The Flying Carpet…
As the end of the first draft of Gisborne: Book of Knights rapidly approaches, space appears in the mind for new novels. I have three little rooms slowly filling and occasionally, when time permits, I hop on my flying carpet to travel from room to room to investigate the ideas.
I’ve always wanted to write a novel about Richard III’s timeframe, but not about the monarch himself. In preference, I’d rather concentrate on a tradesperson – about how what they do impacts on their life in the most stellar and harrowing way.
I’ve also wanted to write a novel where my protagonist begins in Venice at the time trade was expanding and beginning its rise to that of Mediterranean super power. I like the connection Venice had with Constantinople and the African coast: a connection made all the more powerful by reading Dorothy Dunnett’s books and thence moving to non-fiction texts to expand the interest.
And I’ve always loved books set in Turkey. Constantinople in the 14th and 15th centuries glows with heroic deed and misdeed and seen through the eyes of a female ingénue, could be fun. I remember trawling through my own memories of travel in exotic places when writing A Thousand Glass Flowers (set in a fantasy version of places such as Turkey, Tunisia and Northern India) and becoming inspired by the recall.
When I set up the Pinterest board early in 2012 for A Thousand Glass Flowers, I became filled with joy at the colour and depth of subsequent images. It is the perfect depiction of the fantasy world within that novel but in addition, it continues to inspire and enthrall. I often return to the board and just click through the pins. It’s like sitting on my flying carpet and being taken on a sensual ride through a bazaar filled with the scents of cumin and turmeric, of hashish and ma’sal, or jurâk. Of men in keffiyeh and bisht, and women in kameez, thawb or abbaya. Of rainbow silks and food that thrills the palate. Of simple things like plump dates, sultanas and figs.
Recently I read two novels set in Istanbul. One was by Colin Falconer – a dark narrative called Harem, about the insidious machinations of the hourie Hurrem within the courts of Suleiman the Magnificent. I am yet to read its sequel, Seraglio, but look forward to it as a further revelation of a timeframe that has its own fascination.
The other novel, and one I am still reeling from in terms of pace and intrigue is the cracking A Thief’s Tale by SJA Turney. Brilliant. Loved every minute of it. And so excited that it is to be a trilogy. Turney’s book is set in the fifteenth century Ottoman Empire and is filled with the basest political intrigue. But it balances the cruel outcomes with street cred of the most jaw-dropping kind. There are chases through ‘old’ Istanbul that could sit comfortably with Dorothy Dunnett’s brilliant 5 star ‘rooftops of Blois’ chase. And Dorothy Dunnett aficionados will know exactly what I mean.
I’m enjoying my carpet ride at the moment.
Tell me, where is your carpet taking you?
NB: all images of paintings taken from Wikimedia Commons.