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Author & Reader Conversations > Historical mysteries writer Gary Corby, December 11-12, 2010, from Sydney

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message 1: by Betty (last edited Dec 20, 2010 02:11PM) (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3660 comments Gary Corby, author of the featured book The Pericles Commission (Hellene Mysteries Series), will be logging onto TWL from Australia to converse about the novel and the series during two one-hour sessions, Saturday December 11 and Sunday December 12:

Session One
Australia/Sydney 20:00 Saturday 11-Dec-2010

Members' Local Times (24-HOUR clock http://www.timezoneconverter.com/cgi-... )
Africa/Cairo 11:00 11-Dec-2010
Asia/Amman 11:00 11-Dec-2010
Asia/Damascus 11:00 11-Dec-2010
Asia/Jakarta 16:00 11-Dec-2010
Asia/Kuala_Lumpur 17:00 11-Dec-2010
Asia/Singapore 17:00 11-Dec-2010
Asia/Tel_Aviv 11:00 11-Dec-2010
Australia/Queensland 19:00 11-Dec-2010
Canada/Vancouver 01:00 11-Dec-2010
Europe/Amsterdam 10:00 11-Dec-2010
Europe/Athens 11:00 11-Dec-2010
Europe/Berlin 10:00 11-Dec-2010
Europe/Brussels 10:00 11-Dec-2010
Europe/Bucharest 11:00 11-Dec-2010
Europe/London 09:00 11-Dec-2010
Europe/Madrid 10:00 11-Dec-2010
Europe/Prague 10:00 11-Dec-2010
US/Central 03:00 11-Dec-2010
US/Eastern 04:00 11-Dec-2010
US/Mountain 02:00 11-Dec-2010
US/Pacific 01:00 11-Dec-2010


Session Two
Australia/Sydney 13:00 Sunday 12-Dec-2010

Members' Local Times (24-HOUR clock http://www.timezoneconverter.com/cgi-... )
Africa/Cairo 04:00 12-Dec-2010
Asia/Amman 04:00 12-Dec-2010
Asia/Damascus 04:00 12-Dec-2010
Asia/Jakarta 09:00 12-Dec-2010
Asia/Kuala_Lumpur 10:00 12-Dec-2010
Asia/Tel_Aviv 04:00 12-Dec-2010
Asia/Singapore 10:00 12-Dec-2010
Australia/Queensland 12:00 12-Dec-2010
America/Vancouver 18:00 11-Dec-2011
Europe/Amsterdam 03:00 12-Dec-2010
Europe/Athens 04:00 12-Dec-2010
Europe/Berlin 03:00 12-Dec-2010
Europe/Brussels 03:00 12-Dec-2010
Europe/Bucharest 04:00 12-Dec-2010
Europe/London 02:00 12-Dec-2010
Europe/Madrid 03:00 12-Dec-2010
Europe/Prague 03:00 12-Dec-2010
US/Central 20:00 11-Dec-2010
US/Eastern 21:00 11-Dec-2010
US/Mountain 19:00 11-Dec-2010
US/Pacific 18:00 11-Dec-2010


message 2: by Gary (new)

Gary Corby (garycorby) | 25 comments Gary here, author of The Pericles Commission. I'll be around for the next hour or so, for Q&A on The World's Literature discussion group. If there's anything you want to ask or say, fire away!


message 3: by Betty (last edited Dec 11, 2010 05:26PM) (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3660 comments Hi, Gary, here's some notes so far I've taken about the book:

I have to agree with Kelli Stanley, who described your book as "first-rate entertainment."

How did your interest in ancient history come about?

Can you describe the kind of research you did in order to portray historical Athens in the fifth-century BCE?

The story is set in 461 BCE, I think, but the democratic initiative goes back to 590 BCE with Solon the Wise according to the Timeline in the opening pages.

On pg 8 the table legs resemble horses' legs and hooves, then there's the horse statue in Chp 3, pg 38-9 -- any reason for the choice of this animal? There's other animals, too (eels, dogs, fish); not all novels have them.

Chp One & Two worked together in that Two took the isolated murder scene discovery into the busy Agora, where numerous citizens and non-citizens argued about who did it, why, and what would be the political consequences.

The funny coincidence of N's recalling Trojan Achilles preference for life as a poor slave rather than for lord of Hades (49) then N's coming across the slave Achilles with the scarred heels(51).


