Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Remember When . . . They Wintered in Susa?

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So last week I had one of those sudden ideas that not only pops into my head with surprising clarity, it develops super fast. I spent last week getting some basic research out of the way, taking notes, and writing the opening so that the characters solidified in my mind. What, you wonder, was this one, when I was supposed to be working on my '20s Egypt story?? Well, I'll tell you--now that I'm back in Egypt and so no longer feeling guilty about my detour into Ancient Persia.

Pick up on that hint? That's right, Ancient Persia. My idea is for another Biblical fiction, and with that hint it's pretty easy to guess that it's Esther. Only this is me--I prefer heroines who are totally fictional, so Esther is only a secondary character. The main focus will be Esther's best friend, another wife to the king, whom I have named Kasia.

In my research, I learned some interesting facts. For instance, did you know that Susa (a.k.a. Shushan, which is what it's called in the book of Esther) is halfway between the mountains and coast of Iran, where it receives both monsoon rains and dry desert air, depending on the season? Their winters are temperate and warm, but their summers get to a scorching 140 degrees Fahrenheit. There are accounts of the year-round inhabitants roasting barley seeds on the ground instead of in the oven. Can somebody say, "Sizzle!"?

This would be why the king's house wintered there. Their summer home was Persepolis, where the summers weren't so daunting. I found it surprisingly difficult to find information about the ancient cities online, though--I'll be scouring the library when I get down to business on this one. I did, however, find a great site with the British Museum that paints a good picture.

But anyway. It's going to be interesting to combine the events from Esther with history as recorded by Herodotus and the like. They mesh well, but there are always holes--holes that Roseanna gets to fill in with Kasia. =) Betcha didn't know that she was the reason the king was sleepless that night that he remembered what Mordecai had done for him, did you?

So with four pages of notes, half a dozen new sites bookmarked, and fifty pages of novel under my belt, I'm quite happy to let these new characters winter in Susa while I get down to business in Egypt. But I expect that by the time summer comes, they'll be leaving their vacation home and paying me a visit. I'm definitely looking forward to it!

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