Today we welcome author Kate Murdoch to discuss the research she undertook when writing her debut novel Stone Circle and exploring personal identity.
PLUS readers have the opportunity to win 1 of 2 ebook copies of Stone Circle — entries open worldwide.
When Real Life Intersects with Research
Halfway through writing my novel, Stone Circle, I realised my protagonist, Antonius, was searching for his identity and was caught between two worlds. Not surprisingly, this echoed my own life.
The themes we explore as writers are often unconscious—we choose them to explain things to ourselves, to make sense of them. Others are just subjects that are of great personal interest. Stone Circle contains a combination of both.
Several months after birth I was adopted by a loving family. I spent a lot of time by myself, writing stories and drawing and knew from an early age that creativity was intrinsic to me.
Writing stories and painting were means to explore my identity—something that was never handed to me, that was hidden.
I met my musician father later in life, and this helped me draw light and shade, to illuminate aspects of myself I’d never understood.
Similarly, Antonius, the son of a fisherman in Renaissance Italy, has psychic powers which set him apart from his family. When he meets the town seer, Savinus, he is able to explore this part of himself and develop it further.
Another theme is love in its varied forms and how this creates a sense of self. Antonius is fortunate to have a close friend, to fall in love, and to be adored and indispensible to his family. No love is lesser than another—they all make him who he is.
How family shapes us and gives us strength is touched on. Although Antonius’s family are peasants and lack power within the rigid social structure, Antonius is secure and accepted. He knows whatever direction he chooses will be supported by his family. He feels responsible for finding a suitor for his sister, Theresa, and protects his brother, Piero, who is taunted by the village boys.
The role of women in Renaissance society was fascinating to me.
The seer’s daughter, Giulia, is gifted with intuition and sight, but cannot openly help her father. She can accompany him during rituals and even participate, but her involvement is cloaked in secrecy. In public she must wear a veiled hat. By contrast, the lower class women can appear with their faces uncovered and run errands unaccompanied. They are still judged by their chastity and obedience to men, but have fewer restrictions on their movements and daily lives.
The magical and alchemical aspects of the story had a dual influence. Firstly, my background as someone who had studied Eastern religions and philosophies, reading widely and attending teachings. Secondly, the existence in Renaissance Italy of a burgeoning interest in alchemy, specifically from the writings of Hermes Trismegistus. Alchemy was a blend of the occult and science. I imagined this reflected a society on the verge of the Age of Reason. So I portrayed it as a legitimate practice, not something on the fringe, but utilised across the spectrum of society.
As Stone Circle grew, I was conscious mainly of the influence of research. It was only later, on reflection, that I became more aware of how personal the story was, and how much it reflected events in my life. Whether intentional or not, writers’ individual blueprints and emotions are interwoven into their books. Personal stories are combined with preoccupations. Yet, in the end, it’s the varied reactions from readers that we seek. Through them, our work transcends our own lives and forms a connection.
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Stone Circle Synopsis:
Is the ability to read minds a blessing or a curse?
When Antonius’s father dies, he must work to support his family. He finds employment as a servant in the Palazzo Ducal, home of Conte Valperga. Sixteenth-century Pesaro is a society governed by status, and Antonius has limited opportunities.When a competition is announced, Antonius seizes his chance. The winner will be apprenticed to the town seer. Antonius shares first place with his employer’s son.The two men compete for their mentor’s approval. As their knowledge of magic and alchemy grows, so does the rivalry and animosity between them. When the love of a beautiful woman is at stake, Antonius must find a way to follow his heart and navigate his future.
Stone Circle explores themes of class, rivalry and spiritual growth.
(Fireship Press, Dec 2017)
Praise for Stone Circle:
‘Murdoch presents a delightful romance, feathered with light touches of fantasy. The development of her love triangle is gratifying, and even secondary characters offer stark dramatic moments…’ — Kirkus Reviews
‘Kate Murdoch’s characters are so greatly human, that it’s easy to sympathise with them: to cheer them on during hard times and to admonish them for being foolish. Her characters’ interactions with each other and their individualities helped shape the book into something wonderful; at the same time she excels at pacing the story with her characters, all within a framework designed to help readers understand the world of seers and alchemy she has created.’ — Readers’ Favorite, 5 Stars.
‘Stone Circle is a tale of 16th century Italy, but not as you have ever read about it before. This history is enlivened by a famous seer, his beautiful psychic daughter, two smitten apprentices, magic rituals, shape-shifting birds, evil brewing and true love, a thrilling combination that hooked me from the beginning. Kate Murdoch’s fabulous writing is full of vivid sounds, sights and scents that pull us into the scene, expressed in inspired word combinations that are a joy to read. A wonderful, entertaining book.’ — Gail Cleare, USA Today bestselling author
Stone Circle is available from:
About the Author, Kate Murdoch
Kate Murdoch exhibited widely as a painter both in Australia and internationally before turning her hand to writing. In between writing historical fiction, she enjoys writing short stories and flash fiction. Her short-form fiction is regularly published in Australia, UK, US and Canada. Stone Circle was released by Fireship Press December 1st 2017. An earlier version of Stone Circle was widely-acclaimed on the HarperCollins UK website, Authonomy, where it was chosen by the editors as the “one to watch” and ultimately ended up ranked 16th out of more than 10,000 manuscripts.
Her novel, The Orange Grove, about the passions and intrigues of court mistresses in 18th century France, will be published by Regal House Publishing in 2019.
Thanks to Kate and her Stone Circle publisher Fireship Press, we have 2 ebook copies to giveaway.
- Open worldwide, entries close midnight 9 March 2018
- Earn extra entries in the draw by spreading the word via Twitter , Pinterest and Facebook/Google+/Webpage
- The 2 winners will be randomly selected and announced on our Facebook Page
SORRY, ENTRIES CLOSED – See winner announcement