Chasing Odysseus Interview
Weak-eyed Hero is the beloved daughter of Agelaus, a Herdsman of Mount Ida, which looms over the fortified citadel of Troy. Hero, raised under the gentle hand of her father, in the protective company of her three wild, but noble, brothers, is ruled by a fierce piety, and tormented by her Amazon heritage.
The Herdsmen of Ida hold a sacred trust. Throughout a 10-year Greek siege, they have been feeding the citizens of Troy using the secret tunnels that run beneath the fortress walls. Faithful and fearless, they traverse the ancient passages that only they know. Now Troy has fallen, and despite having led the survivors out of the carnage, the Herdsmen are falsely accused of betrayal.
Agelaus is murdered by the anguished Trojans. The Herdsmen find themselves hated and hunted by both the Greeks and their friends, the people of Troy. They are forced into hiding, labelled cowards and traitors. Desperate to free their people from the stigma of treachery, young Hero and her brothers accept a magical ship from Pan, their beloved woodland god. They chase after Odysseus, the strategist of those who laid siege to Troy. Only he can explain how the Greeks entered the city, and in doing so cleanse the Herdsmen of the stain of treachery. But the quest is plagued with misfortune and great peril, and it is through this that they must travel, facing monster and myth to confront Odysseus the Sacker of Troy.
S.D. Gentill lives and writes on a small farm in the foothills of New South Wales' Snowy Mountains. Somehow, she feels like she has always been a part of this place, but that's not entirely true. Ms Gentill was born in Sri Lanka. She travelled through several continents and time zones before she was two years old. For a time, her family settled in Lusaka, Zambia, where she learned to speak English. She was six years old when she arrived in Australia. Ms Gentill grew up, or at least grew older, in Brisbane where she built cubby houses in the mulberry trees by the Brisbane River, embarked on various ill-conceived schemes of adolescent entrepreneurship and attended her local school.
She set off to the Australian National University in Canberra to study Astrophysics because the stars had never ceased to fascinate her. Imagine her disappointment when she realised that her professors thought stars were simply balls of gas, described by mathematical formulae, rather than the mythological, literary bodies described by the poetry of Homer and those who came after him. Ms Gentill decided that she was perfectly happy with the story of Orion, and would leave it to others to analyse the gaseous masses that made up his constellation. And so she became a lawyer.
A series of accidental opportunities then saw Ms Gentill end up as a corporate counsel in the water and energy industries. It wasn't a bad life, and the legal profession is certainly not completely divorced from the production of fiction. Indeed Ms Gentill now looks at her legal career as an apprenticeship of sorts. After a number of years however, clauses, codicils and amendments no longer held the same allure and Ms Gentill found herself strangely restless - not exactly unhappy, but increasingly aware that this was not what she was meant to do.
In 1997, Ms Gentill and her husband, Michael, purchased a small farm outside Batlow in the Snowy Mountains. Of course being a town of 1500 people, Batlow doesn't have a lot of call for corporate lawyers, so Ms Gentill worked away for a couple of years, primarily in Tasmania, on the disaggregation of the Hydro Electric Corporation. Returning home, she founded a consulting company with a few friends, which allowed her to telecommute quite happily with only the odd trip interstate.
Ms Gentill was also appointed to the boards of a couple of environmental management authorities, which saw her travelling widely through rural NSW. Around then, Ms Gentill and Michael planted a trufferie on their property which inevitably cemented their image amongst Batlow locals as "mad blow-ins". They have now had a successful harvest of A-Grade French Black Truffles
though the opinion of the locals probably hasn't changed. So, busy with truffles, a business, a persistent love of painting and two wild colonial boys, Ms Gentill managed to ignore the feeling that there was something else she was supposed to be doing
until 2007. It was then she had an idea for a YA series and found a friend who was willing to write with her. The floodgates were opened.
Suddenly Ms Gentill found herself literally carried on a torrent of ideas, and excitement and sheer joy in the creative process. Writing is as natural as breathing now and the consequences of stopping would probably be as dire.
The future is now about writing, exploring other genres and stories, and happily revisiting the characters who have already become old and beloved friends. There will be other things of course, but in the middle of it all is writing.
Her debut novel (the first in the Rowland Sinclair series of adult historical crime fiction) A Few Right Thinking Men, was published by Pantera Press is June 2010. The second in the Rowland Sinclair series, A Decline in Prophets, is to be published in mid 2011. Chasing Odysseus is Gentill's first young adult novel, and is the first in the Hero adventure series.
Author: S.D. Gentill
Interview with S.D. Gentill
Question: Can you tell us a little bit about Chasing Odysseus?
S.D. Gentill: Chasing Odysseus is a retelling of both the Iliad and the Odyssey from an alternative perspective - a new story written into the world's oldest one. It is the tale of a terrified girl and her three brothers who set out in pursuit of a legendary king, and in search of a truth which will vindicate their people.
Question: What originally inspired you to write Chasing Odysseus?
S.D. Gentill: I read Homer's Odyssey fairly late in life when I was well and truly an adult. It occurred to me how much I would have enjoyed the story when I was a teenager. But back then, the archaic classical language and poetic style of the Odyssey would probably have made following the plot rather hard work.
I've loved Greek mythology since childhood. In a way, the classical epics are almost wasted on people who are older-it's when you're a young adult that you really revel in the ancient stories of monsters, sorcery and heroes.
Chasing Odysseus is primarily an adventure, the story of shepherds who stand up against kings and gods. It might also be a bridge between what young people recognise and enjoy today in the fantasy genre, and great classical texts like the Odyssey, which are at their heart fantasy epics.
Question: What research went into Chasing Odysseus?
S.D. Gentill: Because I have always had an interest in Greek Mythology I didn't need to sit down and do a vast slab of research and reading, in order to write Chasing Odysseus. The story just seemed to emerge out of years of reading mythology and history for my own pleasure. Of course I did re-read the Odyssey to make sure I wasn't misremembering bits. Where I did have to do some research was on things like geography
the story is the tale of a voyage
it's important to orient yourself properly.
Question: Could you tell us about the Rowland Sinclair series?
S.D. Gentill: Chasing Odysseus is my second publication. I have an adult series that started with A Few Right Thinking Men. It was published last year. A Few Right Thinking Men is a crime fiction set in the early 1930's in Sydney, at a time when Communism was on the rise. It was the middle of the Great Depression and so Communism appealed to the working classes, the thousands of people who were out of work, and the unions. On the other side, the establishment was gathering in secret armies and we saw the rise of right-wing patriotic movements like the 'New Guard' and the 'Old Guard'. It was time when NSW was poised on the brink of revolution-turbulent, fascinating, but little known.
My technique in writing is to take history, or in the case of Chasing Odysseus, mythology, and write into it. A Few Right Thinking Men is the story of a Rowland Sinclair who is trying to solve a murder in the midst of the actual and extraordinary events of 1932.