Thursday 9 January 2020

Join #HistoricalFiction author, Amy Maroney, as she takes a look at The Legendary Island of Rhodes #History #Legends @wilaroney

The Legendary Island of Rhodes 
By Amy Maroney

I was lucky enough to visit the Greek island of Rhodes for several weeks back in 2012, and I’ve been thinking about how to incorporate it into my fiction ever since. As luck would have it, my next historical mystery series stars a medieval heroine born in Rhodes, so I am happily immersed in the island’s lore once again.

This jewel of the Mediterranean might be best known for the Colossus of Rhodes, a giant statue that reportedly stood at the harbor of Rhodes city in ancient times but was destroyed by an earthquake. Whether the colossus existed or not, the fact remains that this harbor city has an illustrious history of maritime trade stretching back for millennia. I can testify that the city harbor is still awe-inspiring even without a gigantic bronze man looming over its exquisitely preserved medieval seawalls and stone quays. 

One of the things that made a big impression on me during my time there was the reconstructed palace of the European Knights Hospitaller in the city of Rhodes. When I visited, I was particularly struck by the sight of random stone markers carved with forgotten knights’ coats-of-arms, leaning haphazardly against the walls in shadowy recesses of the palace. These vestiges of European knights seemed bizarrely out of place amongst the ruins of ancient Greece that dominated the island.

Upon further inquiry, I learned the island’s strategic location just ten miles from the coast of Asia means it has always been a point of contact between cultures. As the Ottoman Empire expanded its territories during medieval times, Rhodes’ significance as the last bastion of Christendom grew. During the 14th-16th centuries, the island became the easternmost outpost of the Knights Hospitaller, who fortified the walls of the city, built a palace, and developed a highly efficient naval empire. Their fleet—operated mostly by mercenary crewmen—defended Rhodes from attacks by Turkish forces and Barbary pirates. The knights also launched countless pirate attacks of their own on coastal areas held by the Ottoman Empire, enslaving Muslims who became a critical labor force for them back in Rhodes city.

The Turks attacked Rhodes twice during the rule of the Knights Hospitaller. The first siege, mounted in 1480, was a failure—though it caused much destruction and loss of life on both sides. An eyewitness account of the siege written by a knight named Guillaume Caoursin became an instant bestseller  thanks to the proliferation of the new printer press technology throughout Europe. While I plan to study Caoursin’s account, I’ve learned that it was written with the goal of drumming up more revenue for the Knights Hospitaller and was a carefully orchestrated bit of propaganda. Not long after that first siege, an earthquake struck Rhodes and destroyed much of the city. The Knights undertook massive renovations, but just a few years later the plague struck. After struggling to rebuild once again, the city found itself a target of the Ottoman Empire for a second time in 1522, and this siege was victorious. The Knights were forced to relocate permanently to the island of Malta after surrendering to Suleiman the Magnificent of Turkey. 

I’m always looking for primary sources, accounts by real people that describe life during medieval and early Renaissance times. Not much survives from those eras, let alone first-person documents that give us a window into peoples’ personal worlds. A happy exception is the journal of Michael of Rhodes. Michael was a Greek man who became fluent in Italian thanks to the Latin influence of nobles, merchants, and artisans who lived and worked in Rhodes city. He began working as a humble oarsman in 1401 and rose through the ranks to eventually command ships for the Venetian merchant fleet, sailing extensively on the Mediterranean and Atlantic over the next forty or so years. He chronicled his navigational knowledge, plus treatises on shipbuilding, mathematics, and some personal details of his life in a series of hand-written and illustrated documents, the contents of which were hidden in private libraries for centuries. Luckily for research geeks like myself, the owner of Michael’s journals allowed researchers to study these documents extensively about ten years ago. Although I borrow most scholarly works through Interlibrary Loan, I couldn’t resist adding Michael’s story to my personal library, and I am waiting impatiently for my copy to appear via snail mail. 

