Sunday, June 08, 2008

Influences and me

One of the things that has been going through my brain recently is that people want to know where ideas come from. Why did an author write a particular story? This is one of the reasons why people comb through archives.
And because nothing is new in the world, except the way things are combined, what things influenced the writer. Is it possible to follow logic backwards and read the influences? As I have been reading lots of Icelandic sagas and have seen how close some of it is to Tolkien and Wagner, I can understand the appeal.
I have touched on this before. If you go back to July 2007, you can see my influences for The Roman's Virgin Mistress for example. To briefly recap: they range from the Anna Nicole Smith trial to Faro's Daughter by Georgette Heyer (a firm favourite of both mine and my then editor btw -- read it, if you haven't) to a scene from the movie Howl's Moving Castle to Catullus to Ovid to Julius Cesar's experiences in Baiae etc. I should have perhaps included movies from the 1930s/1940s and 1950s. I have great fondness for Western movies with gambling scenes for example.
I did a blog on Sold & Seduced but can't find it. The one major seed was Kate Walker's Antonakos Marriage (or rather hearing Kate talk about it and mishearing certain aspects) and Beauty and the Beast, plus Roman marriage plus piracy in the Roman world. Actually all of my Roman books deal with various aspects of piracy in the Roman world.
Anyway, I think the best way to approach this is to be totally open and to do an individual post for each book etc. If I then put a link on my website. This may prove how magpie my mind is. Anyway, it should prove a benefit to any researcher who ever makes the mistake of studying me.
My blog and website are now being archived by the British Library, hence my obsession with at least trying to get where I think my influences came from, rather than having someone guess.


E.D. Walker said...
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E.D. Walker said...

Can I ask why you didn't acknowledge Georgette Heyer in the book itself- like the acknowledgements or something- since the plot was so very similar to Heyer's Faro's Daughter?

Michelle Styles said...

One major reason was that I was asked when I wrote the author's note for Sold and Seduced to keep the focus on Rome. I had to rewrite that note, deleting any reference to my light bulb moment from Kate Walker. I am quite to happy acknowledge influences and did so on my blog when the book was published (July 07). I did the same with Sold & Seduced (April 07).
And while I readily acknowledge my debt to Heyer, I would strenously argue that the plots of TRVM and Faro's Daughter whilst having a few simlarities (chiefly the ancient Roman play device of asking an older man to separate a younger one from his deemed unsuitable lover by way of money/financial enducement only to have the older one fall in love with the woman who turns out to be suitable after all -- normally solved by deus ex machina) also have many differences. For example the motivations and backstory of the main characters are very different. Fortis is a widower whose wife was one of the society hostesses of Baiae and whose true perfidity he had discovered after her death. At the start of the story, he believes all women in Baiae are motivated by money. he has stayed away from Baiae and made his fortune elsewhere as well as gaining a reputation as being one of the most staid members of the senate. He has returned there chiefly to find the pirates who have among other things caused the death of a friend (this is a linkage point to A Noble Captive MBH Jan 07 as the friend was the husband of Tullio's ex-wife) He is also responding to his aunt's plea about her beloved son. Heyer's hero I believe was never married and is a cynical playboy. He has gone to London because of his step sister's season.
Silvana has been involved in many scandals, particularly when she was married to Cato the Elder. These are alluded to in the book but not detailed. Suffice it to say that she behaved pretty badly in the dining room! She also has the problem that if her adopted stepson discovers that she is a virgin, she loses her inheritance and because she can not trust any lover not to talk, she needs to stay a virgin. She can not marry for the similar reasons. Among other things she feels honour bound by her promise to her late husband to keep the land from his adopted son. Plus she does not want to give up her independence, having experienced such trauma in her first marriage. Equally she has decided that as her virginity is the one thing that makes her better than the other society hostesses. Her sole reason for not wanting a scandal at the beginning of the novel is that her beloved brother has asked her not to as he is trying to get a job with the moral majority faction of the Roman senate when he leaves school. Her brother's request is partly down to the machinations of the stepson. Silvana has tried all her life to shield her brother from the more sordid aspects of her life. Heyer's heroine has never been touched by scandal other than working in a gaming house and is a virgin because it is what Regency society expects.
The villian in TRVM feels aggrieved and wants Silvana's inheritance from his adopted father as he feels that she is a whore and unworthy and should not have inherited anything. He is using all means possible to pressure her -- from making sure shipments etc that her wheeler dealer uncle fail to encouraging her beloved brother whom to behave in a reckless fashion after failing in the courts. His motivation is also humiliation of Silvana and her family in society. Just before the start, he had planned to rape her on his boat if she would not agree to give him the main part of her inheritance, namely an estate on Capri which he needs to appease the pirates, and she escapes in the water, tiggering the meeting the meeting with the hero. I believe the villian in FD simply wants to make the heroine his mistress.
I am sorry but I do not know the motivations of Heyer's characters as well as my own. And I had to understand all my characters' motivations or I would not have been able to write the book.
Anyway, I am always happy to talk about the influences on my work and I find the whole concept of palimpsest and echoes within books a fascinating one.