For those who may be curious about how we wrote the stories, as well as our reasoning behind the choices we’ve made, we’ve included this page. Warning: you may encounter SOME SPOILERS, so you may want to read the books, before continuing on this page.
As we’ve said all over this website, the Tapestry of Bronze is a series of interlocking novels set in Bronze Age Greece. We focus on the stories of the heroes, not the gods, but the heroes are always thinking about, wondering about, and trying to please the gods, praying for divine intervention, and so on. We try – almost always – to supply a potential natural explanation of the events as well as to give you our characters’ more inspired interpretations of them.
We must also point out that the many versions of the myths are not consistent with each other. Nevertheless, we are striving to make our novels consistent with each other – allowing for the different perspectives of the characters in the different books. So, in one novel one character may admire Amphion, while in another he’s viewed as an usurper. But we also want to warn you that our stories will sometimes depart from the best known version of the myths. Often this is out of necessity, because of the myths’ inconsistencies, but occasionally we do it because we think it will make the stories better for the audience of today. For this there is plenty of precedence, including the plays of Sophocles, Euripides and Aeschylus. We don’t want to claim that our works are on a par with theirs, but merely to claim that we make use of the same privilege: poetic license.
And now to some tidbits about the writing of the books.
JOCASTA: The Mother-Wife of Oedipus
This story inspired us ever since Victoria read Sophocles’ play, Oedipus Rex, back in high school. It was a great story, but she couldn’t help thinking that telling it from the point of view of Jocasta would be far more interesting. Jocasta had all the clues – she would have known, of course, that she had given birth to a baby boy twenty years or so before she met Oedipus – did she ever realize that she was married to her son? Victoria wanted to turn the story into a novel, and have it cover a large portion of Jocasta’s life – from her marriage to Laius to her death, a period of about forty years – instead of being restricted to a single day as was the custom of Greek tragedies.
The idea sat in a corner of Victoria’s brain for many years. There were a couple of reasons she did not attempt it. First, she didn’t know much about the classics or ancient Greece (that has since changed). This was before the time of the internet. Second, she thought that it would be necessary to visit Greece in order to get a feel for the architecture and the geography. And third, she knew she first had to grow as a writer.
Fast forward several decades. Victoria met Alice in Zurich, Switzerland, where they were both working as actuaries. They collaborated on several projects, including writing articles. Then Alice persuaded Victoria to enter a short story contest – she entered it too – and they tied for first place, with a note from the judge that they should be writing professionally.
It turned out that Alice had minored in classics – she had the background that Victoria lacked – and she, too, was fascinated by the strong women of Greek’s Bronze Age, although she preferred the story of Clytemnestra. She agreed that Jocasta had great dramatic potential. So, one day in Las Vegas – the two travel plenty – Alice and Victoria sketched out the idea for this novel. Victoria privately thought that the chances of them actually finishing this were very slim, but Alice was one of the most organized people on the planet. And so they wrote Iokaste: The Novel of the Mother-Wife of Oedipus. This has just been released in a new edition as Jocasta: The Mother-Wife of Oedipus. And now they will switch person to answer a few frequently asked questions.
Why a new edition?
First, after ten years of writing together, we’re much better writers – and better at writing together – so there were several scenes we wanted to improve. Second, a decade of research deepened our knowledge of the Bronze Age, so we were able to fix or to straighten out many details. Third, because we are writing a series of interconnected novels – something we were not considering, really, when we wrote the original version of Iokaste, we were able to improve connections to other novels in the series.
Should I buy the new version if I have the old version?
Emotionally, the books are very much the same, as Jocasta experiences the same events experienced by Iokaste. So, no, we don’t really think it’s necessary to buy the new book if you have read the old. However, we won’t discourage you from doing it! And, if you’re a new reader to the series – or if you’re recommending the book to new readers, we strongly recommend Jocasta over Iokaste. It really is significantly better. It also probably costs less, as the copies of Iokaste are being sold by third parties for outrageous prices (although this may change; we have no control over those prices). Finally, we, as authors, receive royalties for Jocasta whereas we receive nothing if you buy Iokaste. So, this website only contains links to Jocasta.
