Between the Pages: Blood and Moonlight
This is the beginning of a short series I’m doing on the creation of Blood and Moonlight, and eventually I’ll do one for its sequel, Silence and Shadow.
I’ll start with how the idea sparked. Most of the time, stories come to me when I’m mentally wandering through a field of wildflowers, except instead of blossoms, what surrounds me are random thoughts and knowledge. I just make a bouquet out of what I come across that seems to complement what else I’ve gathered.
I’ve always had tons of interests, but among them are psychology, medieval cathedrals, true crime, and religion. That particular group didn’t fit together until I was walking along the levee in New Orleans on one foggy morning. Across the river, out of the mist, rose the towers of a large Catholic church. It was in some stage of restoration, with a massive crane next to it. I thought of the large cathedrals of Europe, some a thousand years old, and how they were built without such cranes and other modern technology, yet they had lasted centuries. Amazing.
Then my thoughts became a chain:
~The support structures for building the cathedrals had to have been engineering feats of their own. They would’ve had to have been as structurally sound as the building itself, something that couldn’t be neglected or done half-way...
~I bet there were accidents, though. Terrible ones that left widows and orphans and stained the project with their blood. If I was an architect at the time, I would have been as obsessed with them as the cathedral itself. I would need inspectors...
~Who would do such a thing? Could you hire street urchins to climb around the scaffolding and into cramped spaces to look for weak points?
~What if that was someone’s job and they witnessed something from up high and no one believed them?
~Like a murder?
~Maybe at night. The inspector could be working after hours because they were behind, and so they would be the only one who saw or heard anything. Then they could try to help the local police investigate. Nothing they witnessed adds up, but if it was a woman who witnessed, there could be an element of sexism in them dismissing what she saw, but maybe one investigator DOES believe her...
~Oooo, romance is brewing, too...
~Did they actually have police back then? Not as we know them, of course, but surely there were people who investigated crimes...
~What if it was a serial killer? And the lone investigator is the only one who thinks so, and it becomes a cat and mouse game with the investigator desperate to protect the witness?
~How do you hunt a serial killer in a time and place like that? It’s not like they had psychological profiling back then, but surely some people noticed patterns...
By the time I got home, I had half a plot put together, though it was pretty unstable and lacking in details. A few weeks later I was discussing with my publisher on what to work on next, and I had two main ideas to pitch. I outlined both and then, because three is a nice number, I threw in my vague idea about hunting a serial killer in a medieval city.
Guess which one they picked?
The rest is history, but I’ll add that we were already well into developing this story when the tragedy at Notre Dame de Paris happened. I was elbow deep in research on cathedrals in general (which I had always loved), and the news hit me hard. I first heard about it on the radio on the way to Target (a large American store, for my overseas readers), and I scrolled desperately through reports on my phone to find out what was going on as I shopped. The news only got worse and worse. By the time I was checking out, I was near tears, and the cashier asked me if I was okay.
“No!” I remember saying. “Notre Dame is on fire!”
“Oh no!” she said. “Which part?”
“The whole thing! All of it! The roof has collapsed!” Then I started crying.
I think she thought I was a little crazy.
Of course, terrible as it was, a great deal of the cathedral miraculously survived, and I only became more determined to pay homage to those magnificent builders of so long ago, who created something so beautiful and strong.
To be continued...