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Thursday, January 5, 2017

The Sword of Telemon

Murray Lee Eiland Jr Long Beach CA Book Tour interview

The Sword of Telemon (The Orfeo Saga) (Volume 1) 

Paperback – September 24, 2015

by Murray Lee Eiland Jr. 

The Homeric "long-haired Achaeans" were part of the Mycenaean culture of Greece (1600 BC - 1100 BC). They were a Bronze Age people who were quite removed in time and culture from the Classical period (5th - 4th centuries BC). 

In this novel a young Achaean prince is captured in a raid. His younger brother Orfeo, and a group of warriors, are sent on a mission to look for him. Telemon, a legendary warrior, and Zurga, an elderly member of a group called the Wanderers, are soon joined by Clarice, a girl who is a master of disguise. To their dismay they find that the kidnapped prince has been made a galley slave and that the maritime power of Thera plans to conquer the entire Mediterranean. Can they avert disaster?     

The story starts just before the eruption of Thera in about 1600 BC. This cataclysm destroyed the lavish Minoan culture of Crete. It also allowed the Mycenaeans to expand throughout the eastern Mediterranean. The Mycenaean culture - while originally warlike and rather rustic - developed vibrant cites, such as Pylos. This era was the setting for Homer's epic poems about the Trojan War (perhaps 12th or 11th century BC).

Welcome to the Long Beach, CA stop of the  Murray Lee Eiland, Jr., book tour.  Let's begin.

Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I enjoy writing for myself, for personal gratification. The Orfeo Saga was started many years ago. I originally conceived the first book as a “sword and sorcery” novel. I threw that manuscript away and concentrated on real-life heroes, the kinds that myths are made of. I wanted to write a series about how states are formed, and despite humor here and there, they are books that deal with a serious topic. I realized early on that this series needed gore and sex to sell well, but I did not want to get distracted. Neither of those things would advance the narrative I had in mind for the characters. I think that primarily I try to be original and not just follow what everyone else is doing.

Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?
I have a simple answer, and that is no. Writing requires so much sacrifice that you need to fully enjoy what you are doing. It has to be independent of any hope of gain. Everyone knows how many good books just do not seem to catch on. I have read many books, particularly indies, that are really great. Some are even part of a series, and all books are good. The fact that they are not commercially successful plays no part in how much I enjoy reading them. I think an author that has written something they like has been a success.

Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
I think that it is very difficult to have series of books follow one grand arching plot. There are books written that way. I think a good example is The Lord of the Rings. When writing I feel a little constrained by style. I want to change a bit from book to book in the Orfeo Saga. I want to keep connections between books, but I want to focus on different characters. I like putting different obstacles that have to be overcome. Geography is a key feature here. When the characters are based in the Mediterranean, there is plenty of scope for travel. I know from reviews that some people have particular favorites in the series they like. Some people even start in the middle and do not seem to mind. I start a lot of books in the middle of a series, and I have to admit it is fun to read earlier novels to “fill in the blanks.”

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
I have thought about this a lot. The one piece of advice is not to write in secret. I wrote for many years before I got to the point where I was minimally happy with what I wrote. When I first started writing novels I was really happy to finish one. Reading those early novels I have to say that they were not very good. Well, maybe even a little worse than not very good. The point is that I did not share them with anyone. If I had been more self-confident I would have circulated what I wrote for real critique. I wish I had now, because I see how important criticism is.

What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?
Some characters I simply pulled out of the air. Others are modelled after well-known characters. For me I think visually. I imagine an image of the character and try to reconstruct what they will do. The most important thing I try to do is imagine how the character changes over time. For Orfeo I imagined him as a young boy. As he grows up and gains in confidence he acts differently, and those around him treat him differently. As a parent I understand how this can happen. I just have to put my memories on fast forward and write about them!

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
I am the proud author of many unpublished or half-finished books. All of them were great to write. The main flaw is that they did not turn out the way I wanted. Sometimes I reached the middle and thought that the characters were not what I wanted. At other times I finished a book and thought it was great. On later reflection I thought that it was not original enough. When a book lacks that special sparkle there is no use trying to resurrect it. I think it is better move on with something else.

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
It is hard to say if the research comes before the inspiration, or vice-versa. I read ancient history regularly. I really enjoy books about ancient warfare. Because I travelled in the Near East for many years looking at rugs I have an active imagination regarding Oriental lands. That being said, I spend a huge amount of time with maps. I have map books and topographical maps. I think it makes my writing more immediate if the story follows real life. My intention was not to write carefully researched historical fiction, but rather an action novels set in the past. 

What did you edit out of this book?
In the first book of the Orfeo series I wanted to duplicate as much as I could the kind of writing that would sound like speaking if it were read aloud. I knew that epic poems were recited from memory by bards, and that the style had a distinctive structure and a fair amount of repetition. Some readers found the early manuscript difficult to read, and I changed the structure to something that would still sound good when read aloud, but with less repetition. I think that English is a beautiful language and one that should be read aloud just to enjoy the sound. I always read my books out loud.

Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
I really like good reviews. They are wonderful soul food. I cannot get enough. I can read them over and over. Off the cuff bad remarks I just forget about. Well thought out bad reviews cause me to think. If someone has taken the time to criticize what I write, I always assume they may have a point. I wait a few days before taking action, but I can and do re-write sections in order to make them clear. I have had some reviews that really shocked me into improving my writing or sending the manuscript to another editor. A real critique is pure gold, even if you might not be able to see it clearly immediately.

What were you like at school?
I remember when I went to a High School reunion and someone said they remembered me well. Well I knew who they were anyway. Apparently some classmates used the words “snotty” or “know it all” for me. In a conversation about technology, according to this witness, I said “I know everything there is to know about television.” I doubted that was true, I probably said something like I knew “everything there is worth knowing” about television. I reflected that I had not even looked inside a television at that time. I probably read an article about television someplace. Even as an adult I think I struggle with this issue. I still secretly prefer to think of it as sharing. Even if I am not 100% sure of my facts I will still share with others. All joking aside I would not want to meet my younger self. I am sure I would agree with unflattering labels.

+ + + 

Murray Lee Eiland Jr.Murray Eiland Jr., was born in 1936 and attended UCLA, UC Berkeley and UCSF (MD, 1961). Murray worked at Napa State Hospital from 1965-2000, and then at Contra Costa County Mental Health Clinic from 2000-2011. He continue to work for the court as a forensic psychiatrist as well as consult.- For this and other books visit the Murray Eiland Jr., Amazon page. 
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