Why did you change the spelling “Iokaste” to “Jocasta”?
First, this signals that this is a different version of the novel, which we think is important. Second, although we have a fondness for the spelling “Iokaste” – this is a better transliteration of the original Greek than “Jocasta” – our agent, even after many years with the book, still stumbled over the pronunciation. If people can’t pronounce something they are less likely to buy it or read it. So we decided to go with the more conventional English version. Our decision was assisted by the fact that everyone today says “Julius Caesar” even though in that man’s day, there was no “J” in the Latin alphabet (he was called Iulius).
Several other spellings have been changed to be more in line with current English usage. For example, Kreon has been changed to Creon.
The Niobe trilogy: Children of Tantalus, The Road to Thebes, and Arrows of Artemis
What inspired you to write these books?
When we were writing Iokaste/Jocasta, we researched many other myths about Thebes, some of which concerned the king and queen just before Jocasta and her husband, King Laius. The previous royal pair were King Amphion and Queen Niobe. For those who don’t know, or who may have forgotten, Niobe was famous for having insulted the goddess Leto. Leto was the mother of the gods Apollo and Artemis, and in revenge for the insult, they killed 13 of Niobe’s 14 children. Afterwards poor Niobe descended into grief and madness, weeping and mourning and turning into a stone (we have a picture of Victoria in front of said stone, which can still be seen in Manisa, Turkey, as well as one with her and the local security guard, who served her tea, and another with her husband, who obligingly drove her around Turkey).
But while doing our research for Jocasta we determined who we think was really behind the deaths of Niobe’s children. Yes, we know perfectly well that the myths say that the children were killed by Apollo and Artemis. The twin gods were blamed for shooting invisible golden (Apollo) or invisible silver (Artemis) arrows whenever a man (Apollo) or a woman (Artemis) dropped dead without warning. However, if you prefer not-so-supernatural explanations, the deaths of the Niobids – the name given to Niobe’s children – become mass murder. And we believe it was mass murder, committed for reasons of power. The who and the why became clear to us as we considered the myths about different people – such as Pelops, Niobe, Amphion and Laius - simultaneously. The how remains open to speculation.
So, we believe that we discovered a mass murder that has gone undetected for more than three millennia. We were rather pleased by our own cleverness. But more than that, Niobe’s story – and the stories of Pelops, her ambitious brother, and her musical husband, Amphion, and her talented daughter, Chloris – were fascinating. Pelops, for whom the Peloponnesian peninsula is still named, had a tremendous influence in ancient times, including being the founder of the Olympic Games (there are several “founding-stories” of the Olympic Games). Pelops was also the alleged ancestor of many famous heroes: Agamemnon, Menelaus, and even, in most accounts, Heracles (Hercules). Their stories deserved to be told in a manner made fresh for today’s readers. But because the stories associated with Niobe and her relatives were so rich and so complex, we decided to divide them into three separate parts. The books can be read in any order, but they may work best chronologically: first Children of Tantalus, then The Road to Thebes, and finally, Arrows of Artemis.
Niobe and Pelops: Children of Tantalus
Many people have heard of Tantalus, the king of Lydia who was punished after death for the crimes he committed while alive. In the Underworld he was eternally hungry and thirsty. But when he reached up to a tree to grab a piece of fruit, the branch moved out of reach. When he bends down to drink from a stream, the water recedes. He’s perpetually tormented, and the food and the water tantalize him – that’s right, that’s where the word comes from!
This book focuses on the children of Tantalus: Niobe and Pelops – and to a lesser extent, their older brother Broteas. Pelops is nearly killed by his father and so he decides it is best to leave Lydia, and his devoted sister Niobe depart for the west, to make their fortune and to get away from their insane father. Pelops seeks his fortune in the west, supported by his adventurous, unconventional sister Niobe. The book is full of intrigue, danger, and thrilling chariot races. And although neither of us has ever raced a chariot, we have watched chariot races – in real life – and we can assure you that they are very beautiful.