While I eagerly seek out factual first-person accounts in my research, I’m also partial to myths. One of the island’s best-loved legends recounts the tale of the dragon of Rhodes, which was slain in the 14th century by a knight who cleverly determined that the beast’s weak link was his soft underbelly. After stabbing the dragon in the gut and killing it, he displayed the fearsome head on the walls of the city for all to see. Reportedly, the head stayed up there until the 1800s and numerous eyewitnesses corroborate its existence. One theory circulated today is that the creature was in fact a crocodile brought to the island via a ship, which grew into a monstrous beast that could easily be mistaken for a dragon. Supposedly the knight who killed it was laid to rest in a tomb inscribed with the words: “Here lies the dragon slayer.”

Clearly I’ve already discovered a rich array of lore for Book 1 of my next series. Now the trick is to learn when to stop researching and start writing. After all, each rabbit hole leads to another one that seems even more pivotal than the last. For me, research is a hugely satisfying part of writing historical fiction—the process of learning, making connections, and sparking creative inspiration. Once I have layers of facts, myths, and first-person accounts in place, I can engineer my story with confidence. And as a magical bonus, I get to revisit places like Rhodes—only this time as an armchair adventurista.

A Place in the World
(The Miramonde Series, Book 3)
 By Amy Maroney

The secrets of the past are treacherous…and irresistible.

A Renaissance-era female artist and an American scholar. Linked by a centuries-old mystery…

1505: Pregnant and reunited with the love of her life, artist Mira survives a harrowing journey to the city of her dreams. But Bayonne is nothing like she imagined. Navigating a dangerous world ruled by merchants and bishops, she struggles to reignite her painting career. When an old enemy rises from the shadows, Mira’s life is thrown into chaos all over again—and she is faced with a shattering decision.

2016: Scholar Zari seizes the chance to return to Europe as a consultant for an art dealer. Overwhelmed by her job, she has little time to hunt for clues about Mira. But when art experts embrace a theory that Mira’s paintings are the work of a famous man, Zari must act. Racing against time, she travels to a windswept corner of Spain. What she discovers there solves the puzzle of Mira forever—and unlocks the secrets of Zari’s own past.

A thrilling tale of obsession, mystery, and intrigue, this mesmerizing saga will stay with you long after you read the last page.


Autumn, 1506
Lourdes, Béarn

Mira stood in the center of the entry hall, her head throbbing. The clatter of crockery rang out from the kitchens, but the innkeeper was nowhere in sight. Nor were any servants. In fact, the only sign of life was a tawny cat curled on its haunches by the doorway.

She and the cat stared at each other. Its eyes looked remarkably like her own. Gray-green, wide, slanted up at the corners. She took a deep breath, then regretted it. The stale air smelled of tallow and boiled cabbage.

Outside, a rooster crowed.

Mira went to the door and nudged it open, desperate for a distraction from the sour taste in her mouth. The cat slunk past her skirts and padded into the bright morning sunlight. It stopped for a moment, taking the measure of the courtyard, then sauntered toward three chickens pecking at grain near the stables. At its approach, they sidled nervously away.

Wise chickens, Mira thought. You never know what a cat will do.

Two merchants descended the stairs behind her, their boots heavy on the treads. Mira moved into the shadows as they strode through the entry hall and out the door. She had become adept at slipping through the world unnoticed since this journey began. The habit did not come naturally to her. But as a woman traveling alone, her life depended on it.

A Place in the World is available for purchase from AmazonKoboiBooks, and Nook.

Amy Maroney

Amy Maroney lives in the Pacific Northwest with her family. She spent many years as a writer and editor of nonfiction before turning her hand to historical fiction. She’s currently obsessed with pursuing forgotten women artists through the shadows of history. When she’s not diving down research rabbit holes, she enjoys hiking, drawing, dancing, traveling, and reading. She’s the author of the Miramonde Series. To receive a free prequel novella to the series, join Amy’s readers’ group at You can find her on Twitter @wilaroney, on Instagram @amymaroneywrites

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See you on your next coffee break!
Take Care,
Mary Anne xxx