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.