Author: Phillip W. Simpson
Publication Date: September 29, 2015
Ovid made an expansive gesture with both hands. “Where else but the beginning of course.”
Minotaur nodded his huge head. “Yes,” he said. “Yes,” his eyes already glazing over with the weight of thousand year old memories. And then he began.
So begins the story of Asterion, later known as Minotaur, the supposed half bull creature of Greek legend. Recorded by the famous Roman poet, Ovid, Asterion tells of his boyhood in Crete under the cruel hand of his stepfather Minos, his adventures with his friend, Theseus, and his growing love for the beautiful Phaedra.And of course what really happened in the labyrinth.
This is the true story of the Minotaur.
Guest Post: Researching Your Story
Generally speaking, it doesn’t matter what genre you write in, there is always going to be an element of research. But for historical (or ancient historical) fiction, it applies doubly.
It helps that I originally trained in ancient history and archaeology. I have a Masters (Hons) in Archaeology and worked as a museum curator and archaeologist before becoming a teacher. I have a knowledge base of my subject matter and know where to look, what questions to ask and what answers I need. Essentially, that saves me time—I don’t have to start from scratch.
Which is why my last three YA novels have been based on ancient Greek myth. Many authors would agree with the following point: write what you know. I know about Greek mythology and I’m intrigued by it. It’s not essential but it certainly helps when you are researching or even writing a book that you are fascinated by your content matter. It makes the writing process more fun and less a chore.
When I’m reading about ancient history or myths or even about latest archaeological finds, I’m always thinking: ‘would that make a good story? Could I put a spin on that? Is that what really happened?’ It’s the last bit that particularly intrigues me. There is always an element of guesswork in archaeology. We can make informed guesses based on evidence but there will always be some doubt. Why? Because we weren’t there and what evidence we have is thousands of years old. In mythology, there is often not even that which gives you a great deal of room to reinterpret.
So, I’ll find a mythological or ancient historical figure whose story interests me. I’ll dig a bit deeper and see what other fascinating tidbits I can unearth. Then, the real work begins. I’ll use what is ‘commonly accepted’ as the truth (based on evidence or oral history) as a guideline. I usually try to stick to the original story but fill in all the gaps and speculation using creative license. At the back of my mind, I’m always thinking about how this story could’ve been diluted and modified over time. Is there another interpretation? Were the supposed ‘eye witnesses’ reliable? If not, why? What was their motivation?
Point of view is important. Whose story do you want to tell? I think it’s far more interesting to tell the story from the point of view of an underdog or a minor/unusual character. That’s when the story really takes on a life of its own.
When I was studying twenty years ago, the research process was very different. Everything I learned was from books—either my own or from the University library. These days, I do most of my research on-line. I am also guilty of what is referred to in teaching circles as ‘last minute learning.’ In other words, if I’m trying to find out what types of fruit they would have sold in a Greek market place in Athens two thousand years ago, I can just look it up. I can find what I need in a matter of minutes as opposed to spending hours poring through books. Research is a lot easier than it used to be.
Saying that, I still love my books. Here’s a picture of some I use regularly!
About the Author
Phillip W. Simpson is the author of many novels, chapter books and other stories for children. His publishers include Macmillan, Penguin, Pearson, Cengage, Raintree and Oxford University Press.
He received both his undergraduate degree in Ancient History and Archaeology and his Masters (Hons) degree in Archaeology from the University of Auckland.
Before embarking on his writing career, he joined the army as an officer cadet, owned a comic shop and worked in recruitment in both the UK and Australia.
His first young adult novel, Rapture (Rapture Trilogy #1), was shortlisted for the Sir Julius Vogel Awards for best Youth novel in 2012.
He is represented by Vicki Marsdon at Wordlink literary agency.
When not writing, he works as a school teacher.
Phillip lives and writes in Auckland, New Zealand with his wife Rose, their son, Jack and their two border terriers, Whiskey and Raffles. He loves fishing, reading, movies, football (soccer) and single malt Whiskeys.
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