Last week, I shared with yall a few sneak peeks at some of the book research that went into writing Fathoms Above. This week, I'm going to share some tidbits from my online research, particularly a little more about the myth retellings you'll get to read in Fathoms Above. If you read my last blog, you already know that two of these are Echo and Narcissus and Medusa. Another is Pygmalion. This story of the sculptor who fell in love with one of his own statues has always been one of my favorite Greek myths because of the poignant tragedy of their relationship. Or non-existent relationship rather, since a one-sided relationship isn't really a relationship at all, no matter how hard the more interested party tries to make it one. In the Star Crossed series, I took this myth a little bit further and made Pygmalion one of Pyramus's descendants. Though lucky enough not to fall in love with a descendant of Thisbe like Lee in Fathoms Below, Pygmalion was still unlucky in love because he fell in love with a woman who could never love him back...at least, not without divine intervention, and in Fathoms Above, as Hermes tells Cather to help take her mind off of their doomed relationship, that's exactly what Pygmalion seeks. Here's a little snippet from this retelling to wet your appetite, along with the link to the original version of this myth.
“Are you cold?”
“A little,” she lied, turning her head enough to meet his gaze over her shoulder. “Would you…could you tell me a story to help me fall asleep? Maybe something from Greek myth that doesn’t have to do with my family’s curse?”
“Of course,” he agreed, like she had known he would, because he would always put her well-being before his own, even when he shouldn’t. Settling back onto the pillow, she listened to his breathing for a minute—in, out, in, out— before he spoke again.
“Not all of Pyramus’s brother Caius’s descendants were as unlucky as Lee and Leander. One of them, Pygmalion, never even met a descendant of Thisbe. Instead, he fell in love with, of all things, a statue.”
“A statue?” Cather asked, unable to keep quiet although she was supposed to be going to sleep.
“Yes.” Hermes nodded, his hair tickling the nape of her neck. “To this day it remains the most untraditional love story of all those that I have witnessed. You see, Pygmalion was a sculptor who lived in Cyprus in the second century. He was the best at his craft, able to give a life-like appearance to every one of his creations. Naturally, his success made him appealing to every woman of marriage age within the town walls. Yet his devotion to his art left him with no time to admire the beauty of any living creature. As the years wore on, and Pygmalion remained alone, with only his sculptures for company, he began to grow bitter. There was an empty hole in his heart that he did not know how to fill, until one night, while attending the annual Festival of Aphrodite, he saw a beautiful young girl dancing by the fire and understood.
“He needed a wife, a companion, someone who would fill his waking hours with laughter and love and give him the family he craved. He had spent so long shunning the women of, though, the city that he knew not how to talk to them. So rather than seek a real bride of flesh and blood, he did instead what he did best. He carved a statue in the image of what he thought the perfect woman should look like. It was an unparalleled work.”
“You saw it?”
“I did.” Cather felt Hermes’s hair brush her cheek as he nodded. “Michelangelo himself could not have done better. The statue’s skin was smooth from hours upon hours of sanding. Its body was slender, supple, clothed in an ivory toga that covered one shoulder and left the other bare. It wore sandals on feet that would never walk. Its wrists held unmoving bangles, and every toe and finger had been hammered out with exquisite detail.
“As real in appearance as the women in the village, the statue stood on her stone pedestal, proud and strong and gentle and divine. Her hair appeared to flow down her back in white ripples that reminded the artist of spilled milk, so he named her Galatea, which means she who is white like milk. Yet it was her eyes that captivated Pygmalion the most, for he had carved them so well that, impossible though it was, when he gazed into them, they seemed to be filled with life, light, and intelligence, and the more he stared at his creation, the more he longed for her to be real, to become a person of living flesh and blood, like him.
“Ignorant then in the ways that love can affect a person, I assumed the sculptor would come to his senses in a few days and sell the statue like all the rest he’d made. As the days went by, however, he only fell more in love with her, and, as love is want to do, it began to make him act a little crazy. He dressed the statue in real garments instead of the ones he had carved for her, adding color to her otherwise pale appearance, and put two sweet smelling flowers behind her ears.
“He purchased all manner of gems and sweets from the market that he thought she would like and placed them at the base of her pedestal. Instead of working from dawn until dusk as he normally did, the artist sat for hours upon end on a stool, engaging in one-sided conversations with his lovely creation.
“A full year went by in this manner, until Pygmalion had become so obsessed with the flawless statue that he no longer ventured from his home. I admit that I laughed at him on more than one occasion, and the people in his village whispered in the streets about how he had gone mad. But when the Festival of the goddess Aphrodite neared again, and the villagers began to work on preparations day and night outside his window, the sculptor got an idea. He would go to the Festival and pray to the goddess of Love to turn his ivory figurine into a real woman, one whom he could love and cherish for the rest of their days. And on the day of the Festival, that is exactly what he did. While everyone in the city was making their own offerings to the goddess of Love, Pygmalion left his home and traveled to the shrine that’d been erected in the city square in her honor. There, he got down on his knees and beseeched the goddess to answer his prayer.
Now, some of you are probably wondering: I have mentioned before that the Star Crossed series is a retelling of the fairy tale Cinderella. However, Cather doesn't exactly have a habit of losing a shoe when it's least convenient. So who is Cinderella then? Well, in Fathoms Above, you get your first glimpse at that answer, and the first look at my version of this classic tale. To write it, I took the original version of Cinderella, titled Rhodopis, by the historian Strabo (you can read it for yourself by clicking on the link under this paragraph), and combined it with some of my favorite versions of Cinderella from around the globe, including the most popular one by Charles Perrault illustrated by the Pinterest collage below. Will the slipper be glass? That I can't tell you. Will there be a prince, a fairy godmother, or a pumpkin carriage? Perhaps, though not in the traditional sense. What I can tell you, though, is that this Cinderella, or Sinderella, as she is so nicknamed in the series by Hermes, is an unconventional heroine who, like Cather, will dare to stand up against the deities of Olympus and do everything in her power to break another of their divine curses.
Want more research tidbits? No problem. As promised in last week's blog, here is a closer look at some of the main characters in the Star Crossed series, starting with the heroine, Cather Stevens.
For those of you have read Fathoms Below (and for those of you who haven't yet), you know that Cather is an average girl-next-door-type from the South who likes chocolate, cheerleading, history, and murder mysteries. She is logical, stubborn, and a little bit sassy, which at first made her a very difficult character to write, as I am driven more by my emotions than anything else. She doesn't have time for things like love and fantasy until her eighteenth birthday, when she discovers that things are not always as they seem and that she is not quite as ordinary as she always believed. This Pinterest collage is one of my favorites that I saved to my Star Crossed Book Research board, and at the time I wasn't even looking for it. Though at times I wanted to strangle her for her decisions (you will see why when you read Fathoms Above), I had a very clear picture in my head of exactly who Cather was and what she looked like from the start of my writing. So when I stumbled upon this collage while researching deities, I was ecstatic, because it encompasses her perfectly! Except for the green eye color, that's wrong lol. Still, it illustrates the rich brown color of her hair, her tanned skin, her Greek and southern heritage, her family's tragic history, even her love of sweets and simple girly things like makeup!
The other main character in the Star Crossed series is Hermes, the Bookkeeper and Messenger of the gods, and, at the end of Fathoms Below, Cather's boyfriend. (I can't tell you whether things will stay that way between them or not when Cather meets the descendant of Pyramus in Fathoms Above. You will just have to read and find out for yourself.) As the youngest and arguably most intelligent son of Zeus, Hermes was entrusted with upholding the star crossed curse that his father placed on all of the female descendants of Thisbe. Obviously, in Fathoms Below, that changed, and in Fathoms Above we get to see Hermes as one deity standing alone against the might of Olympus, risking life, limb, and his heart for the girl he loves. Of all the collages that I saved for Hermes to my Star Crossed Series Book Research board, this one is my favorite. It includes his wings, some maps (which I like to think helped him keep track of Cather's ancestors and document their whereabouts over the years), and the winged staff he carried in Fathoms Below. There's also a cool shot of a misty forest that reminds me of a scene from Fathoms Below when Cather went running and found Hermes lurking in the woods. As for the drachma, well, let's just say that in Fathoms Above you get to learn more about Hermes's powers, his past, and his family, including his father, Zeus.
Ah, Zeus: King of the gods, unfaithful husband of Hera, caster of the star crossed curse, and all around bad guy. Despite his divine good looks and immortal charm, Zeus is really nothing more than a spoiled, entitled little rich boy who wasn't happy with what life had to offer him. So, naturally, he overthrew his parents and the rest of the Titans, used Hera's feelings for him to elevate himself to power, had a couple of powerful kids who he proceeded to train as his own personal army, and set about crushing anyone who dared to stand against him, including his best friend. Needless to say, he isn't wild about the idea of a mortal breaking his curse, which is why he sends Athena to stop Cather before she can find and marry the last living descendant of Pyramus. Why, you may ask, doesn't he just stop her himself? After all, he does have an entire sky full of lightning bolts at his disposal that he could use to strike both her and Hermes down at any given moment. Let's just say that, when it comes to divine curses, things are always more complicated than they at first appear, even for the King of gods. And when it comes to love, well, it's not only the descendants of Thisbe and Pyramus who have suffered at the hand of the star crossed curse. One god or goddess had their life changed by it forever. Want to know who? Follow me on Instagram by clicking on the link below to go to my page, and stay tuned for a special giveaway contest for Fathoms Above that will be starting Monday, March 6. Until then, star crossed lovers. :)