LAURA GILL: KNOSSOS TOOK ME TWO YEARS TO WRITE
Posted by Ognian Georgiev
Laura Gill is our next featured author. Her last book Knossos was published in May. As a specialist of Ancient Greece she told a unique story about the legendary Labyrinth. Here is an interview with the author, who will tell us more about her book.
– What is your book Knossos about?
– Knossos is about the history of the actual Labyrinth in Crete, from its beginnings as a Neolithic settlement in 6300 B.C. to the end of the Bronze Age in 1200 B.C.
– Why did you decide to write the story?
– I’d always wanted to write a book set at Knossos, in the real-life Labyrinth, but which Labyrinth? There’s more than one. I knew I didn’t want to do Theseus and the Minotaur, because it’s been done and redone by other authors, but the more I researched the period and the site, the more fascinating Knossos itself became. It has a long history of occupation, with many different layers. There were at least three or four distinct Labyrinths, which were built and destroyed by fire or natural disasters such as earthquakes, and rebuilt again. So I thought, why not make that my story?
– What was the biggest challenge during the writing process?
– Well, writing a novel that’s a series of ten novellas is exhausting, because each time you have stop and create a new plot, new characters, and do fresh research on things such as changing styles in pottery, dress, architecture, etc. And there were times that I had to stop mid-narrative and research something that I hadn’t planned on, like a recipe for waterproofing gypsum.
– Tell us something more about your main character? Is it based on someone from your real life?
– Knossos doesn’t have a main character. But each of the novellas has a protagonist who represents a different aspect of Minoan society: a priest/priestess, a scribe, an architect, a Neolithic sea captain, a merchant, a Mycenaean conqueror, and so on. As for basing my characters on real-life people, well, I don’t intentionally base them on individuals I’ve known. You can’t expect ancient Minoans to think or act like modern people. But basic human nature hasn’t changed in 4,000 years. People will always be susceptible to feelings of jealousy, for example, or that primal need to protect one’s family. It’s just the apparatus that’s different.
– How much time did you need to finish the story and to publish it?
– It took me two years to write the novel, but certainly not that long to publish it. I’m self-published, but don’t shake your head and think I uploaded Knossos to Kindle the moment I wrote the last word. I’ve got the most wonderful alpha reader/editor, and together we went through that manuscript with a fine-toothed comb nitpicking at the various stories, refining, correcting errors. That took about two-and-a-half months. Then I needed time to work on the cover and interior artwork.
– The Orestes Trilogy is your biggest work until now. Tell us more about the books and what is the difference between writing a single book and series?
– The Orestes series is about Orestes, son of Agamemnon, and his journey through a difficult boyhood during the time of the Trojan War, his crime of matricide and persecution, through to his becoming High King of Mycenae, Argos, and Sparta around age 26. While writing Helen’s Daughter, which overlaps a bit with this series, Orestes, who doesn’t get many scenes in that book, kept nagging at me to write his story. The series allowed me to explore aspects of Mycenaean life that aren’t as accessible from the point-of-view of a female narrator, such as the intricacies of warfare, hunting, etc. And of course, I got to return to Mycenae, which is a setting made for drama. It’s fascinating stuff, how dysfunctional the House of Atreus is. You’ve got intergenerational murder and madness, incest, betrayal, and even a little cannibalism.
– Your most popular book is Helen’s Daughter. What is that novel about?
– Helen’s Daughter is about Hermione, daughter of Helen of Sparta and Menelaus, in the years after the Trojan War.
– Tell us about yourself?
– There’s not much to say, really. I’m currently looking for work in the medical billing field, but have worked as a secondary school English teacher and florist. I have two cats and too many hobbies. In addition to writing, I do dollhouse miniatures, I enjoy painting and sewing.
– What are your writing habits?
– Don’t expect me to tell you how disciplined I am, that I write 5,000 words a day and work four hours in the morning/evening every day, 365 days a year, because I don’t. There are days when I don’t write at all. There are days when I write 200 words, and then there are days when I manage 1,300. I don’t outline, but I know what the beginning, middle, and end of the story is before I start, and I usually let story ideas ferment in my head for weeks or months prior to writing anything.
– How did you end up having such a passion for Ancient Greece?
– When I was about eight or nine, someone gave me a box of secondhand books. There was this big, dusty book of children’s literature from all over the world that I loved. In addition to the fairy tales, there were essays, short stories, and a whole section of Greek myths and legends. I think that’s where the love affair with Greek mythology started. Later, I discovered the Minoans through a series of old National Geographic magazines and a college textbook. Those sophisticated frescoes of swimming dolphins, priestesses, and bull leaping fascinated me.
– Do you ever been in the places that you are writing about?
– I only wish, but no, I’ve never been abroad. Mycenae and Knossos are definitely on my bucket list, though. In the meantime, my bookshelves are packed with reference books, maps, DVDs, and all sorts of reference materials.
– Who is your favorite Greek mythological hero?
– I like Odysseus because he uses his brain more than his brawn. He’s someone you can root for, even though he does some things that I find objectionable. But that’s true of all the Greek heroes. Morally, they don’t fit the modern, self-effacing Judeo-Christian idea of a hero, so it’s very difficult to get a good Hollywood movie out of the Greek heroes.
– What part of the Greek myths are real in your opinion?
– Well, there’s a difference between myth and legend. The Greek myths are those stories like the tale of Demeter and Persephone, which explain the seasons. The legends are the stories of the heroes, and of events like the Trojan War. I get them confused in conversation, too. But to answer your question, from the archaeological evidence we have it seems like there’s some core truth behind many of the legends. The Hittites recorded skirmishes between Mycenaean Greeks and Anatolians on the coast of Asia Minor; a Mycenaean graveyard and defenses have been found on the plain below Troy. There are seal stones bearing images of minotaurs and sphinxes from Crete and mainland Greece, so belief in those creatures goes back at least to the end of the Aegean Bronze Age, i.e. 1200 B.C. From the Linear B archives discovered at places like Pylos, Knossos, Thebes, and Mycenae, we know that people of the late thirteenth century B.C. had names that we associate with Greek heroes: there was a captain at Pylos named Orestes, another man called Hektor, and a perfumer named Thyestes.
Look at Laura Gill’s books