Passages to the Past is pleased to bring you a guest post written by Nan Hawthorne, author of Beloved Pilgrim!
The Crusade Just Made For A Novel
by Nan Hawthorne
Before I started doing the research for my novel about the Crusades, BELOVED PILGRIM, I had never even heard of the “Crusade of 1101”. While it is arguably an extension of the famous First Crusade that took place from about 1096 to 1099 and which saw the taking of Jerusalem by Western knights, the Crusade of 1101 was unique in several ways. It began with a renewed call for pilgrims by a different pope, never even left Turkey for the Holy Land, and was a complete failure. Even its chronicling was different, as the three historians connected with it were not even present at the events of the Crusade. Though some of the same players and even leaders were involved the nature of the battles and achievements were starkly different.
People who do not fit the usual roles our culture assigns us as men or women fascinate me. I set out to find a way to explore the issue in a medieval setting. It seemed the Crusades would supply an environment where the mix of cultures and the mass of people involved would be conducive for my determination to write a novel with a Crusade setting that would feature a woman fighting as a man and who meets and falls in love with another woman, a “Saracen.”
I learned about the Crusade of 1101 from the online class materials prepared by Boise State instructor Skip Knox. I immediately recognized the qualities of the events that made it perfect for novelization. Unlike so much of history, it had a distinct beginning, development, and conclusion. It had a set roster of historical figures as characters. It would be easy to insert my fictional characters and story. There really was only one story, the road to Mersivan and the massacre there, but with the addition of a historical mystery that would bring the novel to a satisfying if tragic end. Finally there was the solid element of “the lesson learned.” I could carry my heroine’s growth to disillusioned maturity through an event in history that would mirror what she learned.
In the author’s note to Robyn Young’s Requiem: The Fall of the Templars, the author explores the need to choose between historical accuracy and good story telling. He described what changes he made to ensure a fast paced and coherent story, what events he moved about, what settings he changed, and why he did so. With the Crusade of 1101 I would need to do little, if any, of this. The event only took about twelve months, involved a continual progress through clearly definable routes, and only needed minor fictional adjustments to make the story work. It virtually told itself. There was never any need, at least not until the resolution of the Ida sub-plot, to embroider what actually took place. The very fact that none of the historians of the Crusade of 1101 had been eyewitnesses to most of it gave me leeway to speculate. Ultimately my battle consultant and I were able to look at the modern scholarship by Steven Runciman and correct what we deemed were inaccurate assessment of how the armies fought. In other words, we could be said to have improved on what was formerly supposed.
Choosing the Crusade of 1101 as the backdrop of my novel, BELOVED PILGRIM, exposed me and I hope my readers, to a fascinating piece of history, one that is not that well known yet had a tremendous impact on how not only the Crusades, but of the powers of the Mediterranean were to develop. I will be glad to have contributed at least some speculation as to how the real story unfolded.
For more on the Crusade of 1101 as it relates to the novel, please see the auxiliary materials on my website, www.nanhawthorne.com.
Nan Hawthorne is a historical novelist living in the Pacific Northwest. Beloved Pilgrim, which is her second fictional work and third book, is available at Amazon.com and Smashwords.com and will soon be on Kindle and on Amazon.co.uk.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Publication Date: February 27, 2011
Unwilling to settle for the passive life of a noblewoman, Elisabeth dons her late twin brother's armor and sets out for the Holy Land. On the journey she learns many things, not the least of which is that she can pass for a young man because, as she says, "People see what they expect to see." Her lessons also include that honor is not always where you expect to find it, and that true love can come in the form of another woman. She encounters both heroism and betrayal in the doomed Crusade of 1101. Witness her journey across the Alps, her voyage to the golden city of Constantinople, and her struggle to survive with her ideals intact while she loses companions to hardships and destruction as Kilij Arslan's Turks turn the tide irrevocably for the Crusaders.
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