So, I always knew that writing a novel based on a real person might get those more interested in non-fiction in a tizzy, and I hoped any interest might be interest, rather than attack. Hmm.
Today the Guardian published this piece I’ve written about writing the book – it’s a great deal shorter than the original piece I wrote, which had more detail about the process and my sources but, given they needed to cut it, they’ve done so pretty well and the main gist is definitely there – ie, here’s a juicy character, I’m amazed so few have written (fiction) about her, hence I gave it a go. But I am still a little surprised at the tone of the comments. This is, after all, a NOVEL. It’s not an academic study into Theodora or her (Orhtodox) sainthood or Constantinople at the time or the state of Rome. I know it’s not because I read everything I could get my hands on (in English) and interesting and useful as they were, they were also, for the most part, heavily academic and pretty damn dry. (Though Judith Herrin’s writing, on this period and others, is always great.)
I may get around to putting up the fuller piece I originally wrote but, for now, for the record :
– it’s a novel.
That’s probably all I need to say really, but of course I didn’t base the book on Procopius – du’uh!! In fact I found Procopius so annoying, sexist, misogynist etc etc, I couldn’t finish reading him and read all the heavy, hugely researched, in print (and out of print) historical books cover to cover instead. As for the suggestion that only Procopius said Theodora had been a child prostitute, well, when it was commonplace for actresses to have been forced into prostitution, it’s pretty likely to assume she was too.
So yes, of course I did the background reading and the research and of course I didn’t base an entire novel on Procopius’s slim and nasty booklet. But it’s also true that the stories he recounts (which, incidentally, are recounted – if only to discredit them – by pretty much every historian I read!) are very juicy, and they do offer some interesting scenes to play with. Procopius is in the book actually. I think those who dislike him being considered as any sort of source might even enjoy what I did with him.
And, you know, it’s a novel.
Meanwhile, this is nice in the Indie.
i saw the piece and the comments and can i just say to start that i for one am really looking forward to reading you once more 🙂
(i’m sure you won’t but) don’t take the comments personally. my jaw used to drop at the sheer snide-y-ness (take that, readers) and frankly un- equivocally unimpressed tone of the majority of posts on there. taking them at face value can really kill a girl’s faith in human nature. now however i find them comically predictable. am thinking of compiling a blog of the most ‘guardian’ of them all 🙂
keep up the good work!
thanks Louise. I wasn’t minding (much!) until someone had a go at my book titles (which was just weird anyway), calling them crass & sexualised, and including the title of my solo show Breaststrokes in that – Breaststrokes being about breast cancer and swimming!!! then I did some minding. but of course I shouldn’t, I should just be glad it’s provoked discussion and get on!!
Wow, some of that exchange was… well, interesting. Lots of people getting on their high horse! It is, as you say, fiction and I think sometimes people loose sight of that… by the way, I bought your book on preorder and I’m waiting for it to arrive in the mail! Can’t wait to read it.
I hope you enjoy it when it gets there x
In recompense for the ‘drawing heavily’ error, IO have just ordered Theodora on amazon. I’ll let you know what I think (I’m sure it will be complimentary)
ps In no way am I jealous of its amazon rating. Why should I? It’s got three fewer digits than mine!
hey, any rating’s better than no rating at all, right?! x
Great piece, Stella. The truth is that we’re now so awash with ‘reality’ presented as entertainment that people are rapidly forgetting how to read fiction. It’s alarming when something as important and childlike as telling stories is consistently confused and misunderstood. (And thanks for the mention of my website). Terencex
I thank you. and you’re welcome. x