Message From The Author
The Past Is Not Forgotten, The Blood Remembers
Debut author Terry Stanfill tells how researching her roots inspired her historical time travel about the Bloodless Crusader, Emperor Frederick II, and the mysteries of the Medieval Ages.
By Terry Stanfill
While I was a growing up, I'd always secretly wished that my Italian family came from an artistic city like Florence or Rome or Venice instead of Vieste, a sleepy little Adriatic port in Apulia, Southern Italy where nothing seemed to have happened… until I discovered that King William II of Sicily gave this rocky, coastal land to Joanna Plantagenet, the youngest daughter of Eleanor of Aquitaine, as a tribute on the eve of their matrimony. The image of my father's Vieste, the place of my roots, being handed over like a tissue-wrapped, ribbon-tied present, lodged itself in my brain, compelling me to explore my roots and the region's history.
This journey inspired my debut historical time travel, THE BLOOD REMEMBERS, that begins when a haunting voice compels my American protagonist, Rose Kirkland, to rediscover the past on an unchartered adventure through the layers of past and present, genetic memory, and a medieval mystery surrounding Emperor Frederick II, "the Bloodless Crusader."
Frederick's mother, Constance de Hauteville, had been forced from a convent at the advanced age of 32 and made to marry a man 11 years younger, the unspeakably cruel Henry, son of the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick Barbarossa. After eight years of marriage, Constance finally produced an heir. The image of Constance giving birth to Frederick in a blue and silver tent in the center of the market square at Jesi haunted and obsessed me, setting my imagination in motion.
Frederick, who grew up running wild in the streets of Palermo, proved to be a born leader. After embarking on the only peaceful Crusade, where not one drop of blood was shed, Frederick returned from Palestine having signed a peace treaty with the Sultan of Cairo, al-Kamil. Henceforth, the holy sites of Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth would belong to Frederick as King of Jerusalem. Soon after, he began to plan one of several fortresses in Apulia, the mysterious Castel del Monte, architecturally crafted to emulate the figure
eight, inspired by the octagonal Al Aksa mosque in Jerusalem, which united Christian and Islamic elements throughout its interior.
Frederick was also a poet, and in his courts surrounded himself with troubadours from Provence. He founded the University of Naples, was a patron of the arts, of science and philosophy, and a lawmaker. Frederick spoke six languages fluently, among them Greek and Arabic, and could write
in several more. He is famous for a book on falconry. His was one
of the greatest minds of the Middle Ages, a questing humanist mind, centuries before the Renaissance.
During this time of passionate research, my novel also began
to take shape because of my dream life. I have always been a dreamer, by day as well as night.
Not too many years ago, I realized that I was gifted with easy access to my dreams, and so I began a dream journal, one of a few habits I share with Rose Kirkland.
By recording my dreams, I improved my ability to remember them. Many of these dream images were used in the storytelling and whole paragraphs, such as the one in the beginning of the novel, were copied from out of my journal:
That night, there was no moon to light the sky. Long boats glide up the river.
I hear oars slicing through water. The Vikings at the helm are red-bearded, skins of animals flung across bare shoulders. Their agate eyes are fixed beyond prows carved like fire-breathing dragons. I huddle behind tall marsh reeds,
frightened that they might have seen
me hiding there.
After writing this dream in my journal, the image of the woman in hiding lingered. Who was she, I kept asking myself. Where was she? Why was she hiding in the reeds?
Dreams have also led me to unexpected places in storytelling. The more I delved into my family history, the deeper the forays into the imagination. As Einstein once said, "Imagination is greater than knowledge." For a fiction writer, this can certainly be true.
I liken the premise and plot of The Blood Remembers to its tapestry cover, an embroidery of past and present, as it weaves together a 20th-century woman's story with that of a medieval woman's.
I am convinced that we carry within us the emotions, feelings and knowledge
of past generations, hence the title, The Blood Remembers. I'm not referring
to reincarnation, but to genetic memory embedded in the DNA, in our own multilayered psyches. Memories of longings, of separations, of physical traumas, natural disasters. This is the premise of my novel. Until Rose Kirkland journeys to Italy to piece together her distant past, she knows no inner peace.
The BLOOD REMEMBERS, published by Elton-Wolf Publishing, won the Independent Publishers' award for Best First Book. For more photos of Italy, visit Terry's website, www.terrystanfill.com.
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