Why not Australia?
Earlier this year, I was asked to join a panel of authors to discuss exploring stories beyond our national boundaries and why we chose to write about times and places far from Australasia.
I’d never really navel-gazed about my predilection for twelfth century Europe. To me, it just was. When I wrote about Venice, Lyon or Constantinople, bells rang – sounds ranging from soft tintinnabulation to reverberating tocsins, and that was all that was required.
The discussion reminded me of a time at Art School where I was asked about the motivation for a particular piece. I said, ‘Nothing. I just like the colours.’
Not to be outdone, the lecturer replied, ‘But why do you like the colours.’
I shrugged. ‘They remind me of the sea and the coast. That’s it.’
Well of course, the answer to the question was that the sea and the coast were where I was happiest, my heart home, soul food, life’s memories. All of that. Lightbulb moment – motivation! So why the Middle Ages then? In Europe?
I suspect it goes back to childhood and in the first instance is a subliminal thing. I read like the Devil possessed when I was very young. Mostly fairytale and so many books were filled with medieval-styled illustrations.
It was the style de jour. Obviously it made such a mark with me that I created a Pinterest board about it.
Then there was TV. Richard Green’s Robin Hood. I still know the words to the song!
For a little while, though, Rome, the Renaissance Louis Quatorze and Regency England took over my reading but then I went to University, deciding to major in history. Thus, at seventeen years of age and with a wonderful lecturer called Father Rushton, I dived into the deep end of medieval history. Everything resonated – names especially.
Abelard, Heloise, Plantagenet, Hohenstaufen, Venerable Bede, Eleanor, Hildegarde, Crusade, Knights of Saint John, Knights Templar – the list went on. And then there were illuminated manuscripts, philosophies, art history, music, religion. My subliminal love was reborn.
Much later, as a pre-pensioner, I watched the so very anachronistic and enjoyable Robin Hood series starring so seductive Richard Armitage as Guy of Gisborne.
At that time, I had been a professional writer of legend-based fantasy for maybe three years, and aware of the semi-cult following of Robin Hood, I decided to write a light fan-fiction for my blog on Guy of Gisborne.
But something happened. The subliminal fascination with the medieval era grew like Topsy. I began to research a serious historical fiction, not a fun fan-fiction.
I removed the story from the blog, restyled it and the first book in the trilogy of The Gisborne Saga was published.
Nearly six books later, the medieval era has claimed me as its own. It’s an era filled with excitement, venality, studiousness, love. And I never get tired of thinking of new plots for my loved characters.
Would I have been as happy and would bells have rung if I had written about Australia?
I don’t know.
But I suspect I may soon find out as I am to collaborate on a fiction about England and Tasmania at the time of convict transportation. And I must confess that whenever I go to Maria Island and investigate the history, there is a tiny bell ringing in the distance.
Who knows, it may become a tocsin!