Please join me in welcoming author Rosanne Lortz to The Musings of a Book Junkie.
1. The Crusades have a bad reputation. Why should we learn about the crusades?
One of the reasons that the Crusades have such a bad reputation is because we are so poorly educated about them. The real and diverse motivations of the Crusaders (as well as the back story of previous conflicts between the two sides) are largely ignored. Instead, we usually get the simplistic version: “Land-hungry European Christians aggressively attack Muslims minding their own business.” Another oversimplification is to apply the same “bad reputation” to all the Crusades indiscriminately. Nine crusades spanned two hundred years of time; they were fought on different battle fronts, by different characters, with different motivations. The way popular historians lump the Crusades together would be like if historians living a thousand years in the future took World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, and the Iraq War and summarized them as one struggle for one purpose. Learning more about the Crusades can give us a newfound appreciation for this multi-faceted and fascinating era of history--and it can teach us to be more careful students of history by avoiding stereotyping and oversimplification.
2. If you had to do penance, would you join a crusade like Tancred or join a monastery like his father?
Although I like to read (and write) about great adventures and faraway places, I’m more of a homebody, and quite attached to my large library of books. If I had to do penance, I think I would choose the contemplative life of the monastery and take refuge in its predictable routines and pursuit of learning rather than choosing the perils of pilgrimage and battle.
3. Who is your favorite character? Who do you identify with?
My favorite character in Road from the West is definitely Tancred. Originally, Bishop Adhemar was going to be the protagonist of my novel, but as I did more and more research I realized that it was Tancred the marquis who most appealed to me with his courage, his brashness, and his idealism. My younger self of several years ago can really identify with Tancred, with his youthful insistence on seeing everything in black and white and his frustration with the more world-worn Crusaders who see the need for patience, politics, and temporizing. In my next two books, Tancred gets to grow up a little, as he progresses through the stages of tragedy, cynicism, and ultimately maturity in his thinking process.
4. Why do you believe that women played such a vital but largely unrecognized role in the Crusades?
The importance you place on women in the Crusades depends largely upon your view of what is important in history. If council room decisions, negotiations with the enemy, siege preparations, and pitched battles are the meat of the matter, then women will, to a large extent, be marginalized. If daily camp life, relationships between the characters, and back stories between individuals is your interest, then women will play a more prominent role. The medieval chroniclers of the Crusades adopt the former view of what is important--and for this reason, very little is recorded about the role of women on the Crusades. We know that despite Pope Urban’s misgivings on the matter many women came--wives, daughters, sisters, camp followers. We know that they lived through long sieges, endured desperate famine, and traveled difficult roads along with the menfolk. But the story of individual women and what they did is mostly a blank page, leaving a lot of intelligent guesswork for the novelist who wants to include them.
5. Will the culture clashes play a larger role in the next book?
The short answer to that question is: yes. In Road from the West, Tancred has fairly limited opportunity to interact with the Turks except on the field of battle. Book II of the trilogy, Flower of the Desert, gives him far more scope to relate to the Muslim characters as he improves his acquaintance with Erminia and finds a formidable adversary in Iftikhar, the governor of Jerusalem. I intend to switch POV for part of the next book and tell a section of the story through the eyes of Erminia, so that should provide a window into the Muslim perceptions of the Christian invaders.
6. Tancred has more in common with Alexandra, but is drawn to Erimina. Who do you think he should end up with?
An excellent question...but one I’m afraid that I mustn’t answer in this interview. Road from the West introduces two possible love interests for Tancred: Alexandra, the Greek girl from Bari; and Erminia, the Turkish princess. At this point in the story, Tancred’s guilt over the murder of Alexandra’s father keeps him from desiring too close of a relationship with Alexandra, since she is a constant reminder of his need for remission of sins. Erminia, a mixture of the exotic and the unknown, interests Tancred more--although barriers of culture, religion, and war may prove too formidable for love to ignite. Will Alexandra’s dogged determination or Erminia’s bewitching beauty carry the day? You’ll have to read Flower of the Desert to find out the answer to that one.