Tobias is finally available.
After 12 months of learning about Byzantium, about trade and icons and the venality of man – my beloved Tobias is ready to sing his great chanson de geste…
It’s been an amazing year.
Let’s face it, I have often blogged about the way this book pushed me to the limits to learn, and to climb higher and higher. Rather like Toby and Tomas as they scaled the Valens Aqueduct:
They moved quickly in the dark, across the Water Street to the massive structure that loomed above.
‘Hey ho,’ Tomas said. ‘Leg up.’ He put his foot into Toby’s cupped hands, and onto his shoulders, Toby reeling a little. It was some time since they had played this game.
‘Hurry,’ he hissed.
‘Got one,’ Tomas said, ‘and another,’ as he felt for footholds. ‘I’m away.’
Toby looked up and sure enough, Tomas made swift speed to the rows of evenly spaced arches. A skein of rope snaked down and Toby grabbed it and began to walk his way up the viaduct wall to where Tomas sat waiting. The ease of that first climb gave them both confidence and he quickly coiled the rope back over his shoulder.
‘Upwards?’ he asked.
Tobias looked up. The arch bloomed well above their heads, a graceful parabola, and he wondered how they would move on. Running his hand over the cut stone blocks and the regularly inset rows of brick, they seemed smooth, not marked enough with wear and tear for footholds. He ripped off his boots and folded them under his belt, felt along the wall and up until he found a chink and stretched his foot, placing toes in the gap. But he needed another and then one again at head height.
‘Christ, the Romans built things well, Tomas. There’s barely a fingerhold…’
‘Here,’ whispered Tomas from next to him. ‘I found a crumbled brick and more above it. I think we can go this way…’
A shout further down, and then running footsteps back toward their position.
‘Quick, go!’ Tobias pushed his brother and they began to climb, barely stopping for breath, damp stone under their toes and fingers, even moss, hearing the wind as it pulled at hair and tunic. It burrowed beneath the wool to Toby’s skin, dragging cold fingers across and he shivered…
It’s also been no secret that my near ninety year old mother became frailer as the writing of the book progressed. She never quite ‘got’ the fact that her daughter was a writer, let alone one who had readers. To her, I just had a nice little hobby. I would say to her, ‘I need to spend some time writing, Mum.’ And she would say, ‘Oh god, haven’t you finished that book yet?’
It seemed quite odd that I finished the book just before she started to finally fade away and that the manuscript returned from my editor, John Hudspith, the morning after Mum died. To me it was as if Toby’s story was infused with her spirit and I dedicated the book to her for that very reason.
I think the thing that I loved most about the writing of this book was its tangibility. When I wrote about the scents of Constantinople, I could smell the spices, the olibanum. I could taste the subtle pastes and the flatbreads, I could feel the exquisite silks sliding beneath my palms. I found the beauty in icons – those sadly elongated faces of subjects who could as easily have inspired a twentieth century Modigliani as the Christian men and women of the twelfth century. I watched men crave all these things and I observed their faces changing from awe to base jealousy and greed. And then, my heart stopped as I watched murder occur.
Who dies, you ask?
Ah, a number of folk – some good people, some not. Because let’s not be coy – this was a time where men craved money and power and would kill to secure their way upon the path with no qualm and then walk on, whistling.
And of course, I have also made no secret of the fact that Peter Dinklage was my go-to model for Tobias. Not Tyrion Lannister – but Peter Dinklage (despite the fact that the accompanying images to this post are of Tyrion Lannister – it’s the costuming, you see). Peter’s movements, his voice, his facial expressions were all grist to my mill. As I have mentioned in the past, I always pick an actor to define my characters. And then I watch them move, watch their faces, listen to the inflections of their voices to flesh out a book’s inhabitants.
Writing the book also led me into the beauty of Occitan poetry from the days of the troubadour. Reading it now, I’m sorry it was never part of my studies at university. The words sing off the page and it takes very little imagination on my part to imagine Tobias sitting with his vielle, bow laid aside, as he plucks a gentle melody whilst lauding the inspirational Zoë Komemna of my story. Or better still, singing the chanson de geste about his brother…
Of all the characters in all eight of my books, Tobias is quite simply my favourite. He has such depth, such faceted emotions, and when it comes down to it, against the huge-est odds, he is the most fiercely loyal person I know.
And in my book, loyalty is all…
Tobias may be purchased from http://authl.it/3ns