I get inspired by the oddest things – I’ve said before that it can be as simple as an ancient dye, a splinter of wood, a fragment of cloth and so on.
I say to myself, ‘There’s a story in that…’
The inspiration for my latest book, Reliquary, originally came from the research I carried out for the previous trilogy called The Triptych Chronicle. In the process of seeking facts on rare and valuable merchandise that may have been traded in the twelfth century, I came across mention of a silk called byssus and which is still harvested in the Mediterranean from a species of shellfish.
At some point, maybe in the first chapter even, a writer will wonder if he or she has a story.
For me, I write to roughly the half way mark or even just the first 50,000 words and then I send it to my trusted editor for an opinion.
These last couple of weeks, I have held back from continuing with the manuscript of Reliquary until I had a definitive answer on whether the story had legs.
I’m currently reading a very direct treatise on anachronism in historical fiction writing called, aptly, Medieval Underpants and Other Blunders, by Susanne Alleyn.
Hopefully most hist.fict writers are aware of anachronism and the shock it gives readers, and also the loss of trust in the writer’s research and editing.
As a reader, I’m reasonably forgiving but when I’m enjoying Roman, Dark Age or Medieval fiction, goosebumps jump over my arms and I shudder when I come up against ‘Okay’ or modern swear words and aphorisms that when checked, date from a far later timeframe.
Writing this latest historical fiction (A Small Thread of Silk – working title only) is filled with serendipitous and exciting discoveries which is making the writing something special. Those of you who know me from Facebook will know about the strange revelations that have occurred, odd discoveries which mean that this book has just been waiting quietly in the wings to be written.
It began some time ago.
I located a map of my most desired area and opened it on the screen with a cup of tea and a cookie at my side. I slipped on my reading glasses and bent over the map.
I knew the treasure would be located somewhere between 12th century Lyon and the Forez. It had to be. After all, my last trilogy had played into those areas. Particularly the novel ‘Guillaume.’
The biggest hurdle though, was distance.
The distance between me and those areas. Me in Australia is a long and so very expensive way from France.
But then this is not insurmountable.
…hit me like a steam-train when I read it on Instagram. I can’t find the original spokesperson, someone called ‘Wood’, or I would pay credit, but as an historical novelist writing about the twelfth century, in particular Lyon and Constantinople, the words had complete resonance.
Yesterday, I found a nugget of research for my new 12th century novel entitled A Small Thread of Silk.
I discovered that a very special artefact was in fact 6 metres long.
So what, you may ask?
Well, in imperial measurements, that’s over 19 feet. And that extra-long measurement gives me scope.