THE GOLDEN KING
(Book 2 of the Scythian Trilogy)
Your historical books are filled with long names. How accurate are these names, and if they are made up, couldn’t you have chosen ones easier to pronounce and remember?
A good question, and one which crops up fairly regularly. I believe that if I am writing about a particular time and place, the names must reflect those times. If I may offer a more modern example to start with – if you were writing a Regency novel set in England in the late 1700s and early 1800s, you would come across many people called William or George or Mary – but no Jason or Kylie. Modern names would look out of place and detract from the overall realism of the writing. Similarly, writing about the time of Alexander the Great necessitates the use of names common at that time. The protagonist in the Scythian trilogy is Nikometros, son of Leonnatos. Greeks of his day usually had one name, but would sometimes add their father’s name to distinguish themselves from others of the same name. Among the Scythians, his name is sufficiently different that he only has to use Nikometros – though Tomyra shortens it to Niko when talking intimately. Scythians had a slight difficulty pronouncing his name and often said ‘Nikomayros’ instead. The Scythian names used are accurate and derive, for the most part, from actual names in Scythian history. When my well of published names ran dry, I created similar sounding names using the existing rules of construction. As for pronunciation – well, I don’t think anyone really knows how Scythian names were sounded out, so have a stab at it and anything you come up with is probably as likely as anything else.
I will have more to say later as ancient Egyptian names also cause problems for readers. Watch this space!
I thought Scythia was a large grassland. How come there are forests and mountains in your books?
We tend to think of Scythia as sweeping plains of grass, perhaps undulating slightly, but otherwise stretching to the horizon, with the wind carving patterns in the swaying grass. That was only part of it though. If you look at a topographical map of the area, you will see that the land popularly known as Scythia is bordered on the south by the hot, dry, mountainous regions of Sogdiana and Bactria, and on the west by mountains backing onto the Caspian Sea. These were wooded mountains, mostly coniferous, but with stretches of broadleaf forest. Many small rivers ran through Scythia, but the main one that features in the Scythian trilogy is the Oxus River, which empties into the Aral Sea in the north (also called the Mother Sea). This river carves narrow gorges in the southern mountains where it flows rapidly, but slows to become wide and boulder-strewn in its lower course.