11 February 2007

Does history fuel your imagination?

Last week, I heard my husband emit an unearthly scream from the living room.


It meant one of two things: A) He saw something fascinating on television and wanted me to see it. B) The new dog had an accident on the rug again and he was screaming as if I had total and complete control over the dog's output.

Fortunately, it was the former. DH was watching a show about the mystery surrounding King Tutankhamun's death. Ever since we visited the King Tut exhibit in Fort Lauderdale, DH has been hooked. I sat down to watch with him, engrossed more in the fact that DH had been tutified than the program itself. With each fact revealed, he turned to me in amazed excitement. "Egyptians used honey to stop infection?" he asked.

"Yes, dear." (I used that fact in The Tiger & the Tomb when Katherine heals Ramses' shoulder wound.)

"And they used moldy bread on wounds as well!"

"Yes dear," I replied. "Did you also know that in ancient Egypt, women would stick crocodile excrement in their um-hum as birth control?"

At that little revelation, DH turned green as the moldy bread.

Does history fuel the fire of your imagination? Do you ever wonder, "How did they live?" "What if this really happened?" "How could I use this in a book?"

I grew up reading historical romances. Those romances taught me more about history than I ever learned in the classroom. Now I write books woven with Egyptian history. Part of the fun is exploring possibilities. When I wrote The Panther & the Pyramid, I researched Khufu's pyramid and ancient Egyptian myths. I used author license to speculate that the pharaoh, after hearing the tale of a powerful magician, could have buried a golden crocodile treasure deep in Egypt's Western desert. Myth? Of course. But the cave Graham and Jillian discover is no myth. I used an actual cave off an old camel path as the setting for my buried treasure. The Djara Cave, discovered by German explorer Gerhard Rohlfs in 1873, still exists today.

History also gives me ideas to bring a time period to life. In my March Leisure release, The Sword & the Sheath, Tarik fights to have Fatima removed as his bodyguard. He'd rather have her in his bed. The book is set 1919, a period of drastic change for Egypt when the populace fought to overthrow British rule. Just as everyday Egyptians rebelled against the British, Fatima rebels against Tarik's arrogant attitude that women cannot be warriors. I used the actual women's march against the British occupation as a backdrop in the book. Organized by Hoda Sha'rawi, the historic march of upper class Egyptian women set the stage for Sha'rawi to pioneer the Egyptian feminist movement. Just as Sha'rawi courageously challenges British authority, Fatima does the same within her own tribe.

Who else likes history woven into their stories? Would you rather read a book with real historical figures in it or one that reflects the time period?