Remember this movie?
Apart from it being just plain fun, and because, you know, Heath Ledger, at first I was a little put off by the modern rock sound track. But by the time Our Man on the Tourney Circuit is galloping down on his hapless opponent to the sound of Queen foot-stomping it from the bleachers?
That’s when I had my epiphany.
Tourney knights were the rock stars of their day. They had roadies, who ferried and cared for their gear. They had stage hands, who helped them suit up before each joust. They had groupies, whose favors they tied to their helmets (and I’m sure enjoyed other favors later, especially if they won). The names of the more popular knights were enough to fill the stands at a tournament, which in turn helped line the pockets of the touts, the food vendors, and the souvenir sellers (“I got your Sir Ulrich action figures right here!”).
Recently someone asked me how writing an historical novel was different than writing a novel set in the present day. How could I know what life was like then?
I can’t, of course. I can do a lot of research and make some educated guesses, but sooner or later it’s me and my imagination up against it all alone.
And then someone else asked me to give them an elevator pitch for Silk and Song.
“Route 66 in the Middle Ages,” I said instantly.
Johanna and Company are on camels instead of in a Chevvy Corvette, true.
Otherwise? Except for the tech, I don’t think that much has changed between then (any then) and now. We eat better, we bathe more often, we are less priest-ridden, but we still love and hate, laugh and cry, work and play. We still allow ourselves to be extorted of enormous sums to dress in fashion. We still go to war, we’ve just replaced the catapults with shoulder-fired anti-tank weapons and rocks with RPGs.
So whenever I wrote a line of dialogue that made me worry I was perpetrating an anachronism, I remembered A Knight’s Tale, and relaxed. Successful novels are first and foremost about character, and Silk and Song has plenty of those.