Inspiration for this novel came from staying in Languedoc in southern France. It’s the beautiful land of the troubadours but it was also witness to some terrible injustices. In 1209 Pope Innocent III persuaded the King of France to permit an army of northern knights to join a crusade against the south. The pope was angry because there was a heretical sect called the Cathars or Albigensians who had rejected the teaching of the orthodox church, and he wanted them destroyed. The soldiers who joined the crusade, however, were more interested in looting and a land grab than in Christian principles.
Everywhere we went, we heard stories about this crusade and how it devastated the southern culture. What would it have been like to face that army? This gave me the idea of a noble lord trying to save his people. Should he be a real historical figure or a fictional character?
The weekend we visited Carcassonne, my imagination was fired by the wonderfully restored medieval citadel. Standing within the walls which are dominated by watchtowers, you can feel such a vibrant sense of the past. There’s a cathedral and C12th castle and it was easy to imagine the narrow streets crowded with citizens watching their noble lord ride in procession. The perfect setting for a hero! Should I use a real historic figure? Well, the poor Vicomte de Carcassonne lost everything and died in the castle dungeon. He actually tried to join the crusade to save his lands but they turned him down. No, I wanted a more heroic figure and so I created Richart, Vicomte de Mirascon, and the fictional city-state of Mirascon, which is loosely based on Carcassonne.
And the woman in my story? I wanted a servant who gets mistaken for her mistress so Adela, my latest heroine, is resourceful, intelligent and courageous. She’s the daughter of a lady, who was rejected by her family because she fell in love and ran away with her father’s chaplain. Educated by her father, Adela has dreams of being useful and respected and she seizes the opportunity to join a bridal party heading for Mirascon. Surely in the land of the troubadours, life may be better.