EXCERPT: Author's Note

† Author’s Note

The wonder of history is that no time ever knows itself to be the past. To write of it in the first-person demands anachronism in expression, understanding—even plot, character, and actual setting. The denizens of The Past owned and encountered visage, breath, and bodily odor indicative of status, health, age, and the simple matter of what comprised a breakfast. In streets lined with commonplace orts, sewage and refuse, “stink” owned a relativity we today will never understand. In heads possessed of varying fitness (and presence) of features, levels of hygienic application, and with education as likely gleaned from rhyme, reason, and oral lesson as from parents, priests, or pedagogues, most of what passes for plain expectation to a modern writer would have been an alien exercise. Mental narration would have been unheard of: life was not a movie playing inside one’s mind. Yet in our own corner of that-which-will-go-before all that is yet-to-come, historical novels continue frequently to come in the form of artistic memoir, storytelling letters, and varying brands of first-person narration which would have been unachievable by the purported character.

So why write Clovis in the first-person ... It wasn’t a choice. It was born of a first sentence which was not, in the end, destined to remain. It’s the ultimate expression that this is a work of historical fiction.

As much as I have tried to produce this work with a mind to quelling the metaphorical ‘guitarist at the back of the bar’ who will smirk and snort, “I can do better,” while pointing out historical errors: there are liberties consciously taken here. Not, as so many writers may do, from any sense of poetry; nor even from the paucity of material. When I came to this story, I expected it to be just that—a story; written by me, created and guided by my hands, tent-poled upon what facts were to be had … but with little material beyond my imagination. I learned speedily enough how much there really is, even in the form of research not bearing on Clovis directly. The wealth of resources I found on Late Antiquity, on historical figures, on archaeology, seemed to keep on coming—and did for nearly three years. And so, as I went along, the tent became a building, and as the building went up, it grew beyond my hopes, and far beyond any creativity I might have brought to the project.

All this is to say … if I’ve spread falsehoods with these pages, it is most likely by choice. If you perceive inaccuracy, it may come from conscious preference rather than from ignorant blundering. There are timelines I have chosen to use, which a few readers will understand to be outside common wisdom regarding Clovis and his times. Others will recognize these revisions themselves. There are elements included from non-traditional archaeological or historical theory, and there is much born of well-trodden, and likely flatly untrue, legend. Much as I have learned in reading my resources, this is no dissertation. Historical fiction depends as much upon its fiction as it does its history.

Many writers and readers wonder why historical fiction so often focuses on the wealthy or the famous; I’ve realized—hardly uniquely—that a major part of it is tied to the facts of research. The simple truth is that, when swinging from one work of history to another, whether from interest or in a search for inspiration, a multitude of stories crop up, and these necessarily concern actual historical figures. And the actual figures who were actually written about in centuries past were the royal, the wealthy, the notorious; those who were commented upon due to one brand of fame or other. Wealth and status are not new signifiers of apparent importance.

Whether unfortunately or not, some of these people were and are downright fascinating. And so, there’s a vast recycling of existing material. This may mean there isn’t “enough” creation of new work for some people’s taste or preference. It certainly means that fewer handmaids than princesses end up novelized. There are times that sticks in my mind; but it is impossible to apologize for. At the end of the day, most fiction writers admit they don’t choose their subjects—certainly not by logical means. I felt very much more chosen by my text than the other way around, certainly. I didn’t choose the middle name which has been a part of my own inspiration either.

I’ve long been a fan of Tudor and Plantagenet history and fiction, but didn’t want to tread across that field, because it has been popular enough that anything I might write would already have been done—even any work about a (one should pardon the term) “lesser” figure or fictional one.

Clovis’ life, for me, turned out to be one of those riveting tales which seems to demand to be told. I’d known nothing about him, and found that an almost criminal ignorance on my own part, once I learned a little. Not only is he a terribly fascinating character, but he was a pivotal character in the development of Christendom, of Europe itself, and of France. Yet in American society and culture, he is nearly unheard-of. As of this writing, to my knowledge, only one semi-novel-style history devoted entirely to Clovis exists in English—at least, in current print. I have been exposed to none out-of-print in my years of researching the late King. And even in terms of that research: I found a wealth of material in French, but less in English focused on my subject. One finds references to Clovis, but little in English dedicated solely to this monumentally exciting and pivotally important king. Even within what may be found, many of the references are questionable, legendary, or simply erroneous. Here we see a character whose legend, propaganda, and posthumous glory are nearly impenetrable, and absolutely indispensable.

Here we have … the founder and first king of France.

This text is followed in  the MS by a glossary of entries for characters, terms, locations, etc.
See Author's Notes entries in the "excerpts" tag.