Timeless Lust in the Ancient World, a new anthology from Forbidden Fiction (which includes three stories from me!).
Forbidden Fiction asked the book's authors the following question:
Describe the setting you used for your story. Why did you pick this particular place?
Read on for their answers (and for a glimpse at the covers for their stories)!
This story is set in Alexandria at the end of the period of Hellenic rule. Like many people, I've long been fascinated by ancient Alexandria: a city famous for its architectural splendor, its financial wealth, its vibrant mix of cultures, and its intellectual and artistic achievements. The fascination is partly because, while we have so many stories of this ancient city, we have relatively little hard evidence: foreign invasions and natural disasters destroyed much of the ancient capital, and it's only now that significant relics are being recovered from the nearby sea bed. For a story about characters who are both infamous and strangely undocumented, Alexandria seemed a perfect setting.
The Nemesis Bird is set in Ishfahan. Given that the story was inspired by The Tales of the Arabian Nights, this was a natural choice for the setting. It establishes the association with the original tales and places the story firmly within its Arabian context. Also, I just love the sound of the word. The name Ishfahan conjures up so many evocative images of exotic markets, embroidered slippers, scimitars and minarets. Now that relations between the west and Iran have improved, I've got it on my bucket list of places to go!
Touched by Fire is set in Ancient Rome, in the Temple of Vesta, which I picked for the obvious reason of if you want to write about Vestal Virgins, you’ve got to go to them because they can’t come to you. On a bigger scale I chose Ancient Rome because of unique way they lived, the opposing ways they lived. At one end of the scale they were enlightened enough to create most of the societal structure that we still live in today and yet, there were so many confines within these structures. And that creates the perfect place for a forbidden love, in one of those niches where everyone else seems to have a freedom that you are denied.
I didn't explore the geography of the setting, but it appears that the story of Lot and his daughters has them going to the mountains near Zoar. My short story focuses on the events within their cave shelter, and so doesn't really take place within Sodom. I wanted to focus on the sudden isolation of the family, and the unfolding of events outside of social norms. Lot begins to have visions, while his daughters conceive of a taboo plot. Perhaps these things wouldn't have happened but for the catastrophe visited upon Sodom, and the lack of community restraints or influences on the characters.
I set the story in Carnuntum, around 300 AD. In recent years, a sizeable gladiator school was discovered at this location. Stories involving ancient Rome almost always take place within the city of Rome, but it was quite a large empire, and must have differed greatly in its various locations, and in the variety of its residents. I find frontiers interesting, and Carnuntum was at the edge of the Empire.
“Hunting Artemis” is set on Delos, a Greek island known for its archaeological treasures and role in mythology. I chose Delos because it’s traditionally considered the birthplace of Artemis, and as such it made sense as the location for a community of devoted priestesses.
“Andromache’s Prize” is set in a wasted, apocalyptic setting of the past—the battlefields of Troy after everyone who’s able to leave has gone home. When writing stories that converse with well-known works, I find it helpful to search for gaps where new ideas can be inserted. Many Greek and Roman works refer to what happened in the aftermath of the Trojan War, but for the most part it’s not seen “onscreen.” Because of that, it felt like a fertile site for my own creative exploration and elaboration.
The story is set at Maecenas's villa in Rome. I wanted a space where it made sense for Horace and Virgil to be meeting Propertius for the first time, somewhere luxurious and decadent and a little wild. Maecenas's gardens were infamous. He was frowned upon for the expense he lavished on them, with all the latest innovations and trends. He even went so far as to install heated baths, the world's first hot tubs!
Hera's Punishment is set mostly in Mount Olympus, home of the Greek gods. I've often wondered what the place where the gods lived would be like. I think in many myths we imagine Mount Olympus, like Hades, as "over there," a place that is an unseen idea. The gods live in the clouds. They are "up there." But what's happening up there? It's where the gods fight and make love, hold council, argue and feast. It is the place from which they watch mortals and decide who they want to bless, curse or bed. Even though Hera and Zeus could go anywhere in Ancient Greece, it seemed likely that the action between them would occur in Olympus. The earth can be their playground, but the skies are their home.
Scylla is recorded, by ancient authors, as living somewhere along the craggy coastline of Sicily or Italy. Having never been to this part of the world, I had to use the ever so helpful Google to figure out where she might have made her home. It wasn't easy as, currently, most of that land is occupied by sprawling cities and suburbs. Thus, a lot of my descriptions are completely made up. However, regarding Circe's home, I did use the ancient authors' descriptions of her island - Homer specifically talks of a large house surrounded by a forest with a myriad of beasts wandering amok - and a handful of paintings - Waterhouse's Circe, Strudwick's Circe and Scylla, and Burne-Jones' The Wine of Circe - to lead my imagination. I will admit to downplaying Circe's wealth a bit and putting her in a more humble, weathered home than a marble-encrusted palace. That decision was fueled by a desire for my readers to feel pity for the sorceress, instead of indignation.
We've put together a lot of cool "bonus content" to accompany Timeless Lust in the Ancient World—there's much more where this came from! You can see all the links here (including links to a giveaway where you'll get a chance to win a copy of the book!)
We'll also be having a release party tomorrow evening. I'll be online with other authors chatting about the stories and the inspirations behind them. I'll be there from 5-8 pm ET Thursday, May 26, but I know other authors will be on later than me. (The party goes until 10 pm ET). Follow this link to check it out.
And if your interest is piqued and you'd like to pick up the book, you can find it here.