Following my post about the latest in the Time for Alexander series, Jennifer Macaire guests to explain how she worked the magic.
In my time travel book, The Road to Alexander, a modern woman from the future travels back in time to interview Alexander the Great. He mistakes her for Persephone, goddess of the dead, and “rescues” her, wrenching her from the tractor beam that was supposed to take her home and stranding her in 333 BC. For the first four books of the series, I used Alexander’s real history (as far as it’s known) his army, battles, and travels, as the framework for the story. But once Ashley saved him from his death in Babylon, I left history behind. Instead of following the story of Alexander’s life, I was free to imagine whatever I wanted; but I still had to set the story in the far past. My characters travel from Alexandria in Egypt to the thriving Greek colony of Massalia (Marseilles), then up through ancient Gaul (France) to Lucotocia (Paris) and on to the far north, where the Vikings have yet to become the fierce marauders who terrorized the coasts of Europe.
I dove into research – how people travelled, how long would it take to walk/ride/sail from one place to another, and while I was researching, I discovered that instead of the isolated villages and communities we imagine the Iron Age as being, people travelled and traded extensively. Different cultures had already left their mark on the northern tribes, but the Romans had yet to dominate their world, which gave me an idea. What if the Romans had been stopped in Gaul? What if they had been blocked – and instead of Romanizing Europe, the Celts had survived and thrived? Who, or what could have changed history? Since Ashley is from the future, she knows the importance of the Romans invading Gaul. They vanquished the Gauls, they cut down the sacred groves, and they slaughtered the druids . They annihilated the culture.
I live in France. The French are definitely a Romanized civilization. They have straight roads, they adore paperwork, they are proud of their architecture and science. They are also proud of their Gaulish history; one of their best loved fictional characters is a feisty little Gaul called Asterix. He lives in the last free village in Gaul – surrounded on all sides by Roman army encampments!
Asterix and his fellow Gauls are thorns in the occupying Romans’ sides. The stories are set in about 50 BC, so roughly three hundred years after my hero, Alexander the Great, wanders into the area. But things didn’t change as radically or quickly back then, and the houses, roads, and trading posts were all pretty much the same.
In France, several open-air museums feature Gaulish villages, with their thatched-roofed houses and picket fences. Thanks to the museums, and Asterix, it was easy to imagine life in pre-Roman Iron-Age Gaul. What was harder, was imagining the Gauls successfully repelling the Roman invaders. Clannish, leery of the written word, and prone to infighting, the Gauls were no match for the highly organized Romans. Only one man, Versingitorix, succeeded in uniting the tribes in order to fight Rome – but he was a hundred years too late. Julius Caesar was in charge of the army, and he was a brilliant tactician. If, three hundred years before Caesar invaded Gaul, the druids had been able to form a cohesive army and force the different tribes to unite, Rome would never have gained a foothold in Gaul and would not have gone on to the British Isles. History (or rather, our present) as we know it would have been changed. What the Gauls lacked was a leader – and who better than Alexander, who had united the Macedonians, the Greeks, and many other tribes under his banner. That, then, is the basis for my story, “Chants to Persephone”. Of course, Ashley knows that this can never happen, so she somehow has to get time back on track!
“Chants to Persephone” is a nod to my adopted country, and brings to life ancient Gaul in the pre-Roman Iron Age. I hope you enjoy Ashley and Alexander’s adventures as much as I enjoyed writing them!
A short excerpt:
Yovanix spoke as if weighing his words. ‘If it’s true Iskander lost his soul, I think I know why. If Voltarrix captured Paul and put Iskander’s soul in his body, can you imagine what would happen? Paul can no longer call the moon, but he can grow up to lead an army. The Druids are starting to feel the end of their world approaching. They speak of only one thing now; stopping the Romans before it’s too late. Some think it’s already too late. Voltarrix is one of the old ones who believe that time can be twisted.’
‘Twisted?’ I echoed. My voice sounded odd.
‘The druids believe that time can be changed, like a river’s course. They can change it, slow it, or speed it up. With enough work, they can even make it flow backward. Time is the foundation of the druid’s religion’
It was starting to make sense. Time. The Aztecs had foreseen the date their empire would topple, and they had tried to turn back time with their ceremonies. Nothing had worked for them. Nothing would work for the druids. The Romans would take over and usher in the modern world. Unless a boy, who never should have been born, somehow changed time.
It was conceivable – there were still two hundred years. After that, nothing would halt the inexorable march of the Roman Empire and the event that changed the world; the birth of Christ. But suppose the druids somehow managed to unite the Norsemen, Celts, and Gauls against the Romans? What if Paul were somehow the catalyst? Paul – with Iskander’s soul.
I took a deep breath. I would have to think about this. There were three people in the world who should never have been born: Paul, Chiron, and Cleopatra – and I was not supposed to be in this time or place. Anyone of us could, conceivably, change the world. A butterfly’s wings indeed.
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About the Author:
Jennifer Macaire is an American living in Paris. She likes to read, eat chocolate, and plays a mean game of golf. She grew up in upstate New York, Samoa, and the Virgin Islands. She graduated from St Peter and Paul High School in St Thomas and moved to NYC where she modelled for five years for Elite. She went to France and met her husband at the polo club. All that is true. But she mostly likes to make up stories.