MORE COMING FOR SESSION TWO.


message 4: by Marieke (new)

Marieke | 155 comments Hi Gary, i have very similar questions as Asmah, especially her questions #2 and #3.

also i would add that this book is first-rate intelligent entertainment!!


message 5: by Betty (last edited Dec 11, 2010 05:47PM) (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3660 comments Conversation with historical mystery author Gary Corby (The Pericles Commission) GOING ON NOW.


message 6: by Gary (new)

Gary Corby (garycorby) | 25 comments Thanks Asmah! And thanks for arranging these talks.

I'll answer your questions in separate comments...


message 7: by Gary (new)

Gary Corby (garycorby) | 25 comments How did your interest in ancient history come about?

I've always loved reading history, particularly ancient history. And I've always loved puzzle stories, both of the mystery kind and the science fiction kind. So when I decided to write a novel, it was the most natural thing to write a murder mystery set in ancient times. I selected Classical Greece because it was one of the crucial periods of human history. This is the founding of western civilization; you can't get much more critical than that! And to top it off, they killed each other in such interesting ways.


message 8: by Gary (new)

Gary Corby (garycorby) | 25 comments Can you describe the kind of research you did in order to portray historical Athens in the fifth-century BCE?

To start with, a decent knowledge of the histories written by Herodotus and Thucydides is mandatory. They're the Big Two, and if you don't know them then you are doomed. As I write this my copies are within arm's reach, on the shelf above my head.

Herodotus is a fine old chatterbox and reads more like a Boys' Own Adventure than the founding document of history and anthropology. Thucydides is full of geopolitics and is better than any modern thriller.

Both can be mined mercilessly for material. There's a novel on every page. For example you may have heard of a movie called 300. It comes from Herodotus, seriously mangled.

It's surprising how much information about daily life comes from archaeology and not written history. For example, what if your character is putting out the garbage? (In which case the character is certainly a slave.) People at the time never thought to write down where they dumped their rubbish. Archaeologists find the middens so we know most people kept a dump out back. We get house plans, cooking utensils, boat design, weaponry, clothing pins, bronze mirrors, hair combs, assorted pottery, voting tokens, clothing styles, musical instruments, and all sorts of other stuff from archaeology. The Metropolitan, the Louvre, the British Museum and the National Archaeology Museum of Athens are my friends.

There're a host of other contemporary writers with useful things to say. Who you read depends on what you're after, and you just have to know who's who. For anything to do with manly pursuits, Xenophon's your guy. For civic administration, you probably want Aristotle. Besides being hilarious, the comedies of Aristophanes are packed with details of everyday life, especially life's little irritations. For anything to do with the life of Socrates, you definitely want Plato.

Plato's a good example of how to read these sources. He wrote reams of profound thoughts about philosophy. It's all totally useless to me. But he made his philosophy interesting by writing it as dialogues, and in the dialogues, historically real characters make off the cuff comments that are absolute gems to me. When I read Plato, I ignore the signal and read the side-channels.


message 9: by Gary (new)

Gary Corby (garycorby) | 25 comments The story is set in 461 BCE, I think, but the democratic initiative goes back to 590 BCE with Solon the Wise according to the Timeline in the opening pages.

Right!

There were three big leaps over the space of about 130 years. I could hardly put all that in one novel! So I picked the last and most dramatic moment, because it had a real live murder.

The first leap was Solon the Wise, who wrote the first constitution for Athens. His constitution included a body of citizens called the Ecclesia. Of course ecclesia these days means a gathering of clergymen, but the original meaning was simply a gathering.

The second leap was a fellow called Cleisthenes. He made a big attempt to introduce full democracy, but couldn't quite get there. The Areopagus, which was a council of ruling oligarchs, was too powerful to remove. But he did manage to turn the Ecclesia into a working parliament, though with curtailed powers.

The final leap was Ephialtes. He managed to get rid of the Areopagus, turned the Ecclesia into a true democratic parliament with total powers, and was promptly murdered.

And so the story begins.


message 10: by Gary (new)

Gary Corby (garycorby) | 25 comments On pg 8 the table legs resemble horses' legs and hooves, then there's the horse statue in Chp 3, pg 38-9 -- any reason for the choice of this animal? There's other animals, too (eels, dogs, fish); not all novels have them.

The table, or ones like it, is documented. I confess I didn't notice the correspondence of horse and horse until you pointed it out!

In early drafts, the statue wasn't a horse; it was a soldier. Then one of my test readers, who's a classical archaeologist, pointed out that at that date, statuary was still entirely votive, dedicated to the Gods. But I needed something big and heavy, so I went for a large horse made in honor of a victory at the Sacred Games (the Olympics).

