Well, It’s Too Late Now

In the months before the release of Prophecy: Death of an Empire, I found myself terrified. After four books, you wouldn’t expect to be particularly frightened about the process, but this novel is different from the first four, and is different to novel number six that is the next one to be released by Headline later in the year.

With Death of an Empire, I was on my own because there is no pre-existing legend to underpin. I was writing about a period in Merlin’s life where there were only vague references about him disappearing into the “wilde woods” for about ten years or so and then magically re-appearing to become the mentor and advisor of the young King Arthur.

I could not accept that our Merlin would leave the life of medicine, of political machinations, of warfare and of the life he had chosen for this amount of time. I didn’t believe this scenario at all, and when I found references in some ancient, esoteric sources to a healer man who undertook a journey similar to that taken by “My Merlin”, I decided to model my Merlin on this particular character.

Writing Death of an Empire was exciting, challenging and so much fun because I learned many new things. Choosing what elements of history that Merlin would see and experience was a thrill, especially as I could use these factors in the process of Merlin’s growth in character. I was also off to new places, new skies and new scents. I had already undertaken my own personal pilgrimage to Istanbul and Asia Minor and stayed in exotic parts of the world such as Athens, Rome, Ravenna Alexandria and other parts of Europe to research this novel and get a feel for these places. Everywhere I went, I found that the shadows of the past remain imprinted on the present. In Istanbul, I slept over a 4,000 year-old harbour that hadn’t changed in all that time. Homer would have seen that harbour and been as familiar with it as the old man on the bicycle, fishing line over his shoulder, going out to catch his breakfast. I sat in the window seat in a very old inn so close to the water that I could have dived into it. I felt the ghosts of the thousands of those people who had spent their nights in this room looking at the same scene. There was nothing scary about them, and they seemed to me to be “shades” of people who had lived good and productive lives.

Nothing existed in the accepted sources of the legend at all, so I was free to make of it what I wanted.

Now that the novel is out in Britain, I am getting cold feet and I wonder if I made the right choices, even though I know I took the only possible line, given the wonderful history of the period. The Battle of the Catalaunian Plains was majestic and blood-drenched, as is the murder of Flavius Aetius by Emperor Valentinian, the murder of Valentinian and the murder of the emperor, Flavius Maximus. All of these details are so marvellously dramatic – BUT THEY ARE TRUE HISTORICAL EVENTS. I couldn’t invent the impact of these historical occurrences. And I wouldn’t attempt to do so, even if I could, because no rational person would believe that all that drama takes place in such a short period of time, namely 451-454 AD.

I know that historians will probably hate what I’ve written because I like to put a human face on the characters from history. They were once alive and were people like you and I. Nor do I like to make them all good or all bad (With the exception of our beloved Targo). How can we judge these people? And so I enjoyed bringing Attila the Hun to life. I had paintings to go on, which helped, as I did with the Romans. Only in their case, various sculptures provided the resource. Those faces, heavy set with power or thin and avaricious, sparked my imagination more than anything else.

Which leads me to a handy hint for any aspiring historical writers.

If you are able to find sculptures or paintings/mosaics of your historical characters, search them out, for our natures really are imprinted on our faces.
As my good friend Pauline says, I have “+”*&% you, eyebrows”, and I hate to admit that that’s the way I often use them.

Anyway, I’ve done the best I can with this book. I am very proud of it, as is my partner, Michael, who played a huge part in the research, presentation and nuts & bolts parts of the project. He gets a smile on his face every time he thinks of this novel despite the fact that we have moved on and have written a few more novels since Death of an Empire.

Death of an Empire is all me, so I have now discovered that I can write a plot as riveting (hopefully) as my versions of the legend. Only you, the readers, will decide and that’s the way it should be. As Book Six has it its own “nasty” problems involved in its creation, the character of Merlin must advance. So I’d like you to decide if I’ve made him real for you.

I await your decision. As always, let me know what you like – and what you hate. I’ll do my best to answer you all.
All the best,