In recent years, my writing journey has taken me to a bounty of wonderful places, both real and imaginary, from a fantastical version of the Mediterranean with a ruthless sea king and worship of the Syrian goddess Atargatis, to the 14th century Borders region of Scotland, with the realm of Faery lying just beyond. Although I am a writer of fantasy, my degrees are in history, specifically the history of Classical Greece and Rome. I’ve drawn upon my historical background and my love of research to flesh out these settings I write about, and the undertaking has been rewarding and terrifying in equal parts.
You see, my degrees make me that more terrified to “get it wrong.”
I’m not writing nonfiction. To be honest, I’m not even writing historical fiction, and I am not trying to put my personal spin on well-known historical events. There are other authors who do that much better than I can, and how they strike the balance between world building and plot is a miracle to me. I have always been less interested in great leaders and important events than on how people actually lived. Cicero’s suppression of the Catilinarian revolt interests me less than how, at the age of sixty, he divorced his wife of nearly thirty years to marry a 16-year-old heiress, and the strain that caused in his relationship with his then 29-year-old daughter. I mean, don’t you want to read a novel about that?
I want to know what people saw in the morning when they woke up, what they ate, how they spent their days, who and how they loved. When you read my work, whether it’s set in a fantasy world or our own, I want you to taste the baklava, feel the chicken squawking and struggling in my peasant girl’s arms, see the sunlight overhead as a mermaid breaks the surface for the very first time. Wherever I am taking you, I want it to feel real and authentic, and research, wherever it comes from, is a terrific tool in all of that.
I’m hoping to make this the first in a weekly series of posts about my research process, philosophies, and yeah, just whatever cool things I dig up. Welcome aboard!