Children of Tantalus was a challenge to write, as we had to become acquainted with many new characters, such as Niobe, Pelops, Hippodamia and Aeolius. We also had to learn about different places, from Lydia, now part of Turkey, to ancient Athens and ancient Pylos, and then up to the remains of Olympia. We had lots of questions to research: What was it like to race a chariot? How big were horses back then? What was it like to sail a ship in the late Bronze Age? And the mastiff that served as a nurse-god to the god Zeus in his infancy – what was it like? We assume that it was the Anatolian mastiff – also known as the Anatolian shepherd dog – an image of the breed is shown.
There were also some puzzlers posed by the myths. Tantalus was supposed to have consumed the food of the gods, e.g., nectar – but what was nectar? Apparently no one knows. We decided to go with an extraction of poppies, as nectar seems to actually mean flower-juice, and the drug could make its consumer feel godlike, as poppies are the source of opiates and even heroin. It turns out the most potent poppies actually come from Asia Minor.
Other conundrums: How should we represent the gods coming to a banquet, also an important part of a myth? We decided upon a meteor shower – the Leonids, which take place in November, and which can be absolutely spectacular if you see them from the right part of the world on the right night. Then, according to the myths, Pelops was the protégé – and in some accounts the lover – of the sea god Poseidon. We had to make a character seem godlike without saying without explicitly saying that he was a god.
We also ran into more basic writing troubles. We both developed a crush on one of the characters, Amphion – the love-interest of Niobe – but most of his story didn’t fit in Children of Tantalus. All must be sacrificed for art – remember Aristotle and his unities – and with heavy hearts we excised most of the threads connected to Amphion. At first we were sad, but later we rejoiced, for we found we could use nearly all of the deleted passages in the next book.
Niobe and Amphion: The Road to Thebes
Writing The Road to Thebes was completely different from writing Children of Tantalus. Whereas in the first book we had to seek out the characters, and coax them to reveal themselves, in The Road to Thebes they would not stop talking. Words and story just poured forth. As we mentioned above, we were both already extremely fond of Amphion, the romantic cowherd-turned-musician, who had many secrets in his past. We also, in this book – as the title suggests – had the chance to return to Thebes. We also became acquainted with Dirke, the Regent’s wife, a woman who let nothing stand in her way. There’s nothing like a good villain! The biggest challenge in The Road to Thebes was dealing with the many different characters – but in a way this was not a challenge at all, as they all had such wonderful stories to tell.
Niobe and Chloris: Arrows of Artemis
This novel covers the third part of the trilogy surrounding Niobe, and also spends time focused on her daughter, Chloris. The writing challenge here was covering many more years than we covered in the other two Niobe books. We also become better acquainted with Broteas, elder brother to Pelops and Niobe, as well as some lesser-known myths associated with the origin of werewolves.
Niobe, after she suffers tragedy, returns at last to her childhood home in Lydia. According to the myths, she sat on the edge of Mount Sipylus and mourned – crying so much that her tears formed a stream and she herself turned into stone. The stone is still there, in the Manisa, Turkey. Victoria, accompanied by her husband, went on a pilgrimage to look at the stone (see pictures on this page, either of Victoria before the stone or by the security guard’s trailer – we drank tea with him).
The Niobe monument was relatively easy to find, but Victoria had another quest in the region. Broteas, one of Niobe’s brothers, allegedly carved a statue of the mother goddess Rhea into the side of Mount Sipylus. This was more difficult to locate, but at last Victoria and her husband did, several kilometers east of Manisa. In Turkey the god is known as Kybele (Cybele), another name for Rhea (according to some versions; there are many variations). We could not get near the statue, as the side of the mountain was steep, and either completely blocked by thorn bushes or made dangerous by loose scree. So we’re posting a picture of the carving as seen from the parking lot below.