If I'd noticed the coincidence, I might have converted the table into a lion, but as it stands it's within Greek character, if perhaps slightly repetitive. The Greeks were extremely fond of horses, even though they were average horsemen at best, which is why Phillipos = Phillip, meaning lover of horses, was a popular name then and to this day.


message 11: by Gary (new)

Gary Corby (garycorby) | 25 comments Chp One & Two worked together in that Two took the isolated murder scene discovery into the busy Agora, where numerous citizens and non-citizens argued about who did it, why, and what would be the political consequences.

It's a rule of the writing craft that you must grab the reader at once. Chapter One is designed to do that. We open with a dead body and accelerate into the investigation at once.

It's also a rule that the reader needs to know where and when they are! Chapter Two is designed to do that. I tried for total immersion as quickly as possible, at the most important place in Athens: the Agora. Tourists to Athens these days fixate on the Acropolis, and rightly so, but back then, the agora was the center of public life.


message 12: by Gary (new)

Gary Corby (garycorby) | 25 comments The funny coincidence of N's recalling Trojan Achilles preference for life as a poor slave rather than for lord of Hades (49) then N's coming across the slave Achilles with the scarred heels(51).

Not much of a coincidence there, I'm afraid. Nico recalls the quote about the hero Achilles, so that when he meets Achilles the slave, not only will everyone immediately get the joke about the heels, which they would anyway, but they also note that here's Achilles as he might have been if he'd got his wish.


message 13: by Betty (last edited Dec 11, 2010 06:03PM) (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3660 comments Your successful first novel and the in-progress sequels make writing seem like an activity very congenial to you. Did you do much writing of stories and poems, for example, or belong to a writing group before embarking upon the Hellene Mystery series?


message 14: by Gary (new)

Gary Corby (garycorby) | 25 comments I wrote quite a few short stories, almost always only for my own fun. A lot of the early ones were science fiction.

Shortly before I signed with my literary agent, I won a short story contest in the UK called the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Prize, in the historical mystery category. It was for a short story called The Pasion Contract.

The Pasion Contract is set about 45 years after the novel. It's part of what I now think of as the Nicoverse, in the sense that the characters in that story could, in theory, meet Nicolaos. Nico doesn't appear, but there are a couple of characters mentioned in common, and both novel and short story of course are adventures set in Ancient Greece.

It's possible I'll write other short stories in the future, unrelated to Nico, but part of the Nicoverse.


message 15: by Marieke (new)

Marieke | 155 comments Is there a place where we can read this short story? I'm assuming it was published...


message 16: by Gary (new)

Gary Corby (garycorby) | 25 comments And to answer the other part of the question: writing is lots and lots and lots of fun. But editing is lots and lots and lots of hard work.


message 17: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3660 comments Is it more useful for a writer to have life experiences and keep a handy notepad? to be an incessant reader or researcher? to be simply imaginative?


message 18: by Gary (new)

Gary Corby (garycorby) | 25 comments Is there a place where we can read this short story? I'm assuming it was published...

It's funny you should ask that, because only recently I had to issue a takedown notice to someone who'd stolen it.

The Pasion Contract used to be up for anyone to read on the prize site. But this was 2 years ago and I've just noticed it's no longer there. Which is a pity.

I'll turn it into an ebook format and put it up on Goodreads, if possible. Thanks for the idea!


message 19: by Marieke (new)

Marieke | 155 comments Gary said "I'll turn it into an ebook format and put it up on Goodreads, if possible."

that would be great! i really like this "Nicoverse" idea... :D


message 20: by Gary (new)

Gary Corby (garycorby) | 25 comments Is it more useful for a writer to have life experiences and keep a handy notepad? to be an incessant reader or researcher? to be simply imaginative?

There've been great writers from all three approaches. So who can say?

Two scenes in my second book actually happened to me. But obviously for the great majority, I'm relying on research and imagination.

If you look at the great master writers like Shakespeare and Homer, they almost all reuse existing tales and reshape them into masterpieces.


message 21: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3660 comments The character of a child Socrates is amazing, since many of us think of him as a wise counselor and teacher.


message 22: by Gary (new)

Gary Corby (garycorby) | 25 comments Marieke, I have a few ideas for stories, all set in the world of the ancient Mediterranean. They wouldn't necessarily be connected; more like a shared world in which characters from different walks of life are all doing their own thing.

But in theory they could all run across each other, and Nico is obviously the core of my world, hence I call it the Nicoverse.

The problem's finding the time to write all the ideas!


message 23: by Gary (new)

Gary Corby (garycorby) | 25 comments The character of a child Socrates is amazing, since many of us think of him as a wise counselor and teacher.

