10 April 2017

Guest Post ~ The Heart of Darkness (The Chaucy Shire Medieval Mysteries Book 1) by Odelia Floris

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Set against the open skies and wild beauty of southwest England in 1430, The Heart of Darkness is a medieval mystery about one young woman’s quest to shed light on the dark secrets of her shire’s sheriff and help him hunt down the villains responsible for a spate of local kidnappings—before they strike again.

Robin Hood Made Me Do it: The Story Behind my First Novel “The Heart of Darkness”

“So, what inspired you to write that book?” Perhaps some writers like being asked questions of that kind. Me, not so much. Quite a while ago, Tony Riches invited me to do a guest blog post on what inspired me to write my medieval romance/mystery The Heart of Darkness. I said yes, I’d love to do a guest post.

But I just couldn’t manage to write the post. I wasn’t entirely sure where the ideas came from, and they just didn’t seem glamourous enough anyway. A detailed dream where it all came to you in flash, or a process of obsessive historical research which took years – now that is a story you would tell anyone who asked. And anyone who didn’t. 

When Tony asked me to do a guest post again recently, I at first thought I would do something on the craft of writing – I blog on creative writing on my own blog, The Muse. Then I thought what the heck, I’ll do that “what inspired you to write The Heart of Darkness” post! It might not be the simplest or most impressive behind the book story ever told, but it is the story of how I became a novelist.

So here it is. It all began with the 2006 BBC TV drama series Robin Hood and the Arthurian legend Percival. Someone suggested I write an adaptation of the Percival stories of Chrétien de Troyes and Wolfram von Eschenbach, with the same plot and characters but in more accessible modern style. I had never written fiction before. But I decided to give it a go. The story came along well, and I found myself really enjoying writing.

Then…a few story ideas of my own started to form. And this is where Robin Hood comes in. Now, Robin Hood is by no means the greatest series in television history. But I loved the forest, the castle, the sword fights, the horses. And Richard Armitage’s Sir Guy of Gisborne – now that was a something brilliant. The darkly honeyed drawl. The smirk. The swagger. The black leather. Nothing ever went right for Guy of Gisborne. He just kept making blunders and of course, Robin Hood always outfoxed him. But although I enjoyed Robin Hood, I was frustrated by what the writers did with the characters. If, in series 1 and 2, Guy had been more shades of grey rather than an out-and-out villain, I would have enjoyed it so much more.

Now, back to Percival. Early on in the story, the boy Percival meets four knights in the forest who are pursuing a pair of evil knights who have kidnapped a lady. Young Percival, who has neither seen nor heard of knights before, is wonder-struck.  Thinking they must surely be God and his heavenly angels, the foolish boy falls to his knees before them. Whereon Prince Karnahkarnanz leh cuns ulterlec, the leader of the band, loses his temper at the sight of this peasant boy lying in his way. And Sir Richard Hastings, hero of The Heart of Darkness, was born.

Prince Karnahkarnanz, the short-fused knight “who had all the attributes of manly beauty and an air of great superiority about him”, appears only this one, brief time in Percival. Prince Karnahkarnanz was so much fun to write. His character took form there and then, his irate retorts practically writing themselves. I put the prince and Sir Guy together, made my hero sheriff of a small shire, and gave him a cunningly determined young woman – Rowena – to be both helper and thorn in the side.

When I started The Heart of Darkness, I thought it would be a standalone novel of perhaps 60,000 words. 121,000 words later…it was finished. And when I finally did write ‘the end’, I knew it was not the end of the story for Sir Richard and Rowena. In one of her last adventures before the end of the book, Rowena is helped by some mysterious dwellers of the wild forest. We never find out who they are, and this mystery became the basis for The Cockcrow Curse, book two in what is now going to be a series of at least four books. These final chapters have a more Arthurian feel than those which went before. 

There is adventure, jousting, and yes, the rescuing of at least one damsel in distress. Alfred Noye’s poem Sherwood (fittingly, about Robin Hood) was a particular inspiration for some of what happens in the latter chapters of The Heart of Darkness and for The Cockcrow Curse. Watch out for The Cockcrow Curse’s release later in the year. And after that? Sir Richard and Rowena will ride again in a third mystery adventure, this one inspired by one of my favourite poems, Alfred Lord Tennyson’s The Lady of Shalott.

   Odelia Floris
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   About the Author
Odelia Floris grew up in rural New Zealand on a diet of myths and fairy tales. From a young age she created imaginary characters and magical worlds. But rather than growing up and putting aside these flights of fancy as most do, she turned to art, painting and drawing as a teenager before taking to creative writing around the age of twenty-one. Her first novel, The Heart of Darkness, features a knight in rusty armour and a damsel determined to uncover his dark secrets. Then came Beguile Me Not, a historical Romance set in colonial New Zealand, The Little Demon Who Couldn’t, a historical urban fantasy for children, In Want of a Wife, a Regency romance novella, and Rusalka, an adaption of Dvorak’s fairy-tale opera.
She always has at least to novels in progress and new story ideas keeping popping up faster than she can write them down. Odelia Floris has a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Humanities, and qualifications in ecology, technical writing and journalism. She lives rurally on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island. Her other passions include music, reading, nature and horse riding. 

Find out more at Odelia's website https://www.odeliafloris.com/ and https://www.odeliafloris.com/blog and find her on Facebook and Twitter @OdeliaFloris.


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