Dream Interview of Elisabeth Storrs: Finalist in Best Indie Books of 2013 Awards
September 16, 2013
[It’s that time of the year again when The New Kindle Book Review is running its Best Indie Books of the Year awards. Top five finalists for the 2013 awards in various genres were announced September 1, 2013. In keeping with our tradition established last year in the first year of the awards, we have asked each of the finalists who care to participate to provide us two pieces: a dream interview and a dream review. Although these will appear under my byline and Caleb Pirtle’s, the posts are the work of the finalist authors. We hope you enjoy them and use them as an introduction to the works of these fine writers.-SW]
Elisabeth Storrs, author of The Wedding Shroud, a finalist in the literary fiction genre, is our interviewee today.
Dream Interview – Elisabeth Storrs, author of The Wedding Shroud: A Tale of Ancient Rome
I’m surprised at how poised Caecilia is. So different to the young Roman bride trembling beneath her orange wedding veil at the beginning of her journey. Yet why wouldn’t she be? She is nine years older and a mother. Still, I feel a twinge of conscience that I contrived to have the generals of Rome marry an 18 year old to an enemy nobleman to seal a truce. Caecilia only travelled 12 miles across the Tiber to reach her new home in the Etruscan city of Veii, but it was as though she had entered another world so different were the customs and beliefs of those two foes.
‘Welcome, Elisabeth.’ Her tone is warm but there is a reserve about her. Perhaps she will never lose her Roman demeanour even though she no longer wears the homespun clothes of a Roman matron. She is an Etruscan now. Sophisticated. A mantle of fine wool is draped around her sheer linen dress. Elegant flowing pleats cannot hide how thin she is, though. Another stab of guilt. I certainly never spare her a life of constant complications.
I smile and greet her, finding myself a little in awe of my surroundings. I’m glad she has not taken audience with me in this mansion’s imposing entrance chamber but in the garden with its neatly trimmed hedges and fountain. Maybe there will be fewer recriminations in such pleasant surroundings.
Caecilia sits down and gestures for me to join her. I ease back in the wicker chair determined to retain my own composure. I’m glad I have not made her beautiful although she is fetching enough with her kohl rimmed large round eyes. Yet worry lines crease her brow. Aware that I’m scrutinizing her, she touches the purple birthmark on her neck that white albumen paste cannot entirely hide. No matter how much her husband, Mastarna, reassures her that the blemish doesn’t make her appear ugly, I imagine she’ll always be self-conscious about it. ‘Why does the nevus bother you,’ I ask. ‘You know it is the sign of a fortunate marriage.’
She frowns. ‘It also signifies my life will not be easy. You certainly have made sure of that. You forced me to leave my home and all whom I loved behind. And towards the end of The Wedding Shroud I was made a hostage to war under threat of execution. You also ensured I was gulled into trying to control my fate by following the teachings of a malicious priest. ’
I feel myself growing defensive. ‘I wanted to create drama. Readers expect it. And you have to admit you enjoy Veii. In Rome you would have continued to be a possession of either your father or your husband. Here you are afforded independence and education. Aren’t you delighted that Etruscan women can drink wine with their husbands at banquets? And talk politics with men?’
My comment finally elicits a smile. ‘True. Women have many freedoms here. At first I was shocked. I’d been taught that such behaviour was wicked. So I’m grateful. If not for you I would still be listening to my aunt’s constant preaching about Roman virtues.’
I point towards the arcade that flanks the garden knowing the bedrooms lie beyond it. ‘And you can’t complain about the pleasure Mastarna gives you. Or deny that you’ve grown to love each other. After all, my research revealed that Etruscan men were considered expert lovers.’
She blushes but I catch a hint of a smile as she bows her head. ‘Such matters are private,’ she murmurs, adjusting one of the ornate gold brooches that secure the sleeves of her tunic. Her demureness disappears, though, when she raises her head and studies me. Is there a look of superiority in her eyes? A patrician looking down upon a plebeian? In retrospect maybe I should have borrowed an evening gown to wear. Or at least worn a silk blouse. Big mistake to imagine this interview sitting at my computer in my usual cotton shirt and black jeans. And my silver drop earrings and locket were always going to look down market next to Caecilia’s gold diadem and amber bracelets. There is a brief pause, the only sound that of water gently splashing in the fountain.
‘Tell me, what is the name of your people?’
‘We are called Australians.’
‘In my language that means you must live in a land to the south.’
I laugh; relieved she’s moved on from sizing up my outlandish 21st century apparel. ‘You could say that I live in one of the most southern parts of the world.’
‘And how is it you know so much about the early Roman Republic and the Etruscans?’
‘Because I’ve studied their history and customs for many years. I’m very fond of learning about those societies.’
Suddenly Caecilia’s interest in my background wanes. She leans forward, anxious. ‘Please let me know my destiny. Will my life ever be peaceful? Veii has been under siege ever since you wrote the sequel. The Romans hate me and some of the Etruscans still view me as an enemy.’
My guilt resurfaces. How can I convince her that it was necessary to ratchet up the tension in The Golden Dice? And the third book I’m currently writing, Call to Juno, needs to build to a climax, too.
She must have sensed my reticence. Sighing, she touches her birthmark again. ‘So my travails continue?’
Despite my manipulation of her life, I draw on the intimacy between a creator and her creation. I am so fond and proud of her. Reaching over I clasp her hands. ‘I’ve made you strong, courageous and resilient for a reason, Caecilia, but I’m not prepared to let you control your fate.’
We stare at each other for a moment before she pushes back her chair and rises. I stand also, conscious the audience is over. I expect a disdainful dismissal. Instead there is a teasing note in her voice. She leans forward and kisses my cheek. I can smell the scent of lilies on her skin. ‘Be wary Elisabeth, plots and characters can often alter without an author realising. You just might find I choose to take on a life of my own.’