Thursday, February 7, 2013

Chasing an elusive past to make up the perfect story

Since deciding on the future of the Sultana series and realizing I wanted to write about the last family to rule Moorish Spain from beginning to end, I needed to bridge a huge gap between the events of the first to the last book. Sultana: Two Sisters came out of that necessity, as it picks up with the grandson of my protagonists in Sultana and Sultana's Legacy and focuses on the influence of his two wives in the history of Muslim Spain. While researching the historical figures, I came across the most perfect story line for the follow-up. Only someone who writes about the past can understand this serendipitous moment; the confluence of full-blown details from verified sources and an author's desire for a compelling plot. OMG! It's like getting the best birthday-anniversary-holiday present ever! Or, maybe that's just my take on it.

Without giving too much away about the events that unfold in Two Sisters, during the reign of Yusuf I of Granada, his younger brother Ismail allegedly had his eye on the throne. The extent of Yusuf's mercy meant Ismail and his small family, including young children, went to jail. At least they weren't beheaded. Trust me, the Nasrid family were not the most forgiving bunch. Years later, when Yusuf's son Muhammad gained the throne, he sealed the family breach by marrying his first cousin, Ismail's daughter. And they lived happily ever after! Right? Trust me, I wouldn't be excited about this new novel if they had. As if an arranged marriage between this pair wasn't enough, there were also enemies within Granada plotting to take Muhammad's crown and Spanish Catholics encroaching daily on an ever-shrinking Moorish kingdom.  

In outlining the new work, I'm considering several aspects of the history. Within a marriage of convenience, can two people who have no reason to trust each other learn to do so? How do the sins of their respective fathers influence the relationship that develops? Where would the loyalty of Muhammad's new wife lie, with an embittered father or a husband who looks at her with more suspicion than lust? This particular story has it all - intrigue, murder, a bloody coup, and I suppose some "harem sex" - hope that will keep my recent blog visitors who seem to like searching those keywords happy.

What doesn't the story have?

I've struggled with a name, for starters. After weeks of searching for historical fiction titles online, some variations appeal like, "Sultana: A Heart Divided", "Sultana: The Summer Queen" or "Sultana: The Bride Price" - ETA: my good friend Anita helped me decide on the latter. It shouldn't surprise you how much thought I give to the title of a book. For instance, Sultana's Legacy reflects the somewhat tarnished but noble heritage it's heroine Fatima and her family leave to the next generation of the Nasrids. Sultana: Two Sisters pertains to  the strong bond of friendship and a secret, shared heritage between two future rivals.

While I know some intimate details about the main character, her marriage to Muhammad and how his dynastic troubles put her life and their infant son at risk, etc., guess what I don't know? Her @#$%^&* name. I am an obsessive researcher when it comes to writing about the Moorish period and even if every fact does not make it into the finished novel, at least the names, dates and historical events are accurate. Imagine how annoying it must be not to have one source mention this woman's name. So, what do I do? In the grand tradition of writers of fiction everywhere, I'll just have to make it up.


Anita Davison said...

Lisa, I think 'Bride Price' is a good name, emotive of a time when such things were important. And with reference to your previous post, it took me by surprise that you have to work so hard as you strike me as a wonderful, natural storyteller.

Lisa Yarde said...

Thanks, Anita, you've never steered me wrong on a title before. I'm glad the writing doesn't seem forced, even though it feels like that when I struggling.

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