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Guest Post by Rebecca Hazell: The Magic Lie

Todays, guest writer is Rebecca Hazell. She is an award winning artist, author and educator. She has written, illustrated and published four non-fiction children’s books, created best selling educational filmstrips, designed educational craft kits for children and even created award winning needlepoint canvases.

     She is a senior teacher in the Shambhala Buddhist lineage, and she holds an honours BA from the University of California at Santa Cruz in Russian and Chinese history.

     Rebecca lived for many years in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 1988 she and her family moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia, and in 2006 she and her husband moved to Vancouver Island. They live near their two adult children in the beautiful Cowichan Valley. She has recently published The Grip of God and Solomon's Bride.  In her guest post, she talks about her  final novel in the trilogy, Consolamentum, which has just been released. Thank you, Mrs. Hazell.


     The magic lie was a term one of my son’s elementary school teachers used to describe how a fiction writer writes: choosing details, building up a picture with a few strokes of the pen or keyboard. I fell in love with the term, as it describes the way it feels to bring to life a time long past. 

     In all three novels of my historical trilogy, this is what I sought to do with my heroine, Sofia, a princess of Kievan Rus’ who was captured and enslaved by Mongols (The Grip of God); then fled to Iran and virtual imprisonment among the Assassins, and who finally found her way to the Crusader state of Antioch, where she encountered love and loss (Solomon’s Bride). How to make such a long journey believable meant relying on accounts like Marco Polo’s: his father and uncle traveled from Venice to China twice! And in the last novel, she found adventure and danger in the Mediterranean cities, and more danger in France, where the Inquisition was founded (Consolamentum). 

     First, to recreate such a vast landscape, there are physical descriptions of place: what people wore, what their homes were like, their huts, buildings, or palaces; the weather and trees and roads; and even what they ate. When doing research, there’s often an extreme: too much information about some things and too little about others that I at least really wanted to know. How rare were soap or scissors in the thirteenth century? Were people really as opposed to baths as we have been taught to think they were? What kind of shoes would a noblewoman of Constantinople or Paris wear?

     An example of too little known: I spent three years trying to get a picture of what Constantinople was like during the Frankish occupation, and finally found a single line in one book. What I learned was everything, though: they destroyed one of the great cities of the medieval world, turning it into a virtual ghost town. From that I was able to build a magic lie based on what I knew about its earlier, happier days.

      Beyond the physical background I created, bringing a time to life without burdening the story meant choosing details that evoke much more than is said, and leaving the rest to the reader’s imagination. And when we don’t know what it was really like, there is a temptation to be creative—or to take a magic lie too far and invent things that couldn’t be possible, just for the sake of plot. Then the lie can stop being magic and misrepresent history, something I tried not to do. After all, while some historians can write beautifully, wouldn’t we rather find out about a time while also being entranced by a compelling story? 

     And within the story, there are more ‘magic lies’. Historians tell us about what people valued, and in the thirteenth century that was religion and how it could benefit them. It turned out to be the driving force for just about everything from war to love to trade. So I interwove that topic into what is essentially a romance. After all, if love isn’t what writing is about, whether as romance or as appreciation for the past, why bother with lies, magic or otherwise?

Check out my reviews of Rebecca Hazell's novels

The Grip of God (Book One of The Tiger and The Dove Trilogy)

Solomon's Bride (Book Two of The Tiger and The Dove Trilogy)

Consolamentum (Book Three of The Tiger and The Dove Trilogy)


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