Saturday, August 27, 2011

Why the Middle Ages fascinate me

I'm Lindsay Townsend and I write historical romances set in the ancient world and the Middle Ages, especially the Middle Ages. Why then?

The Middle Ages covers a huge period of time in the western world, from AD 300 - the rise of the Roman emperor Constantine and the adoption of Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire - until the 14th century. This gives lots of scope.

It was a time when religion played a crucial part in people’s lives. The clash of the spiritual and practical was very real. That clash is shown most clearly in the history of the Crusades, when men, women and even children left their homes to travel to the Near East to ‘win’ the holy city of Jerusalem. The motives of such people were mixed and varied, so that mix of emotions - the profound, the greedy, the opportunistic, the generous - fascinate me as a writer. I touch upon the impact that the Crusades and contact with the Arab world had on men and women in ‘A Knight’s Vow’.

The Middle Ages was a time very different to our own, with different beliefs: a pig could be put on trial for witchcraft, a man would be made to prove his innocence by clasping a red-hot iron bar, a woman would be told by the church that she was inferior to her husband and yet still be expected to defend his castle. Alchemy and chemistry were one and the same. The contrast in ideas between then and now fascinate me and I like to show them at work in my romances. In ‘A Knight’s Enchantment’ I have a woman alchemist and she uses her skills to help the hero save his brother.

This was the age of Eleanor of Aquitaine's court of love, of Geoffroi de Charny’s ‘A Knight’s Own Book of Chivalry’ - a how-to book for knights - and Christine de Pizan’s ‘City of Ladies’ - a defense by a woman writer of her own sex. It was a time of the Viking sagas, of troubadours and the chronicles, of many rich and varied sources of information. It was a time of jousts and tournaments, where ladies gave favours and knights vied for honour - jousts I describe in my ‘A Knight’s Enchantment’ and ‘To Touch The Knight’.

But the Black Death came, too, a plague - or series of plagues - that killed almost a third of Europe. The  survivors were traumatized but also had new chances to prosper, something I explore in ‘To Touch The Knight’.

The Middle Ages had many decisive battles that changed the course of history - Hastings, Agincourt, Poitiers, Crécy amongst them. I explore the changes the Battle of Hastings made in my ‘A Knight’s Captive’.

I write romances in which the history serves the hero and heroine and the impact of that history is shown through their lives. The Middle Ages gives me a wonderful backdrop for adventure, high stakes, courtly knights and beastly ones, generous ladies and cruel damsels, peril, good and horrible manners and amazing costumes.

I love the Middle Ages.


Celia Yeary said...

Lindsay--not many authors set romances in the Middle Ages, but you do it so well. Yes, it was a different time, but truthfully, our societies today sometimes act with just as much prejudice and stupidity and arrogance.
I like the facts you always throw in, such as a pig being put on trial for witchcraft.
Good luck with your sales--you do such a good job promoting, it makes me feel like a slacker.
Well, I am a bit lazy.
Very nice post! Celia

Anonymous said...

Actually the middle ages was from 600 to 1600. A thousand years of glorious, raping and pilliaging all for the greater good of the church.

I only like it for the dresses. lol The brocades,silks, cottons,woollens and linens, all in a pretty rainbow of colours.

Miriam Newman said...

Lindsay, you just go on loving those Middle Ages! It is my favorite time period, as well, for all the reasons you have stated. And I look forward to any of your books set in that era and snatch them up like potato chips. Or is it "crisps?" Anyway, you know what I mean! :)

Savanna Kougar said...

I say take the inherent beauty of the Middle Ages, and have it serve your heroines and heroes, as it ultimately serves humanity.

RANT ~ Given there has been the horror side in every age since the end of Atlantis, including NOW! Yep, plunder, rape, pillaging and extreme cruelty is rampant at every level of society currently. Just in the arena of fraudulent foreclosures, this is true. And it will only get worse in the near future. To say the Middle Ages was any different, or worse than now... hah!

Paul McDermott said...

I decided to use the Middle Ages as the setting of my NaNo offering last year. I then deliberately made my MC female to see if I could "get inside her head" and write from a female POV.

I'm reasonably satisfied with the result: the first 50,000 words appeared in the first fortnight of November, and the complete yarn 'topped out' @ 90,000+ (after editing). I might even think about looking for a publisher ...

Julia Barrett said...

I love the history in your books. The Middle Ages fascinate me as well. It's amazing anyone survived such upheaval, grinding poverty and disease.

Noelene said...

I love the Middle Ages, too, Lindsay, and have read up so much on it before planning my own novels in that era. Can't put my finger on why but maybe it is because, despite some primitive aspects of that time, it also had lovely castles and clothes, and encompassed and helped shape our own modern era.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

One of my favourite periods, Lindsay, although I also like the latter years (16th century). I'm in awe of your prolific output!

Linda Banche said...

I like the way your heroines are women of their time and yet not doormats. And that your knight heroes are decent men beneath all that armor and not just legalized agents of murder and mayhem.

Lindsay Townsend said...

Thanks to everyone for the positive feedback and comments.

Paul - good luck with your novel!

Celia - you are no slacker!

Savanna - I agree with your rant. Every age has its horrors.

Miriam - thank you!

Minki - I agree the costumes are lovely.

Julia - I wonder how your Mr Bob would have gone on in the Middle Ages?

Noelene - I agree that the Middle Ages shaped your modern world, certainly in Europe and the near East.

Rosemary - I'll have to have a closer look at the 16th century. I find once I start to look, all periods of history have something to fascinate.

Linda - I love your heroes, too! I love the way they are builders and engineers and work to make the world a better place. And they are all-round good guys. Often blond, too, which to me is a plus!

Thanks again, folks!

StephB said...

Lindsay, you do the Middle Age setting well and I haven't seen anything close to it except Scottish romances set during William Wallace's time. Amazing how a pig could put on trial for witchcraft, huh? What was the human race thinking? LOL!!