Monday, February 6, 2012

The Dragon is born...

   In 1989, I had emergency back surgery when the nagging pain in my hip, which had troubled me for several months, turned out to be caused by a herniated disc. The nerve compression was severe enough that they decided to do surgery. As they were going over the possible risks of spinal surgery, including death, my first thought was: "I can't die and leave my children" (they were only 3 and 4 at the time). My second was: "I can't die, I haven't written a book yet". Woozy with drugs and still in pain, I realized I would never feel fulfilled until I at least completed a novel.
I was always a voracious reader (when we were first dating, my husband nicknamed me "Read-O-Vac") and I majored in journalism in college and did a lot of writing in my jobs in advertising and p.r. But I never dared to attempt to write fiction. Back then, most of what I read was classic literature, contemporary literary fiction or massive historical novels. I was convinced I had neither the talent nor the research capabilities to write anything like that.  
That all changed in 1990, when I started work at a public library, and discovered most of our patrons were reading commercial fiction and genre fiction. For the first time I began to feel like "you can do this". Having always loved historical novels, and particularly the romantic parts of them, I decided to write a historical romance. In choosing my time period, I considered my favorite historical novels: the Merlin series by Mary Stewart (The Crystal Cave, The Hollow Hills, etc.), Sword at Sunset by Rosemary Sutcliffe, Here Be Dragons by Sharon Kay Penman. They were all set at least partially in Wales, and two of the stories take place in the time of King Arthur. 
I went to the Wyoming State Library, which back then had a good British history and literature collection, and began my research. Everything I read reinforced my fascination with this era. And then, in some obscure dusty tome discussing the historical evidence for King Arthur, I read about a monk named Gildas, who had written a manuscript in the early 6th century called On the Conquest and Ruin of Britain. The manuscript was not a historical account of the era, but a heated condemnation of five kings, who Gildas blamed for pretty much everything wrong in his time period. Chief among them was Maelgwn, king of Gwynedd, who Gildas refers to as "o, thou dragon of the island." Gildas account of Maelgwn was quite venomous, but his words revealed a larger-than-life and intriguingly complex man. I instantly knew I'd found my hero, and inspired by these historical tidbits, I began writing.

No comments:

Post a Comment