Welcome to Musa Monday. My special guest today is Ted Mendelssohn who is talking historical fudges. Take it away, Ted.
It ain't what you don't know that will kill you. It's what you DO know that just ain't so.
That's my take-away after finishing one historical fantasy and getting deep into the next. The Wrong Sword series is set in the High Middle Ages, during the years of Richard the Lion-Hearted, Saladin, and Eleanor of Aquitaine. When I started writing it, I made a bargain with myself (and the readers): I would fudge history whenever I wanted to, for the sake of the story…but I would know that I was fudging it.
For instance, my characters have a distinctly modern outlook on life. My villain, the Duke of Brittany, is so far out of the feudal mindset that he genuinely contemplates reviving the Roman Empire. There's a noble knight who grovels to a peasant and is fascinated by con games, and a princess who speaks in Postmodern jargon, not to mention a monk who's dangerously ahead of his time in technological terms.
But as a writer, I can get away with it, because the readers know it's a gag, and they're in on it. The result (I'd like to think) is that if a real historian reads the book, he won't be mortally offended; he might even pick up on a few of the in-jokes.
But what happens if the fudge isn't intentional? If, in fact, it's just a flat-out mistake? I made at least one of those, when I portrayed King John – yes, that King John – as tall, dark, handsome and psychotic. I did this even though a thirty-second glance at Wikipedia would tell you that John was actually a stocky red-head (like his dad) with maturity and anger issues - a competent administrator, but with absolutely no tact. (This John is actually more interesting than the guy I created; worthy of his own novel, in fact.) I could have made that work, probably. But I messed up. Ouch.
Now I'm on Book Two, and things are even more complicated. I'm dealing with half a dozen topics that are less familiar to me than the Angevin Empire: the Crusades, Saladin, Byzantium, the Assassins, the pioneering mechanical works of Hero of Alexandria. It is inevitable that I'm going to make mistakes. Big mistakes. Huge giant honkers of error.
But you know what? To heck with it. I'm already including at least one magic sword…and I'm almost certain that's a fudge.
Here's the blurb for The Wrong Sword....
For a thousand years, Excalibur has been the sword of heroes.
Unfortunately, its new owner isn’t one.
Ever since he arrived in Paris, Henry the Rat has made a pretty good living selling “magic” swords to gullible knights. But when Henry sells one to Geoffrey Plantagenet, brother to King Richard, his happy days are over for good. Geoffrey forces Henry into a dangerous, uncomfortable quest for the most famous magic sword of all time, Excalibur, even though Henry is certain that it’s just a myth.
Then Henry actually finds Excalibur - and his troubles really start: For Excalibur is not just the sword of heroes…it’s also the sword that won’t SHUT UP. It communicates with its owner, it knows what kind of owner it deserves, and Henry doesn’t even come close.
To keep Excalibur and the world safe from the appalling Geoffrey, Henry will have to masquerade as a knight, crash a royal wedding, rescue a princess, break a siege, penetrate the secrets of the Perilous Brotherhood, and find Excalibur’s rightful bearer, all while trying to reach an accommodation with a snotty, aristocratic hunk of steel that mocks him, takes over his body, and keeps trying to turn him into the one thing he hates most…a hero.
You can find The Wrong Sword for purchase at Musa.