I am so pleased to welcome author J.K. Knauss to my blog! She is not only a talented writer, but is also a fellow travel enthusiast. Woohoo! Enjoy her post and pick up her book today!
(Book links embedded at the bottom of the post.)
Xo - Andi
The story of Seven Noble Knights may have really happened in the late tenth century. Scholars’ best guess is that it circulated as an epic poem, sung by traveling minstrels as a way to spread news, entertain, and bring listeners together over shared loyalties and enmities. The tenth century is more or less when Spain as we know it today became a possibility, and stories from that time are cherished in much the same way Americans might revere the Declaration of Independence.
Whether the poem was ever written down is uncertain, but in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, historians transcribed the story. Their historical prose suspiciously carries an epic meter and preserves some rhymes. These texts accompanied me at all times during the two years I was writing Seven Noble Knights.
The texts, of course, don’t include all the information I needed in order to tell a great story with developed characters and rich settings. Although I’ve visited the sites I write about in Seven Noble Knights, the story may have taken place more than a thousand years ago and the landscape has changed drastically. Some imagination is required.
I first heard about the seven noble knights of Lara when I was taking college courses in Córdoba, in Andalucía, the south of Spain. That gorgeous place is the backdrop of several pivotal scenes, including the discovery of a betrayal, mourning over a profound loss, and the blossoming of a romance.
When you walk into the Mezquita-Catedral of Córdoba, some portions of it look as they would have in the late tenth century. It was the grandest mosque built on the Iberian Peninsula, and is now an important cathedral. All you have to do is mentally delete the Christian iconography and the iron railings and pretend the light bulbs in the fixtures are burning candlewicks. The Great Mosque of Córdoba has a cameo appearance in Part One, Chapter VIII, when Don Gonzalo arrives in the most civilized city he has ever laid eyes on after two grueling weeks of travel under a relentless sun.
The Mezquita-Catedral evokes even earlier history because when it was constructed in the eighth through tenth centuries, columns complete with different capitals were repurposed from Roman structures.
In Part One, Don Gonzalo lives for some months at the palace complex of Medina Azahara, and the hero, Mudarra, is born and raised there and regretfully leaves in Chapter I of Part Two. In Seven Noble Knights we see Medina Azahara at the height of its power and elegance. Only twenty years after the novel’s events, the city was destroyed during political upheavals, and remained buried until 1911. The archaeological site today is only 10 percent unearthed, which gives me as an author a huge responsibility to flesh out my imagination with research. The photo below gives an idea of the way the terraces separated the different levels of government and the living quarters. At the right, the roof of the Ambassadors Hall, and at the left in the distance, the only surviving grand entrance to the complex with its multiple two-story archways.
In this photo, you can get a sense of the way they’re trying to restore the exquisite gardens outside the all-important Ambassadors Hall.
In this photo, I’m pretending to be a princess in the living quarters. You can also appreciate the indoor/outdoor living aspect of Medina Azahara, a city intended to delight the senses. Because I had visited the site, it was thrilling to imagine my hero growing up in such a luxurious place only to travel to the less civilized North.
Even more imagination is required in northern Spain, where most of Seven Noble Knights takes place. Here, tenth-century styles were aggressively replaced with newer Romanesque, Gothic, and modern architecture.
Barbadillo is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it town today, but as the site of the infamous bloody cucumber incident (Part One, Chapter V), its modern residents honor my villainess, Doña Lambra, with street names, a hotel, and this twentieth-century statue. It shows Doña Lambra, her husband, Ruy Blásquez, and their nemesis, Mudarra.
Salas de los Infantes, the hometown of the seven noble knights, now looks nothing like it would have to Don Gonzalo and his seven sons. The town crest illustrates the story, several street names recall the characters, and the Baroque church claims to treasure the remains of the seven brothers and their tutor, Muño Salido. Local businesses also make tribute to the story. For example, Mudarra, the name of the hero of Seven Noble Knights, graces this restaurant. Though Salas plays a role in both Parts of the novel, regrettably, the restaurant doesn’t.
The wedding that goes so wrong (Part One, Chapters III and IIII) takes place in Burgos, where Mudarra is also adopted, baptized, and knighted (Part Two, Chapters VI and VII), and the villain, Ruy Blásquez, meets his judgment (Part Two, Chapter VIIII). Although a lot of decisions are made in Burgos Castle, I don’t think my characters would recognize its ruins today, with all its makeovers. Nevertheless, standing atop that summit with the winds of Castile whipping over me, I felt the spirits of my characters and the weight of history. Perhaps this view would resonate with Don Gonzalo, Doña Sancha, and Mudarra, if you subtract the power lines and metal railings.
Aside from the source material, I read about twenty scholarly texts to be sure I didn’t get my Seven Noble Knights history too far wrong. I also watched documentaries about daily life in the Middle Ages and mentally donned armor at museums. But going to the real places to tread the ground where my characters could have walked brought the most psychological depth to my research. The locations today bring the most reality to the legendary time I write about, a thousand years ago.
Amazon softcover: https://www.amazon.com/Seven-Noble-Knights-Betrayal-Medieval/dp/086698819X/
Pick up your copy today!!