It’s staringly obvious to anyone who takes more than about three minutes to read the facts of her life that the woman whom we know best as the Maid of Orléans was neither a peasant girl nor a visionary…
The myth is of a mystic peasant girl, visited by angels and saints, who acted as a standard bearer and morale-booster for the French army to such good effect that they began to win. Here are 5 reasons why this isn’t reasonable, fair or borne out by the truth.
Joan of Arc, Jeanne d’Arc, the Maid of Orléans… the memory of this one young woman is strewn with more labels, projections, myths and downright lies than anyone should have to endure… (painting by Eugene Thirion).
Sometimes a character jumps out of nowhere: he or she wasn’t in the outline and didn’t have a key part in the plot – but they arrive and are so alive, so compelling that they take over every scene and muscle their way up to the top of the character tree…
It’s that time of year, what my friend John Barratt calls, ‘Mithrastide’: the time of consumerism and consumptionism where affluenza strikes the entire western world promulgated in the name of a child who was never born, in a place that didn’t exist, who grew to be a non-man who preached poverty and compassion and whose followers have spent the past two thousand years feeding instead the god behind the facade with a steady diet of blood, sweat and tears…
On the 11th of June 2015, it’ll be fifteen years since Dreaming the Eagle was first published. There were no electronic versions then, no Facebook, no Twitter. Email was on dial up, and we waited until midnight to dial in because the lines were engaged through the day.
Writing is the best fun in the world. It’s an amazing honour and a privilege to be able to sit in my own home making stuff up and have people pay me for it. I do know this, and on the days when the ‘making stuff up’ feels like digging to China with raw fingernails, I remind myself.
Here’s the thing about writing a book. It’s a deeply personal experience. You sit in your office (or café, or car, or wherever you can best shut out the outside world) and commune with a cast of people who live entirely in your head. They are all, in fact, a part of you, small split parts of shadow or light, or mixtures of both, capable of greatness and horror, love and grief, murder, mayhem and acts of astonishing compassion.
Today I’m at the start of the latest project, working title: Accidental Gods. This is rather like planning a climb up an unseen ascent. I sat on a train yesterday, with time lines running through my head, snatches of dialogue, broad-brush outlines of people, what they care about, what they think, what they want, what they need (these two often, but not always, being different), whom they love.
As many of you know, I’ve been planning a novel on ‘the real Jeanne d’Arc’ for many years and have finally reached the point in the publishing cycle where I could write it. The last (for now) Pantera novel has just come out in paperback and it’s time to move away from ancient Rome. The shift to fifteenth century France is probably a one-of, but it was an exhilarating ride.