Within a couple of weeks of arriving in Canada, once the almost permanent headache that came from concentrating so hard on the funny accents had gone away, I came to a startling conclusion.
Now that I was in North America, I was free to read and write the wildly different types of romances that you could get here.
I think if I had been able to figure out how to write five different books at once, I would’ve written just about every genre I could think of. It was like being a kid in a candy store.
One of my favourite authors of all time, well up there in the top 10 list, is Mary Stewart. She was an English author who wrote the absolutely fabulous historical series that is informally called the Merlin series. It’s a set of four books set in the time of King Arthur—that is, somewhere around the end of the sixth century. No one’s entirely sure when King Arthur existed, or even if he really did exist. But as close as the historians can figure it, King Arthur lived and died somewhere towards the end of the sixth century, and there’s a very good chance that he wasn’t a king, either. At least, not a king the way we think of them.
There are a lot of fantasy stories that feature King Arthur and that pay very little heed to the actual historical facts that exist (which is to say, not many facts at all). They also make a lot of fuss about magic, the supernatural, wizards and dragons and much much more. I was familiar with these fairy stories, including the Disney movie of King Arthur, which was loosely based on TH White’s The Once And Future King.
As it happens I absolutely adore the book The Once And Future King, and the grown-up musical based on the book, Camelot. I actually saw Richard Harris playing King Arthur live when Camelot toured Australia.
It would be fair to say that the Arthur Legend and the actual history of King Arthur have formed a lot of the background behind many of my books, especially the historicals, and the fantasies. I find the idea of a small group of people fighting a rearguard action to preserve themselves and their way of life, and failing at it despite their best efforts, to be one of the most intriguing and character-revealing situations. I’ve learned to put my own characters through almost as severe a testing, so that their true natures can be displayed, too.
I discovered Mary Stewart’s Merlin series when I was in high school. I think I might’ve started to read the first book of the series, The Crystal Cave, three or four times and kept giving up because it seems like a boring historical about some kid…and a boy, at that. Then I tumbled to the fact that the book was about King Arthur. The book starts off reading just like a normal historical novel, which features a young boy with a fairly miserable life. Once I realize that this young boy was the future Merlin, I was hooked.
Since then, I have always preferred King Arthur stories that lean more towards the historically accurate versions. Roman Britain at that time was more than fascinating, and didn’t need enhancement with magic and genies and witches and so on.
I sold off my four book series in Australia as part of my efforts to raise the money to move to Canada. It was hard to let them go.
So when I got to Canada, and realized very quickly that I could write romances just like all the wonderful romances I could now buy, I very quickly jumped at the opportunity. My problem was, I couldn’t figure out which era to write in.
Medieval romances were everywhere. This was a time when historical romances were extremely popular. About three years later, the historical romance market would be “dead” according to publishers. But right then every second romance novel out there was a historical.
So I sat down and listed all the eras that I was familiar with and that I would like to write a novel in. It ended up that there were six that were more or less evenly spread across British history. And that’s where I got the idea. What if I wrote a whole series of historical novels, each of them set in a different period, and all of them linked in some way?
The actual first book of the series was set well before the Romans invaded Britain. It was when the Celtic tribes were roaming northern England and the country was barely aware that it was more than a collection of tribes. So far, I have yet to write the book.
The third book in the series was the one that called out to me. Because that one was set at the end of the Roman Britain, when Arthur was supposed to have existed.
Because Romans were still a major influence on Britain at that time, even though the legions had left, it seemed like good sense to make one of the characters in a Roman by descent. The other one, of course, would have to be Celtic, and to be an ally of King Arthur.
And that’s how the romance was formed. Alaric was a lieutenant and cousin to Arthur, the man who was gathering troops to fight against the Saxon hordes pouring into Britain at that time. Diana was the daughter of a northern Roman family, and the only survivor of a Saxon invasion.
King Arthur himself became simply Arthur, a leader of soldiers who were trying to hold Britain together. Most of Britain resented him, because they were of Roman descent or believed that the Romans would come back to save them.
Arthur also stayed far, far away in the background of the story. Otherwise, I would’ve been re-creating Arthur’s story. But I wanted to write a romance set in the same time as King Arthur, not an epic about Athur himself.
And so Diana By The Moon was written in the first few weeks I arrived in Canada, using the oddest historical resources, as I was not yet a resident of Canada, and didn’t even own a library card. I would go into the library and do as much research as I could squeeze into an hour in the evenings. Then I would have to come home with my scribbled notes and work on the story.
I still feel that Diana By The Moon is one of my best books from a technique point of view, and from a story point of view as well. I always get great reviews.
As for the title, I suppose I should explain. The main character, Diana, is the daughter of Romans, but grows to resent the role that Roman culture is forcing her into. After she meets Alaric, her understanding of the world widens considerably, and when she meets moon priestesses, they suggest that there are alternatives for her life that she hasn’t considered until now. So, “Diana by the moon”is Diana’s choice for her life. She could be Diana by Roman standards, or Diana by the standards the moon priestesses hold.
What does Diana’s choice entail? Well, you’ll have to read the book to find out!
Diana By The Moon is one of six books packaged in a special discount bundle at the end of this month. Keep reading the blog here, to find out more about this deal towards the end of the month.
January 2018 update: