The Oracles of Troy is the fourth book in Glyn Iliffe's Odysseus series and is available to buy TODAY!
UK readers can find it here - Amazon UK
US readers can find it here - Amazon US
Q&A with Glyn Iliffe
Q: When did you start writing and why?
A: I was inspired by a teacher at primary school who praised my writing and left me with a feeling that here was something (at last) I was good at. I was a pretty poor reader at that age so my early imagination was developed through films and toys. When I discovered the pleasure of books in my early teens I started writing a lot more and eventually turned to full length novels. I suppose that in those days it was partly for the pleasure of writing, but equally because I wanted to fulfil the dream of becoming fabulously rich and famous. Rejection slips soon put paid to the dream, but I kept on writing and submitting work and eventually found a publisher, Pan Macmillan. I admit it was a total surprise. Like many dreams, you don’t expect them to come true and I wasn’t really prepared for it.
Q: Your latest book is called The Oracles of Troy. Can you sum it up in less than fifty words?
A: The Trojan War has reached stalemate. When a series of oracles points the way to victory Odysseus sets out to fulfil them, facing gods, monsters and a host of enemies along the way. Ultimately the trail leads him to the greatest deception of the ancient world: the Trojan Horse.
Q: This is the fourth in a series that started with King of Ithaca. Do we need to have read the first three?
A: When I set out to write the series, my goal was to bring all the disparate myths of the Trojan War together and tell them in one story based on one character (Odysseus). But one of the joys of the Greek myths is that they have been told in many different ways by many different poets and writers over three millennia, making them easy to dip into at any point. I think my books are the same. As long as you have a basic understanding of the Trojan War, you should be able to pick up the story with any of the books. That said, I’d still recommend starting at the beginning.
Q: So why write about the Trojan War in the first place?
A: I’ve been passionate about the ancient world since I was a kid, probably when I opened my first packet of Airfix Roman Soldiers or when I watched Jason and the Argonauts on telly. In later years that led me to study Classics at university, where I developed my love and knowledge of the subject. As for why I chose the Trojan War, I suppose that’s all down to Homer. The Iliad and The Odyssey are centred on the War, and these two poems are what shaped the culture of the Greek world, just like the Bible has shaped so much of the West’s culture. So the thought of writing a series that tried to bring the myths together in one place was an exciting challenge.
Q: Who is your target audience? Why should they read your book?
A: I didn’t really have one in mind when I first came up with the idea in 1999, but at the time there were no current novels about the ancient world so I saw there was a gap in the market. Ironically, the first publisher to properly consider the series (Hodder & Stoughton) ended up saying “no” because they didn’t think the market existed. They’ve since been proved wrong by the popularity of ancient world novels, and I think my books definitely appeal to readers of that genre. But whereas many novels about Rome are militaristic and have a male-heavy readership, I believe stories about Greek mythology have a wider gender attraction. I think this is because there are more strong women to stand shoulder to shoulder with the strong men (though the men still dominate). There are powerful goddesses, such as Athena, Hera and Aphrodite; there are beauties like Helen and “villains” like Clytaemnestra; and there are the more intelligent types, like Penelope. Then there are whole armies of Amazons. As to why should people read my books, I think they offer a fresh take on an iconic tale. Because of the epic nature of the series, which ultimately will span thirty years, there’s lots of room for action, drama, intrigue, romance, treachery and all the other passions that rise out of a broken world. The characters have inherited the larger-than-life qualities of the original myths, but are tempered with a modern sensibility. Add into that a vein of the supernatural - it’s Greek mythology after all - and it creates a mix that should appeal to more than just fans of Homer.
Q: Do you have a favourite character from your books and why?
A: Difficult to answer. It’s tempting to plump for Odysseus or Eperitus, the principal characters whose combined experiences create the narrative. I particularly like Eperitus because he’s my own creation - so I can do what I like with him - and he also has a strong sense of honour and integrity, something all too lacking in the modern world. But if I looked wider I would have to choose Helen. She’s a rebel in a straight-jacket, the toy of powerful men who just wants to be free to live her own life. Ultimately her choices only make her more of a prisoner, and in The Oracles of Troy she is forced to confront the consequences to herself and those she loves most.
Q: If you could change something about the series, what would it be?
A: Reverse some of the edits that took place with the first book, King of Ithaca. The publishers wanted it reducing from 180,000 words to 130,000, which was damned difficult but with my editor’s help we achieved it. Much of it was with good reason - first time authors can be a bit “flabby” in their writing - but there are a few scenes I would like to restore.
Q: What do people think they know about the Trojan War that isn’t true?
A: The interesting challenge about writing a series on the Trojan War is collating hundreds of myths that were written by lots of different people at different times and turn them into a single workable narrative. One way to describe it is to think of mixing up the pieces from two or three Finding Nemo jigsaws (I have young daughters!) You have different depictions of the same characters showing more or less the same scene, but the pieces don’t always fit. I can think of one blogger who made a list of the differences he had found between my story and the original myths. It was great to see that someone had gone to such trouble and it was also nice that he was otherwise positive about the books themselves. However, he had assumed there was only one version of each myth. In reality, there are usually two or three takes - some given to us by Homer, others by the Greek dramatists, others by Roman poets and so on. I’ve picked the myths that suit my overall version, but they usually have some root in the original myths. Unless it’s something I’ve made up from scratch, of course.
Q: That’s interesting. So how much license did you give yourself in portraying these well-loved events and characters?
A: Enough, but not too much. As I mentioned earlier, my goal was to bring all these wonderful myths into one place where readers could gain an understanding of the stories and put them into context with each other. For that reason, I don’t want to create too many new myths of my own or make the existing ones unrecognisable. But there are so many elements of the original tales that don’t fit together that sometimes you simply have to bend them into place. As an author you also need to meet the expectations of a modern readership in terms of pace, character development etc, and with such a well-known storyline you need to introduce something unknown - the odd new character whose fate is undetermined; new plot strands and sub-plots to make the story engaging at different levels. Sometimes you have to take liberties with historical reality too. Thankfully, Homer’s poems combine elements of different periods in history (mainly because they were developed over a few hundred years, but that’s too long a story to go into here) so I’m in good company. An easy example of this is the ten year siege of Troy. There’s no way a Bronze Age army of any size would lay siege to a city on another continent for that long, leaving their home cities unprotected. A series of coastal raids or summer campaigns is more feasible, but given the choice between the myth and the reality I prefer the myth. And how far does one go with historical absolutes if you have gods and monsters cropping up from time to time anyway?
Q: How do we find out more about your books? Can we contact you?
A: Please do. Have a look at my website, www.glyniliffe.com, or look me up on facebook.
Glyn has very kindly offered a giveaway to readers of Loaded Shelves to received his BRAND NEW NOVEL.
There are 2 ebooks up for grabs to the first 2 readers who can answer this question, designed by Glyn Illiffe himself:
Who were Odysseus's wife and son?
Leave your answers in the comments and an email address. First 2 correct answers win!
Tomorrow i'll be posting a bonus excerpt from The Oracles of Troy so don't forget to keep an eye out for that.
A huge thank you to Glyn for stopping by Loaded Shelves and we wish him the best of luck with The Oracles of Troy!