To me, writing a book is a labor of love, one that requires time, effort, sweat, blood (think broken nails on a keyboard), tears, and sacrifice, like the kind found in the story of Medusa. I read two different volumes and searched online archives extensively for everything that I could find about the snake-haired Gorgon whose gaze turned anyone who looked upon it to stone. All of them seemed to share the same two origins, which I remembered from my days devouring Greek mythology in high school. One, that Medusa was one of three Gorgon sisters, daughters of the sea deities Phorcys and Ceto who were born monsters. And two, that Medusa was a beautiful maiden who was turned into a monster by the goddess Athena, either because she angered her or because Athena took pity on her. Both make sense. Yet I have always had a burning question in the back of my mind when it comes to this particular myth. Specifically, why does Medusa's gaze turn people to stone? Of all the powers she could have had, why did it have to be that one? Was it genetic? Accidental? A weapon to protect her against men who might harm her for her beauty? Or was it punishment for something? So I took that question and allowed it to fuel my own version of how Medusa came to be, exactly what she did that made Athena so angry that she would curse her (because let's face it, it would take something more than someone simply defiling my temple to make me curse them, and weapon or not, turning all who look at you to stone is a curse sooner or later), and what happened between her and Athena after that.
If you can't tell already, I think research is one of the best parts of writing a book, along with the actual writing part and getting to see your finished product once its published. Not only is it an excuse to read new books and reread old favorites, but it's also an adventure in itself, one where pages are my roads and my imagination is my compass. Research allows me to take well-known, and not so well-known, tales like that of Cerberus, the three-headed Guardian of the Underworld, piece them together with histories, dreams, and my own experiences and weave them together into a single story. In this case, a story about a dog named Fear who was given to the descendants of Pyramus by Hades, god of the Underworld, as protection against Zeus and the other deities of Mount Olympus.
I also like research because it helps me learn more about my characters' backgrounds, especially the deities. Each Greek myth I read and rewrite to fit my story line helps me turn untouchable Olympic gods and goddesses into seemingly-real flesh and blood individuals just like you and me. They have likes and dislikes, habits, and pasts, sometimes good, sometimes bad, that drive their emotions in the present. Hermes, who for centuries spent his time upholding Zeus's star crossed curse until he met Cather, is one such character, driven by the love he feels for the mortal girl and the guilt he feels for all the lives he took at the hand of the curse. In Fathoms Above, we see a little more of this love and guilt mix as Hermes remembers the tale of Echo, another of Cather's tragic ancestors, and her love Narcissus, and hopes that his and Cather's story doesn't end up like theirs.
Want to read more about the research that went into Fathoms Above? Then stay tuned for next week’s blog, where I will talk about some of my favorite online research finds, including some special character insights on Athena, Hermes, and Cather. Until then, happy reading!