These last couple of weeks as I've been researching different people and periods and places for something that might become A Book, I've been thinking a lot about what I want to accomplish as an author of historical fiction. What drives me to choose one story over another? To choose one person or place over another? What do I want to tie my books together when/if I eventually break away from the Bronze Age?
I hadn't really given it a lot of thought, but as I was researching, wrinkling my nose at this person or that period, it kind of jumped out at me. One of the things I tried to do with HELEN already, and would really like to continue to do, is give voice to people (in a serious and respectful way) who we, in the west, have been quicker to dismiss -- to acknowledge that perhaps these other, older cultures and people DID have their own meaningful experiences with the numinous or some greater spiritual power.
And maybe sometimes this means writing a book about Joan of Arc, who no one believed heard the voice of God (unless it was politically expedient, of course). Maybe it calls for a book about Ramesses the Great and Moses (both of whom, in that moment, must have felt sorely tested in their faith.) Or maybe it means writing books about Greek heroes who actually really are the sons and daughters of Olympians. And maybe it means digging into the Icelandic Sagas, and exploring the complicated relationships that the Icelanders and the Norse had with their gods, or the struggle to reconcile their old faith to the new one, when the White Christ came.
It's important to acknowledge the experiences and the beliefs of the people who came before us, and while we can't ever know for certain how real or imagined any god is or was, I want to be truthful to what the people of these times, these cultures, believed they were. Not just out of respect for the past, but for the present, too. Because there is still today, a great diversity of faith, and maybe by reading about it in the past, we'll have an easier time embracing it in the here and now.
I don't know if I'll always have the opportunity to write these kinds of books, of course -- but they're certainly the stories that make my fingers itch the most!