What prompted you to select the ancient Near East as your setting for 'Servant'?
I became aware of the changing face of ancient history about 15 years ago, when a friend of mine gave me a subscription to Biblical Archeological Review as a birthday gift. This marvelous magazine was full of glossy color photos of artifacts and digs throughout the Near East. I was enthralled, and soon was raiding used book stores and abusing the inter-library loan program for anything on the subject I could lay hands on. The more I read, the more fascinated I became with the bronze age and the amazing civilizations that thrived there.
The first few books of the Bible are another great source, both in historical detail and in inspiration. It is hard for me to imagine a richer time and place in which to set a story. Our earliest myths and legends come from there, as well as the beginnings of law, mathematics, medicine, science and literature. The Epic of Gilgamesh was the first story we know of to be written down, and I remind everyone who will listen that it was a Sword and Sorcery tale!
How historically accurate do you try to be and do you consider 'Servant' to be historical fiction in any way?
In that I try to be as historically accurate as I can be within the framework of the fantasy story I am telling, yes, this might be considered historical fiction. I do take liberties occasionally, though, because the story is the thing. For instance, in one story chickens are mentioned, even though they were not domestically kept until a few hundred years later. But the line “You are not the man with the chickens!” delighted me. Sometimes I have changed the spellings of places or people’s names to make them more friendly to the modern eye. And in one story I moved a city to the other side of the Euphrates simply to streamline the narrative.
On the other hand, I spent a very enjoyable hour or so researching soap, none of which actually made it into the story except that a character was bathed and smelled good after. There is so much strange and wonderful stuff out there about the period, and it really has been under-utilized.
Do you plan on drawing anything further from the time period? Another series of stories perhaps?
There are a couple of minor characters that have appeared who may have their own stories to tell. Right now, though, I am buried under the novel based on the novella. It is kind of cool, because instead of working on the usual sequel, this timeline goes at right angles to the main story arc. The two additional stories (not in the book) that will appear in November in other magazines, “Stand, Stand, Shall They Cry” for Flashing Swords #8 and “Who Comes For the Mother’s Fruit” in Every Day Fiction both are following the new arc of “The Tears of Ishtar” and have a slightly different feel.