While I still enjoy reading many of the Celtic-Camelot-British writings by various authors, from T.H. White to Anya Seton to Jack Whyte, I believe the rehashing has been done nearly to death.
When I was younger, much younger than today, I developed an affinity for the film, ‘The Robe,’ starring Richard Burton and Jean Simmons. I later sat down and read the novel by Lloyd C. Douglas and it was an eye opener. It was the first time I realized how little respect Hollywood has for the literary arts. Like I said, I was young. While I still enjoy watching the film, the book is so much better.
The book inspired me to research and study the Roman Empire.
When I started writing ‘The Crystal Crux,’ the protagonist was, of course, a Tribune. Go figure. The whole story, poorly written I might add, came in around 100 pages. Later, much later, when I decided to brush off the dust and resurrect ‘The Crystal Crux,‘ I knew at once it had to leave the Roman world. I needed a place where I could mingle magic crystals with terrible monsters, flawed humans with an ambitious dragon. It had to be medieval but I refused to move it to Britain.
I kept the story in Italy but discovered early on that our English historians are a predictable lot and have done us no favors. When it comes to things medieval, especially low to mid, Middle Ages, they concentrate on Ireland, Scotland, Wales, England, northern France and some of Germany. Sure, Italy is expounded upon in great detail during the Renaissance Age, but what has been written in English about Italy during the Middle Ages is very broad. There is a lot of room for improvising. That is good. I wanted to improvise, create and wing-it.
I concentrated my efforts on the Kingdom of Naples and Sicily. I didn’t care much for the characters I was learning about. And, as it turned out, they were not very prominent to history, so I figured I could get away with fudging them up and making them mine own. I didn’t base any of my characters on any of them. I simply pretended that the ones I learned about, weren’t ever there – and mine were. I kept the broader scope of history, the lands, the cities, the Church, the Kings and Queens, the Emperor. They are part of the story inasmuch as decisions they make at loftier heights effect my characters decisions to an extent. None of them are directly involved in the story itself.
So Naples became my focal point. I learned that it had been a major seaport for much of history. Colonized by Greece, the Greek influence was strong and continued to dominate the city and region even after the Romans conquered it.
Naples had gone by several names, Neapolis (new city) and Palaeopolis (old city). And then I discovered that the original Greek settlement had been called Parthenope. I loved the sound of that right away. I adopted Parthenope as the name of the main city in my book, never actually referring to Naples as Naples. All the characters in ‘The Crystal Crux,’ consider the city to be Parthenope.
Parthenope, according to mythology, was a siren who killed herself when she failed to lure Odysseus. Now I was really excited. I was discovering things about this region I could weave into the storytelling.
West of Parthenope, lay the sulfuric killing grounds of Campi Flegrei and the Solfatara volcano. The ancients said birds would die flying over this region and considered it the gateway to hell. This was just too perfect! And east of Parthenope there is Vesuvius, and the entombed cities of Herculaneum and Pompeii.
To the north, I discovered Capua. Capua had infamously gained a reputation as a bit of a troublemaker in the past, serving as a stronghold for Hannibal and Spartacus, both at different times, of course. What better place to put my protagonist? A knight of the Middle Ages causing trouble for the respectable powers in Parthenope and Rome. I had found my place in the world. This is where ‘The Crystal Crux‘ lives.
For my next blog, I’ll talk about my search for a specific time in history for my characters. Stay tuned.