"Writing a book is the art of listening to oneself."-Brad Cameron

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Guest Blogger- Victoria Grefer

My approach to research has been a little bit different than I think most other fiction writers use. I’m a graduate student of Spanish literature—in particular, Spanish literature of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries—and it never ceases to amaze me to look back and see the ways my studies have influenced my fantasy novels and in particular, “The Crimson League.”

There are, of course, the more superficial, linguistic aspects. J.K. Rowling’s magic language in the Harry Potter series is based heavily on Latin. Mine is based on Spanish. I named my protagonist “Kora” after “corazón,” the Spanish word for “heart.” Her home village is Hogarane (“hogar” means “home”), and the capital of Herezoth? That would be “Podrar,” from a conjugation of the verb “poder,” “to be able to.” “Poder” also means “power.”
One influence my studies have had on my fiction—one that I’ve never mentioned in any of my blog posts--is the inspiration the Spanish royal court and its legacy of “privados,” or chief advisers, gave me. These men were nobles with immense power, so much so that in some cases—such as that of King Felipe III and his privado, the Count of Lemos—the privado overshadowed and even controlled him in many instances. A famous Spanish poet and novelist of the seventeenth century, Francisco de Quevedo, even wrote a court play about privados to basically suck up to the privado of King Felipe IV. I would translate the title, “Cómo ha de ser el privado,” as “How a privado should be.”

In this play, Quevedo makes the case that the ideal privado must deny himself all personal luxuries, even the chance to properly grieve the tragic death of his son. He must work tirelessly for the good of the king and his realm, with never a thought for himself, his reputation, and his own advancement. I wrote a paper for one of my classes about this play, analyzing two contrasting interpretations of the privado character. It was not until much later that I realized how much the story, and the historical relationship of King Felipe IV and his privado, the Count-Duke of Olivares, influenced my Herezoth trilogy.

First, in “The Crimson League,” I wrote two characters—members of the titular resistance group—who are displaced members of the nobility. These men are great friends. Neslan, the lesser noble, is a scholar and offers much advice and emotional support to Lanokas, the greater noble. He defends Lanokas’s ideas and aspirations to their comrades in arms. Basically, Neslan fulfills the role of the privado.

While I read “Como ha de ser el privado” after finishing a first draft of “The Crimson League,” its effects on my thinking as a novelist are really visible In the later books of the Herezoth trilogy, when a king returns to the throne and a clearer vision of Herezoth’s court emerges. There is always a Chief Adviser playing a supremely important role at the side of the crown.
Of course, things aren’t an exact copy from historical Spain. The sorcerer-dictator in “The Crimson League” has a wife who was born into a family of war-strategists so renowned they earned titles of nobility in previous generations. He named her the captain of his elite guard. No woman would ever have served a military post in seventeenth century Spain. Heck, men were writing plays back then debating whether it was sensible or stupid to give women a classical education. Another important deviation is the prevalence of technology in Herezoth to print newsletters for the nobles and those literate in the population; this was was not as common in the Spain that I study. That said, there is no doubt in my mind that my studies of Hapsburg Spain have had an immense impact on the structure of Herezoth’s government and the relationship between the royal family and its nobles as I crafted it.

I’m currently in the process of taking a leave of absence from my program to find a job. I don’t know that I’ll finish out to get that doctorate, so it’s great to be able to consider how my studies all these years have contributed to and shaped my true passion: my fiction. Whether or not I walk out with that degree, I know my time in graduate school was no waste!

I want to thank Victoria for her participation in what I hope will be a weekly occurrence- guest blogging.  To learn more about Victoria and her writings check out her links below:
twitter handle: @vgrefer
Also, don't forget to write your review for Odin's Light by December 1st to be eligible to win signed copies of both Book One and Book Two of The Zeke Proper Chronicles!

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