Friday, May 2, 2014

Hild's age

From: Kate

I NEVER write author fan mail, but I LOVED LOVED LOVED Hild. I discovered it via my usual Sunday-afternoon listening session of To the Best of Our Knowledge, and alternated between staying up all night reading it and then only reading 3 pages a day because I didn't want it to end. 

This was the best reading experience I've had in a long time -- immensely enriched by also getting to read about your writing process, and read the q/a as you see writing on your book blog. I suppose as a former classics undergrad (I focused on late antiquity), then grad student in economics of religion, current worker bee in the Silicon Valley hive you allude to in the TTBOOK interview, avowed logophile and amateur linguist, and lifelong practicing episcopalian... this was a book made for me. But probably this is a book "made for" anyone interested in just one of those things!

And now, a question: how old is Hild at the end of the book? That's probably a bit random/trivial, but I realized a few times when her age was mentioned that I was off a bit -- probably this was on purpose/i.e. to evoke the reaction "so much has happened to her and she is so young" -- which at times is Hild's own reaction! But by the end  I had really lost track, and it was for me, (and I noticed this comment in a review, as well) a bit distracting/confusing. Not sure why -- maybe I want to know/ground any time of potential happiness Hild might have against what I "know" happens next ie with King Edwin, etc.? Who knows...  Meanwhile if you could let us know how old she is at the end of the book, I'd be much obliged.
At the end of the novel Hild is eighteen. She seems a bit older because I pack a lot in. In fact, it's possible that one of the years is a bit, ah, tardis-like and is bigger on the inside than the outside. This is because of the various histories I've weighed: they use different schema for dates. There's not only disagreement between various annals and Bede, but Bede himself probably started his year in a different month; perhaps he followed the Diocletian calendar, which begins each year on August 20. Bede therefore might have given the date for the end of Hild as 632 but we'd think of it as 631. (This, of course, also applies to what date she was born. Confused? Me too, for a while. Hence the tardis effect.)

For Book II I've reconciled all the dates and made clear decisions: the years are Bede's (as opposed to, say, Annales Cambriae or the Annals of Ulster, etc.) but they begin and end Jan 1 and December 31. This means the novel opens in March 632, just a few months after we last checked in with Hild (even though that might have felt like the end of 632). So now you can look up exactly what lies ahead--at least in kingship terms. Hild herself, of course, was hidden from history at this point. Obviously she was either doing nothing interesting or something/s that Bede disapproved of mightily and so left out of his official holy history.

As for the Silicon Valley corporations I mentioned on To the Best of Our Knowledge, well, I find I'm guilty of musing aloud, something I promise myself I'll never do again--after every single radio interview. I get so caught up in possibilities that I forget to stop and consider whether or not I actually believe in what I'm saying. Do I really believe there are parallels between early feudalism (long after Hild's time) and the operational strategies of big-tech companies? Not entirely. But it's a fun game to play. Hey, I'm a writer; I make stuff up...
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