Sometimes, what the primary sources don’t say attracts my attention.
In researching my first novel, The Cross and the Dragon, I learned of two grim realities:
- In 772, Charlemagne ordered the destruction of the Irminsul, a pillar sacred to the Saxon peoples.
- War captives often became slaves.
I could not explore those concepts in The Cross and the Dragon, a tale of a young Frankish noblewoman who must contend with a jilted suitor and the premonition she might lose her husband in battle, but I could not let them go either. I needed to write a second book, which became The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar, a story of the lengths a mother will go to protect her children after she had lost everything else – her home, her husband, her faith, even her freedom.
Perhaps, Ashes was borne from an instinct that came from my years in journalism, to give a voice to people who otherwise had none.
Few people in 8th-century Europe could write. In addition, the Continental Saxons, who ultimately lost the wars with Charlemagne’s Franks, lacked a written language as we know it.
So most of what we know about the history originates from Frankish primary sources. Although they offer the freshest perspective on what happened, the writers were biased and not afraid to bend the truth to fit their narrative. To them, the pagans were brutes, and they rarely mentioned peasants at all.
Yet the questions that rose in mind would not rest: What was it like for the Saxons to see a symbol of their faith destroyed? What was it like for peasants to lose their freedom? Historical fiction can provide possible answers.
My heroine, Leova, and her children are the products of my imagination. But sometimes the only way to understand an ordinary early medieval family neglected by history is to make one up.
“Carolingian Europe comes alive in Kim Rendfeld’s sweeping story of family and hope, set against the Saxon Wars. Her transportive and triumphant novel immerses us in an eighth century world that feels both mystical and starkly real.” – Jessica Brockmole, author of Letters from Skye
“A captivating historical filled with rich detail, compelling characters, and a well-paced plot that keeps the pages turning to its very satisfying end. A true delight for fans of historical fiction. I couldn’t put it down.” – Susan Spann, author of the Shinobi Mysteries
“The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar is refreshingly set in a less familiar medieval period – soon after Charlemagne has conquered a portion of today’s Germany and its people. The characters are refreshing also, common folk instead of the lords and ladies who are the usual inhabitants of historical novels, and how they adjust to their new condition is fascinating. Altogether, this book was absorbing from start to finish.” – Roberta Gellis, author of The Roselynde Chronicles
Kim Rendfeld is the author of The Cross and the Dragon (2012, Fireship Press) and The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar (2014, Fireship Press). You can read the first chapter of either book, read excerpts of reviews, and learn more about Kim at kimrendfeld.com. You can also visit her blog Outtakes of a Historical Novelist at kimrendfeld.wordpress.com, like her on Facebook at facebook.com/authorkimrendfeld, follow her on Twitter at @kimrendfeld, or contact her at kim [at] kimrendfeld [dot] com.