Saturday, February 7, 2009

Filial impiety?

I realised something the other day. A whole bunch of my characters have Dad issues. Quickly now:

Marcus Valerius Senior was an alcoholic whose gambling addiction and subsequent debts effectively destroyed his family, all of which culminated in a confrontation between Marcus and his father, and the consequences still weigh with Marcus throughout the book. Gairea's father Machar, meanwhile, is an uncompromising traditionalist who believes that daughters from good warrior families don't hang around in groves performing rituals, and they certainly don't go around having prophesying in public - so you can imagine there's some friction there (for friction, read: eventual disowning). Tuathal has a hard time keeping the lid on the fear that when he does get back to Eriu, he'll never be as great a king as everyone says his father was. And I'm pretty sure that Domitian, though his ebul influence is only felt from afar and never appears in the book itself, has some inferiority issues regarding his dad.

In book two, Aneirin resents his father for surrendering to Lollius Urbicus and allowing the Damnonii to become a puppet kingdom, leaving him to inherit, not only his crown, but the mess Ceretic made during his reign. Eilwen's father is conspicuous by his absence, which compromises her honour-value. Aurelia is torn between struggling to respect her father as the paterfamilias demands, and resenting him for not only marrying her to a man he knew was a bad lot, but also refusing to sue for a divorce on her behalf when her husband's abuses became unbearable.

In book three, there's Caracalla, who, y'know, tried to assassinate his dad in front of two armies. Gaius is worried that he'll never be as good a soldier as his father was. And as the youngest of three brothers, Cairpre was overshadowed by the older two and was... well... never his father's favourite, as Conaire died before he was really old enough to prove himself as a warrior, which has a big impact on his life as a warrior now.

Erk. What does that say about me? The classic tenet of writing is to write what you know, right?

Only I don't have any proper issues with my dad. Really, if I was writing what I know, the only Dad issues my characters would have would be his insistence on singing the most terrible songs ever written (mostly godawful '70s-'80s fare)! In fact, I'm happy to say that I get on very well with my dad and we're very close. So why is this theme so prevalent in my books?

The only thing I can really think of is the emphasis on genealogy in both Roman and Celtic culture. In Roman culture, most obviously, you've got the authority of the paterfamilias, and in both cultures, especially Celtic, people were identified by a patronymic, so you could say that their father formed a fundamental part of their identity. I've also realised that a recurring theme throughout the trilogy is ancestry - how people view/identify with/react to their ancestors, which is, as far as I can see, a strong thread in both cultures, so is this just a more immediate version of that theme? Since it's such a strong part of the culture - is that what makes it such a rich mine for psychological drama?

Maybe that "write what you know" thing is a load of rubbish, after all. Let's face it, it's not like I really know what Caledonia in the early centuries AD was like. :P

Or maybe I should talk to a therapist. One that isn't my dad. :)