of war coming into play, the stakes have never been higher, but as Stephan navigates the treacherous waters of a foreign court, he reevaluates his world-views and his relationships, both with his inner self and with the people around him. As a royal castaway, he might be on the run, but his real journey is to reach self-acceptance (and, this being a romance after all, find love in a wholly unexpected place).
In the end of The Castaway Prince Stephan learns some important lessons about freeing himself from other people’s expectations and accepting his love for crossdressing as an integral and beautiful part of his personality. I hope the readers of The Castaway Prince will have as much fun reading about his adventures as I had writing them!
The Exile Prince, the sequel to The Castaway Prince, is scheduled to be published in July 2019 by NineStar Press, while the third and final installment is expected sometime in 2020. Happy reading!
Ostracized by his family for his sexual identity, Prince Stephan is forced to flee his homeland before his older brother ascends the throne.
Stephan has been drawn to feminine things for as long as he can remember, so when the dire need for secrecy arises, he seizes the chance to don the perfect disguise. With the help of his loyal servant, Stephan picks his way through hostile territory, hiding his identity by posing as a woman. His only hope for asylum lies with the man who had been his friend and lover three years ago. But when that man also happens to be the crown prince of a rival country, things are a bit more complicated.
With war looming on the horizon, the danger of discovery grows by the moment. With all odds stacked against him, will Stephan find a safe place where he can be his true self, or is he doomed to remain a castaway?
“My, aren’t you a beauty.”
“Shut up,” Stephan said as he hoisted his skirts. The wind and the rain had made the pier boards slippery, and he nearly fell over as the wet fabric twisted around his legs. All his surreptitious practice wearing dresses and feminine undergarments hadn’t prepared him for the trials of this kind of miserable weather. In the course of a few minutes after stepping out of the relative coziness of their private boat cabin, he’d managed to get soaked through down to his stockings and narrowly avoided falling into the river.
Warren, his manservant, seemed to be rather amused by Stephan’s efforts. He was grinning as he watched him try to drag his bags onto the pier. Stephan really wasn’t supposed to do that, but the port hand was currently busy unloading another boat, and the prospect of warming up in front of a cozy fire had lost Stephan all patience.
“Help me, you oaf!” Stephan glared at Warren from under the hood of his fur-lined cloak. The man was having a bit too much fun at his expense.
“Watch your language. You’re a lady, remember?” Warren said, quickly coming to his aid, shouldering the heavy travel bags. “One who’s too pretty to be so bad-tempered.” He winked at Stephan and led the way across the busy dock, farther into the streets of the city.
Zenna, the capital of Esnia, sprawled on both banks of the river, its two halves connected by a multitude of stone bridges. This was a city Stephan had never thought he’d be visiting—certainly not in his current predicament. The royal castle, partially visible from the docks, was an ominous presence that loomed over the city and more resembled a prison. It spanned the narrowest point of the river with its massive arch of a weathered stone bridge. Built to withstand invasion and siege, it was supported by great rectangular pillars rooted deep in the riverbed, now almost entirely green with centuries-old buildup of slime and algae.
Stephan was glad when its daunting bulk was lost from view as they headed to the more genteel part of the city, where the smell of fish and refuse wasn’t quite as overpowering. They had to walk a good distance from the docks, but as they left the bustle of the riverfront and fish markets behind, the streets became broader, and the mud was replaced with cobblestones. The rain was bitterly cold, making him miss the slightly gentler climate of his homeland.
Thankfully, with so much traffic this time of day, they didn’t attract too much notice. They found a respectable-looking inn, situated on one of the main streets, where noble folk, even those traveling ostensibly without a retinue, weren’t an uncommon sight.
“My sister and I require lodgings for tonight,” Warren announced with a haughty air as they stepped inside the common room and the innkeeper rushed to meet them. Really, Stephan thought as he pushed back his hood to watch Warren dispense silver coins, the man was doing a startlingly good job imitating nobility, even considering he came from a well-off merchant family and not some backwater village. Stephan stood aside, waiting meekly for his “brother” to finish giving instructions regarding their meals and baths, and then followed him upstairs. He would be overjoyed to finally see a dry bed and a lit fireplace in a room that didn’t sway with the river’s tides.
They were given two adjacent rooms on the second floor. Warren deposited Stephan’s bags in his room before retiring to his own, where Stephan could hear him unpacking on the other side of the wall. He took off his cloak and fumbled with the lacings of his bodice, cursing under his breath. The wretched things were so wet it made them more difficult to handle, but finally the knots came undone, and the heavy dress, crumpled and dirty from the journey, slipped from his shoulders to the floor. The corset that cinched his waist and added discreet padding to his chest was next to come off, and Stephan could finally draw an unrestricted breath, standing in nothing but a fine cotton chemise and bloomers.
As this was a room intended for a lady, there was a large standing mirror in one corner. Its ornate frame must have been the pride of the innkeeper.
Looking into the spotless polished surface, Stephan had to admit his bedraggled state didn’t quite mesh with his idea of feminine charm. The paint he’d used to accentuate his lashes had smeared beneath his eyes, and his chestnut hair, usually done in a low bun, was now in complete disarray.
Despite the dress being uncomfortable at times—particularly when it was nearly soaking wet—he was growing more and more accustomed to it. At the beginning of their journey, he’d been nervous about appearing ridiculous, despite all the previous careful preparation and the endless hours spent on modulating his voice and perfecting his posture in front of the mirror. His shoulders were too wide, his hips too narrow, his gait too awkward. Perhaps he’d been lucky no one had peered too closely at a noblewoman traveling under the protection of her fierce-looking older brother.
It was one thing to put on a costume once in a while for the sheer fun of it, and quite another to wear it constantly, living in it and assuming it as a part of his identity, affecting a wholly feminine character at all times. Especially when this identity—as attuned as it was to his preferences—was the only thing keeping him alive.
Still, as he wiped away the streaks of paint and grime from his face and leaned in to look more closely—at the smooth cheeks so rarely in need of shaving, the long lashes, and the finely arched brows—the familiar similitude of womanly features reasserted itself. There was nothing overtly masculine about the face staring back at him. Turning slightly, he lifted a shoulder, affecting a coquettish pose, and smiled at his reflection. Maybe the possibility of him pulling this off wasn’t so entirely unfeasible.
A voracious reader from the age of five, Isabelle Adler has always dreamed of one day putting her own stories into writing. She loves traveling, art, and science, and finds inspiration in all of these. Her favorite genres include sci-fi, fantasy, and historical adventure. She also firmly believes in the unlimited powers of imagination and caffeine.
Genre: Fantasy Genre: Sci-Fi Orientation: Bisexual Orientation: Gay Pairing: M/M Publisher: Nine Star Press Queer Books Unbound 3rd Birthday Extravaganza! Tag: Friends to Lovers Tag: Guest Post Tag: Part of a series Tag: Royality Isabelle Adler The Castaway Prince