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?

Revision as Revelation

It was only when I began revising an essay that I discovered what it was about. I had thought the piece would be a simple meditation on what I’d learned about Cyrus the Great over these past few years – the sexy “messiah” byline, author of the first declaration of human rights, all that… and how my research led to a more complex portrait of the man and his times. And I guess it was, but only secondarily. Primarily, the essay is about change — how, over the years, changes in my Cyrus project have dovetailed with changes in my own life. I wouldn’t have discovered that without going back to the beginning again.reading-and-writing Suzanne Lilly

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.

The Pleasure of Historical Fiction

I have so enjoyed immersing myself in historical fiction lately. Some books I’ve read as a kind of catch-up to the genre, some have been for book clubs, and some I’ve picked up simply on the recommendation of friends. What a broad spectrum — definitely not limited to the bodice-ripper British romances that I pilfered as a tween from houses where I babysat. (Hey, I returned them.) Not that there’s anything wrong with a steamy paperback, every now and then. C’mon, you know. But, wow, there is so much more.

History, Fiction and Non

Whatever possessed me to tell uber-expert Dr. Amelie Kuhrt that I’ve made Cambyses I a depressed opium addict subject to the clutches of an evil groundsman in ancient Persia?! It couldn’t have been the alcohol — I was drinking tea, she hot cocoa. But what what a thrill to be able to talk nonstop for hours at a cafe in central London with this most formidable scholar of ancient Near Eastern history and literature. Our topics ranged from Cyrus II, Nabonidus (we share a fondness for the much maligned king), and women such as Atossa and Irdabama, to the complex landscape of religion in ancient Babylon and Persia, from food and drink, to clothing and climate.