One of the first major challenges in writing Historical Fantasy is researching a timeline that fits with your story, or at the very least seems plausible.
I originally penned my story back in the early 80’s when I was very young and knew next to nothing about writing, plot development, character creation etc… I could hardly write a complete sentence. I had a simple story in mind and I wrote it down. It was around 100 pages long and I thought, at the time, the best thing written by anyone ever. Boy, was I naive. I still have that original version but can’t read it. Just reading a few sentences makes me sick.
Since that time, I have re-written the story over and over and over again, each time hating myself for all the flaws, flaws I can find on my own. And when you find a flaw on your own, you know someone far more scrutinizing than yourself will rip it to shreds. It makes you doubt nearly every word you write, every punctuation.
I finally discovered the need for a timeline. I realized I needed to structure the story between real points in time if I had any hope of developing characters and fueling the plot. The original story was based loosely in ancient Roman, during the time of the Caesars, none in particular, just ancient Rome. There were some very despotic possibilities in Rome to choose from but nothing quenched my thirst. I needed a full blown civil war where the introduction of mythological creatures and magic might seem plausible. I was also tired of researching tribunes, centurians … blah, blah, blah.
Gloriously, I discovered the death of Emperor Henry VI of malaria.
Knights and men-at-arms! The perfect place for all things mythical!
It was the Middle Ages and a quiet war had long been festering beneath the surface between the German monarch and the people of Italy, especially Sicily, where a rebellion occurred while planning a crusade. The massacre that followed brought even more discord. Henry had enemies all over the Mezzogiorno and in the Roman Catholic Church. He had been excommunicated by the former pope, Celestine III, for imprisoning Richard Lionheart.
Back home in Germany, his family, the Hohenstaufens, were constantly at odds with the Welfs. When Henry died, there was civil war. Philip of Swabia took up the Hohenstaufen mantel while Otto of Brunswick raised the Welf banner. The new pope, Innocent III, was instituting reformations that would change the direction of the Church for centuries, and he opposed Philip’s election vehemently.
I decided that this was the best time period to place my story. While none of my characters are interacting directly with these lofty people of history, the decisions they made influence my character’s decision making, sending ripples through their lives. Their world explodes and friends betray friends.
Excerpt from the book …
“It was his first imperial commission. The Spanish cabellero didn’t know it then but he was a pawn being strategically interjected into the heart of an evolving battlefield, a volatile arena of hibernating bloodshed waiting to explode. On September 28, 1197, the heart exploded. Emperor Henry VI died and civil war began. Pawns beware.”