Confession: C.S. Lewi’s Calormen is a huge influence on the book I’m currently writing.
My dear Narnian friends, please don’t freak out. I love Narnia, a lot. However, I’ve always been interested in Calormen and its people.
(Plus, I really don’t care for stories with talking animals. Unicorns, dragons, minotaurs – mythical creatures don’t bother me. Talking anthropomorphic mice kind of do. I can handle Narnia, but I’m not too fond of Redwall.)
Aravis Tarkheena, Prince Rabadash, Emeth Tarkaan, Lasaraleen Tarkheena, and even the Tisroc (may he live… hang on, I’m not Calormene) all enchanted me as a child. Their world sounded so exotic and mystical that like Queen Susan I was a little seduced by its complete and utter contrast to Narnia.
Perhaps my love for Calormen was also born out of my own childhood in Central Asia and my travels to countries like Turkey and Morocco:
The very language used throughout all of the books echoes the Turks, the Persians, the Arabs, the Tatars, Central Asians, and the Mongols. The titles of “tarkaan” and “tarkheena” are similar to “tarkhan,” a title given to a high-ranking military official in Central Asian armies. The name “Aslan” is the Turkish word for “lion.” The Caspian Sea is the world’s largest lake and shares coastlines with Kazakhstan, Russia, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, and Iran. The Calormene god “Tash” takes his name from the Turkish word “taş” or “stone.”
As my story develops, the world it is set in has begun to steal a little from the same cultures and histories as Calormen did. I mentioned to Jubilare weeks ago that my novel was becoming a love letter to Lewis, but it’s also an homage to the Bible, Greek mythology, The Arabian Nights, and Tolkien. It’s all my favorite stories and worlds colliding into one, and it’s exhausting, and I pray that I can do it justice.
And—just for an utterly random influence—I’ve also been inspired by Atonia Fraser’s biography Marie Antoinette.
The names of my characters are either Greek or Turkish, although a few have snuck in that are more Celtic and Anglo-Saxon. I have characters named after people I know (Malik and Basar), and I plan on doing that for a few others. (Don’t worry, guys, they’re good people.)
And places. The majority of the novel takes place in a grand palace, and I’m just going to be completely honest with you: it’s the Topkapı Palace in Istanbul.
(I should note that the following pictures are mine. Hooray, you get to see my personal pictures!)
With a little bit of Versaille thrown in to mix it up a bit.
When I visited Istanbul in March 2011, I walked around the Topkapi Palace with my mouth hanging open. Forget the Hagia Sophia, the cisterns, and the mosques—that palace is amazing. What I love about Istanbul is how it’s a mix of so many beautiful backgrounds. Just as the Haggai Sophia has frescoes of Christian saints beside beautiful Islamic designs and verses, the Topkapi palace has both worlds within its walls, too. Most of the rooms are decorated in a very Turkish style, but there was one room where the walls were decorated with scenes of fields and forests. It was very French, yet it fit in easily with the mosaics and geometrical designs.
I hope this books gets published. For now I’m just enjoying playing in the world I’ve created.