I have long held a passion for the history, myths and legends of the ancient world. I graduated from the University of Sydney in Australia with a degree in Arts Law having studied Classics along the way. I live in Sydney with my husband and two sons and over the years have worked as a solicitor, corporate lawyer, senior executive and corporate governance consultant but am now delighted to be concentrating solely on writing the sequel to my first novel, The Wedding Shroud.
I was inspired to write The Wedding Shroud after finding a photograph of a C6th BC sarcophagus of a husband and wife lying in a tender embrace. The casket was unusual because, in this period of history, women were not depicted in funerary art let alone with their husbands in a pose of such affection.
The image of the lovers remained with me. Who were these people with their distinctive almond shaped eyes and straight nose and brow? What kind of ancient culture depicted both a man and a woman in such a sensuous pose? The answer led me to the decadent and mystical civilization of Etruria which existed in Italy from before the founding of Rome. The Etruscans heavily influenced the Romans from republican to imperial times even though the two peoples were bitter enemies. Most amazing of all, I learned that the Etruscans were as enlightened as the classical Athenians but with one major difference – they afforded independence, education and sexual freedom to women and as a result were considered wicked and corrupt by the rest of the ancient world.
Discovering this, I wanted to write a novel comparing the two societies –the austere and self righteous Romans versus the ‘sinful’ Etruscans. Research led me to the little known story of the war between Rome and the Etruscan city of Veii. These cities were situated only twelve miles apart across the Tiber River, and it intrigued me that just by crossing a strip of water you could move from the equivalent of the Dark Ages into something akin to the Renaissance.
So how was I going to make the story interesting? I created two characters. A young Roman girl called Caecilia who is married to an Etruscan nobleman, Vel Mastarna, from the city of Veii to seal a truce. And she leaves Rome, pious and intolerant, to come to his world. Determined to remain virtuous, she soon has to grapple with conflicting moralities as she is slowly seduced by the freedoms of which I have spoken together with a chance to defer her fate. Alas, though, she also finds that the Etruscans and Mastarna have dark secrets and, as war looms, she discovers that fate is not so easy to control and she must finally decide where her allegiance lies.
It took me ten years to research and write The Wedding Shroud and I was particularly pleased that internationally acclaimed author, Ursula Le Guin, praised the novel as having: ‘All the drama and sensuality expected of a historical romance, plus a sensitivity to the realities of life in a very different time and world...’ The novel has also received 8 five star ratings on Goodreads.
The Wedding Shroud was released as a paperback in Australia and New Zealand in 2010 by Pier 9 Books and I’ve now been contracted to write the sequel which will be published in 2012/13. Even more exciting, though, is that The Wedding Shroud has recently been released as an ebook worldwide and is now available on Amazon, Amazon UK, iBookstore, Kobo and Bookish.
If you would like to learn more about the Etruscans and other trivia about the ancient world you might also visit my blog, An Etruscan Place.
The Wedding Shroud – A Tale of Early Rome
Pier Murdoch Books
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