A Book, Changed — On Writing

At what point in writing does one book become another? In the editing, rewriting, re-editing and re-rewriting of a project engaged over years, should we just call it a different book? (The shadow question is, of course, at what point does one pack it away, brush off one’s hands, and turn to something else?)

In the book I’m working on now, I have gone from two main characters to one, and she from a spoiled princess to a tomboy with no sense of her worth. I have gone from a many-faceted narrative to a single tale, driven by a young woman’s desire to protect the wild land that she loves.reading-and-writing Suzanne Lilly

300, Awesome Ancient Women, and the Perils of Historical Fiction

Here’s what I just posted on Huffington Post… and then, here’s the problem with it.

Now if only there were about three hundred more 300‘s. Maybe not in blood and gore but movies with kick-ass women from ancient Persia and Greece. Artemisia Movie 300Then, more people would get what has so captivated me about Amytis, Cassandane, and Atossa. Um… who, you ask?

A Woman, the Bible, and Babylon, 560 B.C.

These mid-August days, some 2500 years ago, witnessed a violent turn-about in power — regicide followed by a week of king-less days. Imagine for a moment the uncertainty, the chaos. Imagine the mother of the assassinated king. Still alive, for the time being — a foreigner in a court conflicted about its cosmopolitan nature, a court leaning toward xenophobia. She fled.

The overturn of thrones was itself not unusual. But the ripples it sent would wash up against shores for thousands of years to come and as far away as our own. After all, this was Babylon, ancient Iraq, when the texts that would become the Bible were beginning to take shape with the thoughtful care and no doubt spirited debate of exiles far from home, committed to tradition, and dedicated to their God.

Outtakes from a Novel — Tower of Babel

I was just thinking: wouldn’t it be fun to have a spot to feature artifacts, documents, persons, architecture, anything concrete related to my historical fiction set in ancient Babylon and Persia? Perhaps provide a wee bit of commentary, maybe how the things fit into the story,…? In the absence of any nay-sayers (admittedly none nearby capable of weighing in — one dog is asleep, the other staring fixedly at a groundhog hole), the verdict is “yes!” So, here goes, a first installment.

Apolitical Nature

A princess betrothed to Nebuchadnezzar travels from her palace in Hamadan to Babylon. True story, and it’s angling to be the beginning of my historical novel. Amytis’ journey, 2500 years ago, from what is modern, northern Iran to what is modern, central Iraq passed through a changing landscape with a dizzying variety of flora and fauna. Learning about the region of her childhood — Hamadan/Ecbatana — I am struck by its beauty, sophisticated and diverse ecosystems, by its fragile wild nature. Like the political landscape, the natural has changed somewhat over the centuries. But it is still remarkably diverse and strikingly beautiful.

Iran’s Enduring Natural Beauty

Legend has it that Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar built the Hanging Gardens of Babylon for his young wife, Amytis, who was homesick for the mountain home of her childhood. That home? — ancient Ecbatana, modern Iran’s Hamadan, one mile above sea level in the shadow of snow-c0vered Mt. Alvand. Looking at pictures of the place, so unlike what most of us imagine Iran to be, is it any wonder that she’d miss such a place?!

Even before Amytis and Nebuchadnezzar (6th cent, BC), people from Israel’s northern tribes were uprooted from Israel (by conquering Assyrians) and settled in Ecbatana/Hamadan. The modern city contains a structure known as the tomb of (the biblical) Esther and her uncle Mordecai.