I remember when I first started telling friends about my book. The first thing everyone said was “oh like Game of Thrones”. It annoyed me but then I realized most of my friends probably didn’t follow historical fantasy and that was their only point of reference. While it is great for someone to think of Game of Thrones when you talk about your book, it is not Game of Thrones, it is simply the same genre.
I have always loved the medieval period, don’t ask me why I couldn’t really tell you. There was just something about the period that drew me in and has kept me interested all these years. I don’t know if it is the pageantry of the period, the manners of the nobles, or just the simpler times they lived in, something just pulls me in.
There is just something about damsels in distress and valiant knights coming to their rescue. Grand castles with dark secrets. Kings who rule with an iron fist and a lustful heart. It is all just so exciting. Imagine what it must have been like to live in that time. It would suck if you weren’t born into the right social standing but imagine being the child of a noble. The possibilities, the social events, and the chivalry.
As I got older I started studying the middle ages more. I was surprised to find the typical images associated with the time period were nowhere near what life was really like for those who lived it.
Granted we have certainly skewed the true day to day life of those who called the middle ages home. We remove the truth about the unsanitary conditions of most large cities (they were typically built along waterway to allow waste to be easily removed). The streets were typically filled with human waste, combined with the smell of meat rotting in the butcher’s shop (no refrigeration).
The castles weren’t as glamorous as we like to believe either. Indoor plumbing was not yet invented so residents simply relieved themselves in assigned areas within the castle. A simple hole in the floor was their relief. Some castles had these holes lead right to the moat that surrounded many castles (imagine the smells). Others had special staff that were required to clean the holes (certainly not a job I would want). The smell of ammonia was often quite strong in palaces – an attempt to cover the smell of the waste.
Medicine was barbaric and most injuries and illnesses resulted in death. Infant mortality was outrageous and childbirth was particularly difficult on the mother. Science was starting to emerge but religion still dictated much of the medicine practiced. It was believe sickness was brought on by evil spirits so the religious would try to remove the demon, which usually didn’t work out so well for the patient. Leeches were used for bloodletting, the belief was all illness was in the blood and removing the bad blood would bring the patient back from the brink.
Even with the darkness of the time period it remains a favor of authors, readers, screenwriters, and viewers alike. We simply make the period more romantic, more magical, than it actually was. While I have studied what the period was really like, I still love everything about it and knew it had to be the setting for my first book.