Monday, September 29, 2014

0 Giving Briseis Her Voice by Judith Starkson

Giving Briseis Her Voice

Hand of Fire: A Novel of Briseis and the Trojan War by Judith Starkston

The Trojan War threatens Troy’s allies and the Greek supply raids spread. A young healing priestess, designated as future queen, must defend her city against both divine anger and invading Greeks. She finds strength in visions of a handsome warrior god. Will that be enough when the half-immortal Achilles attacks? Hand of Fire, a tale of resilience and hope, blends history and legend in the untold story of Achilles’s famous captive, Briseis.

That’s a quick introduction to my novel, Hand of Fire. But how did I ever think of writing about this semi-mythological woman, Briseis, whom we know about only from a few lines in the Iliad, an epic poem composed by Homer more than 3,000 years ago?

It may sound strange but I started Hand of Fire to answer a question, and in the process I found such an engaging young woman that I had to give her the voice Homer denied her—to let Briseis tell her story.

For years I’d taught the Iliad, Homer’s poem of the Trojan War, and kept wondering with my students how Briseis could possibly have loved Achilles—which is what Homer shows us. The half-immortal Greek had killed her husband and brothers, destroyed her city and turned her from princess to slave—hardly a heartwarming courtship. She is central to the plot of the Iliad and yet she gets only a handful of lines. In those few words, the one clear notion expressed is her sorrow at being parted from Achilles.

I should say I always liked Achilles, the existential hero who calls the whole war into question—which shows he’s no brainwasher—so the answer wasn’t some ancient version of Stockholm Syndrome. I wrote Hand of Fire to solve this psychological puzzle.

I also had to find a vivid, historical source to fill in the many gaps in Briseis’s life story. Homer’s fragmentary bits weren’t enough. He tells us simply that she was a princess of Lyrnessos, a city allied to Troy, and Achilles destroyed that life. Who was she before Achilles came crashing in? What kind of woman can stand up to this semi-divine, but immensely conflicted man and hold onto her own sense of self, as she must have, to form a genuine bond with him?

Fortunately modern archaeology in the area where ancient Troy was located, that is modern Turkey, and the excavation and translation of extensive libraries of clay tablets have provided a richly detailed portrait of life in this exotic time and place. I mined this treasure trove and created a heroine who is both very much of her era, but who also represents the hope-inspiring resilience of women through the ages. Briseis faces the personal violence against her and her family that is the fate of women in war, but she finds strength to guide herself and others back to an affirmation of life. 



Blurb: The Trojan War threatens Troy’s allies and the Greek supply raids spread. A young healing priestess, designated as future queen, must defend her city against both divine anger and invading Greeks. She finds strength in visions of a handsome warrior god. Will that be enough when the half-immortal Achilles attacks? Hand of Fire, a tale of resilience and hope, blends history and legend in the untold story of Achilles’s famous captive, Briseis.







About the author: Judith Starkston writes historical fiction and mysteries set in Troy and the Hittite Empire. Ms. Starkston is a classicist (B.A. University of California, Santa Cruz, M.A. Cornell University) who taught high school English, Latin and humanities. She and her husband have two grown children and live in Arizona with their golden retriever Socrates. Hand of Fire is her debut novel.

Find an excerpt, Q&A, book reviews, ancient recipes, historical background as well as on-going information about the historical fiction community on Starkston’s website www.JudithStarkston.com
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Buy Links:


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Link to the tour schedule: Hand of Fire Fireship Press Virtual Tour

Advance Praise:

But what is the difference between a good historical novel and a brilliant one?
I suggest you read Judith Starkston’s Hand of Fire and you’ll discover the answer." Helen Hollick, 
Historical Novels Review Editor and author of Forever Queen

"In Hand of Fire, Starkston's careful research brings ancient Greece and Troy to life with passion and grace. This haunting and insightful novel makes you ache for a mortal woman, Briseis, in love with a half-god, Achilles, as she fights to make her own destiny in a world of capricious gods and warriors. I devoured this page-turning escape from the modern world!" -- Rebecca Cantrell, New York Times bestselling author of The World Beneath

“In her portrayal of Briseis, Judith Starkston has cast a bright light on one of the Iliad's most intriguing sub-plots. With her fast-paced story, three-dimensional characters, and fascinating cultural details, Starkston has given historical fiction fans a tale to remember.” –Priscilla Royal, author of Covenant with Hell


Judith Starkston
Author of Hand of Fire (Fireship Press, Sept 2014)
“Suspenseful, tragic, surprising and sexy” –Nancy Bilyeau, author of The Crown 
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