Inspired to Change History

A young woman sits alone by the side of the road. She’s very nervous, frightened, actually. Tomorrow is her wedding day. But that’s not why she’s scared. She's scared because she's waiting for a stranger to assault her.

Like all writers, I read a lot. I come across these little factoids that surprise me or intrigue me or, in this case, sadden me. And that’s where the inspiration for my stories comes from. Like most romance readers, I like my happy ending. So I took this sad fact and started the ‘what if’ game. So that I could twist this upsetting practice and give it a happy ending.

That’s how my story The Star Necklace was born.

The fact I read was about an ancient culture (somewhere around Greece). Their practice was this: On the night before her wedding, every woman would have to sit at a certain point on the road. The first man who chanced upon her (a stranger, according to the article) got to take her virginity. And then, he’d make a “donation” to the local temple, presumably in thanks for this good fortune.

My first thought on reading this terrible practice was for the poor women. What did they think about this custom? History will never tell. (It’s not told by the victims, is it?)

My second thought was, what an innovative money-making scheme! (Let’s not call it forced prostitution.) Anyway, I immediately started writing a story which turned into The Star Necklace, which has been sold (not published yet). Oddly enough, it’s a futuristic, not an historical. Though I made sure my heroine was not a helpless victim, and she does get her happy ending (luckily, a fabulous hero chances upon her), it still bothered me that she had to do the side of the road thing.

So I started a second story, a contemporary called Scarlet and the Sheriff, currently available at eRedSage. Scarlet is no one’s victim and I designed her to be able to enjoy and even flaunt her sexuality on her own terms. She served as a counterpoint to the helpless women I envisioned when I thought of that ancient custom (which, by the way, I don't think was widespread). I did find Scarlet easier to write since it didn’t hinge on such a troublesome practice.

These are two very different stories, but both started with the germ of one idea. I find that I get most of my inspiration from the constant reading I do.

I will raise a glass to my mother on Mother’s Day for raising me to understand injustice, and to look beyond the surface of things to figure out why something might be wrong, even if it seems okay because it’s our custom.

Of all the things your mother taught you, what resonates still?


Lee said...

I find the Greek thing interesting, but not surprising. Since the old Roman and Greek faiths incouraged, if anything bad behavior.
My mother has been gone for 21/2 years, and the one thing she taught me and instilled in me was strength. And that no can take care of me better then me. She wanted me to be independent, and I am...Fearless is a good word, I think to describe what she gave me.

Sarah J. McNeal said...

This made me think about the suiside terrorist who belive that giving up their lives in this manner will get them straight to heaven and the reward of 20? virgins. Okay. So what about the 20 virgins? Is this their hell?
Enjoyed your blog.
Sarah McNeal

Carly Carson said...

Lee, strength is an excellent thing to learn. We all need it.

Sarah, yeah that would be a custom that might need rethinking. I guess when those guys are thinking of rewards, they aren't thinking about the woman's POV.

Thanks to both of you for stopping by.


Carol Ericson said...

More about what my mom taught me tomorrow, but what a terrible custom. These snippets are great for ideas though, aren't they?

Cameo Brown said...

Really interesting post, Carly! I've been inspired by history as well, and my idea, too, ended up in a a futuristic. My hero in Pleasure 2035 is a Spartan warrior "taken" at Thermopylae. What's the one of the worst things to do to a soldier raised to give his life for his country? Make him immortal! I think it's great we can take certain terrible aspects of history and turn them into something good. It kind of balances things out. My mother taught me everything there must be some kind of balance.

Nicole North said...

Great post, Carly! Scary custom but I like the way you turned it into a story idea. Congratulations on the sale! I really love stories about strong women. Even if women have been victims, I love it when they pull through and become stronger for it.

Carly Carson said...


Hmmm I wonder what's coming tomorrow?

Cameo, Funny you ended up with a futuristic as well. I guess it's too hard to really change history.

Nicole, I guess that's where the old saying came from - what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.

Abby Niles said...

Interesting post, Carly. I had no idea that was custom and cringe to even think it.