The most frequent question authors of historical fiction get asked, I think, must be ‘how did you choose that era?’ In my case, I have developed a phrase I use to respond, which is: ‘the footnotes of history’. This is because it is usually something quite small that first catches my attention, a brief mention, a strange choice, an odd gap in the historical record.
I have written two series set in two very different eras. The first is 11th century Morocco. I was on holiday there and read in my travel guide about the symbolism and intricacy of traditional Berber (preferred modern name Amazigh) jewellery. This is heavily worn by women and is often given at key life stage moments, such as a wedding, birth of a child, etc. I had the idea that a novel based on a Berber woman, where each chapter saw her receive a new piece of jewellery marking a certain moment in her life, would be interesting. When I trawled through Moroccan history to find a suitable era in which to set such a book, I found another ‘footnote’: the Muslim warlord who defeated El Cid and created an empire spanning all of North Africa and most of Spain, chose to give his empire to the son of a Christian slave girl. I was hooked. That one idea became A String of Silver Beads and then turned into a series of four books. You can try the first in series, a novella called The Cup, by joining the subscribers on my website and downloading it for free. www.melissaaddey.com (It is also available on Amazon to buy http://getbook.at/TheCup ). You can watch the book trailer for it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m8xAn1Ui12Q&t=18s
It may seem like a leap from 11th century Morocco to 18thcentury China but oddly enough I got there via another travel-related book, this time a travelogue by a man who drove across China on a motorbike. Along the way he briefly mentioned the legend of ‘the fragrant concubine’, a real woman who became a concubine to the Emperor of China. The legends claimed she had a natural perfume that drove the Emperor to fall madly in love with her, but so much mythology had grown up around her, much of it completely contradictory, that I was intrigued. I began to research the Qing court of the time and of course uncovered a whole host of fascinating characters. The one book I had planned became four, each one following the path of a different concubine, all their lives intertwining. You can try the first in series, a novella called The Consorts, by downloading it for free on Amazon http://getbook.at/TheConsorts You can watch the book trailer for it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dFeDL5fdhII
And now that those two series are complete? I’m off to Ancient Rome. Did you know that in all the written material about the Colosseum – including that it could seat over 50,000 people, be flooded to hold naval battles, that it was inaugurated with 100 days of Games during which thousands of animals and men lost their lives – no-one ever mentions who was organising all of this. Who scattered the sand? Who released the lions at the right moment? In short, where is the ‘backstage team’? I’m going to write their story. You can see a ‘coming soon’ trailer here to whet your appetite! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jYU4mrSUH5I Keep an eye on my website to know more.
The Cup (free on my website)
Hela has powers too strong for a child – both to feel the pain of those around her and to heal them. But when she is given a mysterious cup by a slave woman, its powers overtake her life, forcing her into a vow she cannot hope to keep. Trapped by her vow, Hela loses one chance after another to love and be loved. Meanwhile in her household a child is growing into a woman who will become famous throughout the Muslim world.
This is a novella (100 pages) and you can get it for free on at www.melissaaddey.com.
Watch the trailer:
You can also buy it on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Cup-Moorish-Empire-Melissa-Addey/dp/1910940453
But the young woman is back when less than two
moons have passed and she brings me more silver than I
have ever been paid.
“I am with child,” she says. “My husband sent you this.
He says he is the happiest man in Kairouan. He smiles all
I take the silver and murmur something in reply, I am
not sure what.
“It was the red cup, wasn’t it?” she says, looking eagerly
up at it on the shelf, where it has sat unused since her first
visit. “It has a special power, does it not?”
I do not look at the cup behind me. “The herbs will
have done you good,” I say.
She nods and thanks me again and goes away but she
has a busy mouth, for now one and then another woman
asks if I will use ‘the red cup’ when I treat them. If I try to
dissuade them, saying that one cup is much like another,
they insist that they must drink from the cup.
And strange things happen when they do.
The Consorts (free from Amazon)
China, 1700s. Lady Qing has spent the past seven years languishing inside the high red walls of the Forbidden City. Classed as an Honoured Lady, a lowly-ranked concubine, Qing is neglected by the Emperor, passed over for more ambitious women. But when a new concubine, Lady Ying, arrives, Qing’s world is turned upside down. As the highest position at court becomes available and every woman fights for status, Qing finds love for the first time in her life… if Lady Ula Nara, the most ambitious woman at court, will allow her a taste of happiness.
This is a novella (100 pages) and you can get it for free on Amazon.
Watch the trailer:
“Is something wrong?” I ask, standing in the doorway, ignored by
Bao turns to me, flustered. “You are called on.”
“You have been summoned.”
“Summoned where?” I ask, still stupid from lack of sleep.
“To the Emperor,” says Bao, exasperated. “You are his chosen
companion for tonight. And there is nothing suitable for you to wear,”
he adds, almost in tears.
I stand, silent. I can feel myself swaying slightly in shock. “I am to
be the Emperor’s companion tonight?” I repeat. “In his bedchamber?”
“Yes of course in his bedchamber, where else?” splutters Bao.
“Now go and be bathed. I have important things to prepare if you
are to be ready in time. And tell them to do something about the
dark circles under your eyes,” he adds, grabbing another handful of
clothes and beginning to sound hysterical. “You look old.” It is the
only unkind thing Bao has ever said to me and it makes me realise that
this is real, this is actually happening, it is not some strange dream or