Finding an authentic voice

Occasionally readers ask me why I do so much research – the world I have created in Empire’s Daughter is fictional, after all!  But it’s a thinly-disguised fiction, an imagined country based on Britain after the departure of the Roman Empire in the 4th century A.D.  While there are many many departures from whatever the reality of that time was (and if you are interested, I recommend Robin Fleming’s book Britain after Rome), this created world must be real and coherent and true to itself in my mind, or I can’t write about it convincingly.  I can’t, for example, suddenly introduce the internal combustion engine, or llamas.

In an earlier post I explained that I am currently on a side track – the history of the Empire that the character Colm gives to Lena in Empire’s Daughter becomes a key theme in Empire’s Hostage, and I realized I didn’t know what that history says, entirely.  I’ve started work on that history (which I plan to be included as an appendix in Empire’s Hostage, providing it isn’t too long in the end) but I’ve been struggling to find an authentic voice.  How would Colm write?

Discussing it over breakfast with my husband, we bounced around a few ideas.  What sort of history is it?  Is it a collection of stories, like the Scandinavian sagas?  (No.)  Is it a collection of facts and names and dates, like the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle?  (Also no.)  Is it a history like Tacitus’s Agricola, and Germany?  Yes!  And there was my model – Agricola, written by the Roman historian Tacitus in AD 98, and Germany, apparently also written in the same year.  Both books

agricola

discuss not just military history, but social and political as well.  Exactly what I needed.

My copy of the books, which are almost always published in translation together, is the fairly recent one by A.R. Birley, and the language is accessible while maintaining a formality of style. I won’t be copying it exactly, of course, but it will give me the rhythms and cadence and structure to make Colm’s history sound right. So, off to start re-reading Agricola, paying attention this time not to the facts, but to the style!

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