Posted by Literary Titan
Return to Babylon begins with Orfeo and Clarice returning from the New World and their battle with the Spartans to settle into a somewhat peaceful life. How did you decide where to start the fifth book in the Orfeo saga?
I think it is a central theme of my books that you never know who emerges as an enemy, and you cannot pick a good time to confront a problem. Book 5 starts out by Cyrus being bored, and he assumes he will make a business trip to Babylon and see old friends. The trip does not go as planned, and he ends up being held as a slave and carted off.
I realized that I had taken the series to the New World but I had not been further east. When I was a rug dealer I remember my time in Afghanistan, before the revolution. I really enjoyed every trip to Afghanistan I took. The people were friendly, the food was great, there were all kinds of wonderful cultural things there. When writing I did my best to forget what was going on in that country now, and tried to capture what it must have been like in the Bronze Age.
My favorite character was Cyrus, a young and eager apprentice who begins to learn the ins and outs of spy craft. Did you have a favorite character you liked to write for?
For book 5 Cyrus emerged as the main character. The name gives it away. I modeled him after Cyrus the Great (600-530 BC). Of course Cyrus was a character from a later age, but I know that history regards him as a pragmatic ruler and a peacemaker. That is just the kind of ruler the region needs today. My character, being younger, is not so constrained as Orfeo and Clarice. Cyrus is not a Wanderer, and he leaves less of a footprint than the other characters (after all he is a good spy). I liked this about Cyrus, in a way he is something like Zurga would have been as a young man. In another way Cyrus would find his place at the end of the book, and he would have no need to wander even if he wanted to.
Return to Babylon is an action-packed story that explores the dynamics between different kingdoms. How did you set out creating the dynamic between the kingdoms? Did you outline it or was it organic?
I had to outline book 5 more than the other books. The difference is that for ancient Greece and Mesopotamia relatively more is known about their history. The area of Afghanistan is less known, and in a way this made the plot more difficult. I did not have names dates and events to hang my story on. I had to rely on the histories of the later empires that existed in Afghanistan. The rugged country made it hard to control. There were many petty kings, and bandits could be a problem.
Where does book six in the series, The Slave Boy, take readers?
I have a story arc planned around Orfeo and Clarice. I will use Cyrus in later books, but in some ways this book was a one off. I am really interested in the transfer of power. It is not so much that the older generation trains the next generation. It is more that the older generation is there after the adventure is over to help point out what lessons were learned.
After the conquest of Babylon the victors installed the daughter of the former king as ruler of that city state. Zinaida is now beginning to feel stirrings of divinity, and seeks vengeance upon the coalition who put her on the throne. One by one surrounding kings are removed. This time there will be no grand coalition to challenge the might of Babylon. The battle will be in the shadows. Zinaida has sent spies to locate Zurga, and she is greatly concerned that he cannot be found. After an attempt on his life, Orfeo and Clarice decide to go directly to Mesopotamia in an attempt to prevent harm coming to their adopted city of Pylos.
The wild card in the equation is a small city not one hundredth the size of Babylon which is located in the lower Tigris. Can the ruler of Araka be persuaded to take on the might of Babylon? Daryush, now ruler of a small kingdom, also decides to meet the threat in an unconventional way. He trains a young apprentice named Cyrus in spycraft. Can smoke and mirrors overcome raw power?”
Posted in Interviews
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Posted by Literary Titan
The Wanderer’s Last Journey opens to Orfeo being kidnapped by mysterious strangers and heroes from all over the Aegean join forces in the quest to find the lost prince. What excited you the most to write this 4th book in the Orfeo saga?
This book was the one that involved a trip to the New World. There have been many theories about Mediterranean contact with the New world, and I knew that in some ways the plot would be “far out.” Interestingly, there have been traces of cocaine found in ancient Egyptian mummies, so I had a plausible reason for travel. I did not want to fall into the well worn idea that any contact with the New World would be from a more advanced “European” culture. I think I portrayed the contact as one involving matched but very different cultures. In fact, Orfeo was taken in order to be a symbol that could be manipulated by extremely savvy leaders.
The Wanderer’s Last Journey has all the makings of a classic fantasy epic, as the rich and evocative world is as intriguing as it is intricate. Did you set out to create such a detailed world or did it happen organically?
I would like to say that I planned it all. In reality the Orfeo Saga happened book by book for the first few, and then I had an idea of a wider sweep later on. This novel marks the beginning of a larger plan. At the end of the day it is all about writing about interesting periods in history. What could be more interesting than a very early journey to the New World? What if that culture could be just as treacherous and manipulative as any in the Mediterranean? Of course I had fun with this part of the book. The second part of the book, dealing with Sparta, also has a bit of humor. However, I explored how dangerous a defeated people can be. Sparta will of course emerge during the Classical period as a very serious threat to Athens. More to the point Sparta will also emerge as a threat in my (fictional) Bronze Age Orfeo Saga. I have many more books planned.
The Iliad seems to be a source of inspiration for this book and your love of this period clearly shows. What is it about Greek/Roman mythology that you find interesting?
I read a huge amount of Greek and Roman mythology when I was younger. I had to take Latin in school and I always found myself wanting to read at a much higher level than my Latin ability would allow. I finally decided on a career in psychiatry. At the time Greek and Roman myths were mined for their insights into human nature. They express rather unvarnished characters (good and bad, sometimes in the same character). I was really interested in motivations, and of course the biggest motivation of all. There is phrase “collective unconscious” that coneys something like “cultural memory.” I am not sure that anything like that exists as an entity, but as a concept there is something to that. People collectively wanted to move their culture and civilization on to other things. I am not so silly as to think that everything in society just keeps on getting better, but there is something in that argument!
Where does the story go in book 5 of the Orfeo saga?
There is unfinished business in Babylon. Zinaida has been put on the throne in Orfeo 2, and now she feels like she should exert the power of Babylon to conquer her neighbors. Orfeo 2 dealt with Babylon using military force. This novel introduces a new character called Cyrus. He is extremely resourceful and takes up the identity of a merchant. He is a character that I will use in some future novels. I like the fact that he is not just simply a warrior or even a Wanderer. He becomes something entirely different.
“A Powerless Prisoner: A Captive God
No one is sure when the New World deity Quetzalcoatl was first worshipped. The god-man can be portrayed as a feathered serpent – and also associated with a bright green bird of the same name – but he was worshipped in a variety of ways by various cultures. Some versions of the myth state that he was a man with light hair, beard, blue eyes, and light skin. After helping humankind, he was said to have returned to his home, promising to return. It is not surprising that he has been identified as a Viking by some historians (and as an extraterrestrial by more adventuresome scholars). The Aztec Emperor Moctezuma II is reputed to have initially believed that when Hernán Cortés appeared in 1519 Quetzalcoatl had returned.
Here Orfeo has been kidnapped by a New World tribe. They plan keep him as a prisoner while presenting him to a subjugated populace as a god. He has no desire to live his life in a gilded cage. His wife, Clarice, his aging mentor, Zurga, and the jack of all trades, Daryush, must cross the ocean to save their friend. They soon find they are involved in a civil war between the Nastases and Ixtlans. It will take all their cunning to rescue Orfeo and get back alive. Back at home a war is brewing between Sparta and Pylos. This time Zurga is not there to keep the peace.”
Posted in Interviews
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