Ancient history in all its forms has always fascinated me and not very long ago, I was persuaded to return to University to immerse myself in it, rather than remain an armchair historian. A devotee of archaeology documentaries, initially I thought that this was my calling – two lectures and a tutorial convinced me otherwise. Already signed up for a unit on Roman history, I was lucky enough to have a lecturer whose passion for her subject was infectious. Before long I was completely spellbound by the Julio-Claudians and their successors during the first century AD.
I had no intention of leaving Uni, I wanted to continue along the academic path right up to a doctorate. I even had an idea for my thesis. Something shifted however in my last semester, there were changes afoot, which brought my decision into question. Deciding to take a break and see where the wind blew, I put everything on hold. It was at this point my husband suggested that I might like to write a book set in antiquity, putting my love for history to a different use. Although the idea appealed to me – writing a book has long been a dream of mine – I didn’t think I had it in me and wasn’t I too old anyway? Even if I decided to give it a go, what would I write about? How did I come up with an original storyline?
I let the concept play around in my head for a while, jotting down possibilities, ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous. Then one day, while looking through my assignments, I came across one on the ancient port city of Caesarea Maritima, the background to which, covered information on King Herod’s entire building program including his restructuring of an isolated citadel in the Judaean desert. A spark flickered into life; this was the fortress at Masada, where in the first century AD there had been a rebel ambush, a massacre and the arrival of a vengeful Roman army. All great scenarios around which I could base a story, could I make something of this?
Devouring every piece of information I could find on the history of this fortress and the archaeological excavations, the spark became a little brighter and an idea started percolating, one that intrigued me, but one I struggled to pin down. Then I remembered that according to an ancient source, seven people, two women and five children had survived the massacre and inspiration hit. One of these women could be my heroine; I just needed to work it backwards to determine how on earth she might have been able to avoid being slain. Then, I added a further complication, deciding to include a modern heroine, related to the women who survived and that somehow they connected across time. Not time travel in the accepted sense, she wouldn’t actually disappear from her own world, but her soul would meld with that of her ancestor. She would see events as they unfolded and could use her knowledge of what would happen to save those she loved.
Sound easy? Well now I have to make it into a believable story.