That's very deliberate. It's precisely because everyone thinks of Socrates as this wise old guy that I did the exact opposite. Even the wisest teachers had to be kid some time!

Socrates mentions, via Plato at one point, that before he got into philosophy he studied the physical sciences. Which makes him a terrific one-child research center for Nico.

Also, we get to see him grow up. Starting with the second book, Socrates begins to meet the great thinkers who came before him. (The ones that were still alive, of course...)


message 24: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3660 comments The sequels will star Nico in Periclean Athens. Will new characters be introduced? I think you answered this question relative to pre-Socratic philosophers.


message 25: by Marieke (new)

Marieke | 155 comments Gary wrote: "Marieke, I have a few ideas for stories, all set in the world of the ancient Mediterranean. They wouldn't necessarily be connected; more like a shared world in which characters from different wal..."

well, someday we will need to have a beautiful bound volume of all these related stories that form Nicoverse, so i hope you find the time!


message 26: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3660 comments When and where will the second in the series by published? Are the titles and texts in place? Is the series framed by Periclean Athens?


message 27: by Gary (new)

Gary Corby (garycorby) | 25 comments Every book is guaranteed to have new characters! Nico will run across most of the famous men and women of his day before he's finished.

The books won't necessarily all take place in Athens, either. Book 2 is The Ionia Sanction. It takes place partly in Athens but mostly in Ionia, which was the west coast of Turkey. Book 3 has working title Sacred Games and is set at the Olympics.


message 28: by Marieke (new)

Marieke | 155 comments You just answered a question i had--i wasn't sure if Socrates was the Socrates of if that name was merely common...and maybe it was that, too. I am new to this realm of antiquity.


message 29: by Gary (new)

Gary Corby (garycorby) | 25 comments Conversely, secondary characters can't necessarily make it into every book. There's not enough room! Nico and Diotima I guarantee. Everyone else makes it only as required.


message 30: by Gary (new)

Gary Corby (garycorby) | 25 comments Marieke, Socrates is the Socrates. Everyone going by a famous name is the for real famous person.

But in fact, you're right that there were several people named Socrates. We've just forgotten most of the others.

The details surrounding Socrates are all as accurate as I can get them. The names of his mother and father, for example, and the location of his deme, are all definitely right.


message 31: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3660 comments What I learned from the novel was more about the law and society of Athens at the time. No one was living under a tyrant, but all brought issues to be decided by a group of leaders, which was also changing to bring in non-aristocrats into the democratic process.


message 32: by Gary (new)

Gary Corby (garycorby) | 25 comments When and where will the second in the series by published? Are the titles and texts in place? Is the series framed by Periclean Athens?

The Pericles Commission releases in Australia on 4th January. (Only a few days to go!)

The Ionia Sanction releases in the US probably either October or November 2011. I don't have a date yet, but certainly the few months before Christmas.

The Ionia Sanction releases in Australia probably either December 2011 or January 2012.

The book currently titled Sacred Games (that might change) releases October or November 2013.

Phew!


message 33: by Marieke (new)

Marieke | 155 comments Gary wrote: "Marieke, Socrates is the Socrates. Everyone going by a famous name is the for real famous person.

But in fact, you're right that there were several people named Socrates. We've just forgotten ..."


that's really great--i feel like i've already learned a ton from "The Pericles Commission." When i started reading the article Asmah linked to about Ephialtes, everything was quite familiar because you had covered it in your book.


message 34: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3660 comments Thanks, Gary. It's great to have this conversation with you. Good luck to you with the forthcoming stories.



message 35: by Gary (new)

Gary Corby (garycorby) | 25 comments What I learned from the novel was more about the law and society of Athens at the time. No one was living under a tyrant, but all brought issues to be decided by a group of leaders, which was also changing to bring in non-aristocrats into the democratic process.

Right! The Pericles Commission takes place at the start of the 50 Golden Years of Greece. During that time, western civilization was born. If Nico survives, he'll see it all happen.


message 36: by Gary (new)

Gary Corby (garycorby) | 25 comments Thank you Asmah!

I truly appreciate the opportunity. And it's been fun and educational answering questions on the spot!


message 37: by Marieke (new)

Marieke | 155 comments If Nico survives...

i will definitely be staying tuned!!

i echo Asmah, thanks so much for chatting here.


message 38: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3660 comments Thank you, Gary and Marieke. It's nice to have this conversation.


message 39: by Gary (new)

Gary Corby (garycorby) | 25 comments My pleasure, Marieke.


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