At the end of the trilogy Niobe returns to Lydia, where her father Tantalus is now a very old man. As we mentioned earlier, he was supposed to be punished after death by always stretching for food that he could not reach and bending down to drink from water that sank when he tried to drink. So we gave him Type I diabetes, which, before people could take insulin shots, would have had pretty much those symptoms: eating food but losing weight; drinking water but always feeling thirsty. Of course, our characters don’t call King Tantalus’ condition diabetes in the book, but that’s the disease we chose.
Antigone & Creon: Guardians of Thebes
We’ve just finished this project, and we can let you know that our test readers reacted very positively. You can find it at Amazon by clicking on one of the thumbnails.
This novel took longer to write than our other projects. First, there were new and demanding areas of research, such as siege warfare in the time of the Late Bronze Age, and a whole bunch of characters whose personalities, actions and motives needed to be understood and developed. Second, the non-writing parts of our lives were overwhelmingly busy. Alice’s promotion meant her day job became even more demanding. Victoria was badly injured in a ski accident. We both had to deal with family illnesses and crises. All these things took a toll on our productivity.
Nevertheless, we reached the end and believe the book is excellent. The novel has a “polyphonic” construction: many different voices and perspectives make up the narrative. Though this format has enjoyed a resurgence lately, we weren’t trying to be trendy – the structure flowed naturally from the story.
Antigone & Creon: Guardians of Thebes gave us the chance to explore some themes and to meet some new characters and to get to know some old ones better. There’s the familiar and expected issue of civil disobedience, and the needs of the state versus the needs of the individual – but this theme is still relevant after more than three millennia. We learned what Creon was actually doing during the four decades spanned by Jocasta: The Mother-Wife of Oedipus. We met a strong man called Alkides, and said good-bye to a sick and blind Oedipus.
We also took advantage of a real geological feature. If you visit Thebes – the one in Greece, not the one in Egypt – you may, if you wander beyond the town’s eastern edge, discover a pair of caves. When Victoria visited them they were not particularly pretty. There was a lot of litter at the entrances, and the smell was rather unpleasant. Nevertheless, she was informed that these two caves – right next to each other! – are alleged to be the royal tombs of the sons of Oedipus: Polynikes and Eteokles.
That’s a picture of the caves, taken by David Sheppard and used with permission.
Clytemnestra: Sister of the Swan
We have, as of March 2013, moved this project from the back burner to the front, and are actively working on it. It’s another rich story and we are excited by its potential. More on this subject later!
The Tapestry of Bronze is a series of interlocking novels set in ancient Greece, starting several generations before the Trojan War. Archaeological evidence indicates that this “Golden Age of Heroes” aligns with Bronze Age dates. Our series forms a tapestry, because the books tie together, though each novel focuses on one strand of story. Jocasta, Children of Tantalus, The Road to Thebes and Arrows of Artemis are available for purchase today. And more are in the works!
Intrigued, but not sure if you’ll like the books? Then electronically download a sample at Amazon. Clicking on the covers below will take you to that company’s website.
A world...as compelling as Tolkien's but more rooted in
actual history...in the spirit of Graves's I, Claudius.
Do you wish to contact us? Write to us at “tapestryofbronze” at “yahoo.com”
The Tapestry of Bronze is a series of novels set in Bronze Age Greece.
You may be interested in visiting other parts of our website:
Maps (Thebes, Pisa/Olympia, Eastern Mediterranean)
To see our novels at Amazon, available in either hardcopy or electronic formats, click on the covers below.
And check out the newest release:
A real page-turner . . . a wonderfully nuanced novel that repays previous knowledge of its subject matter - but never requires it -- Historical Fiction Review
An absorbing, quasi-historical portrait
of ancient Greece ... well-balanced update that maintains the original's
mythic suspense. -- Kirkus, May 2005
To see our novels at Amazon, available in either hardcopy or electronic formats, click on the covers below.