Christopher M. Cevasco’s Beheld: Godiva’s Story


Christopher Cevasco was the founding editor of the award-winning Paradox: The Journal of Historic and Speculative Fiction. His new historic novel, Beheld is printed as we speak.

How would you describe this e book and its themes in a few sentences?

 At its most elementary stage, Beheld is a darkish psychological thriller that explores the legend of Woman Godiva’s bare journey. The legend itself didn’t come up till centuries after Godgyfu (Godiva) herself lived, and far of it’s apocryphal and anachronistic. The Peeping Tom determine wasn’t added into the combination till even later, in 1678. However the conceit of my e book was to start out from the belief that the bare journey itself really occurred after which to revive the story to an Eleventh-century context.

What does the title Beheld say about this e book?

I hoped it will evoke a important reexamination of the methods people are perceived—how they conform to, overcome, or exceed expectations. Godgyfu, as a lady and as a noblewoman in Eleventh-century England, confronted notions of how she would stay her life. I discover the interaction of these expectations along with her personal private ambitions, needs, virtues, and flaws.

Given the voyeuristic nature of the legend, the title additionally references its extra risqué and psychologically darker points. In some ways the legend objectifies its topic, and I wished to subvert conventional views. That is foremost Godgyfu’s personal story slightly than a narrative about how others see her.

Was it the time interval or the Godiva legend itself that drew you to this story?

I’ve a selected curiosity in Tenth- and Eleventh-century England, Norway, Normandy, and Greenland, and I completely love the whole Anglo-Saxon interval. However among the many many colourful people who lived then, Godgyfu is especially intriguing. The legend of her bare journey is in fact sensational in its lurid particulars, however past that, surviving information point out Godgyfu was one of the highly effective and influential ladies of her time. And but, little or no survives to inform us about her private life. I wished to treatment that by filling within the blanks and connecting the dots.

Inform me about your sources. How did you analysis this e book?

I devoured the surviving modern sources—chronicles, land grants, the Domesday Guide, and all that enjoyable stuff. There’s additionally an astounding Outdated English manuscript often known as Visio Leofrici (“The Visions of Leofric”), which dates from the Eleventh century and recounts a sequence of holy visions supposedly skilled by Godgyfu’s husband, Earl Leofric of Mercia. The manuscript was like manna from heaven to me as a novelist, and I made certain to include a lot of its substance into my story. I checked out archaeological research of Coventry’s Anglo-Saxon church buildings. And naturally there are such a lot of superb secondary sources by trendy medieval students. Particularly, I discovered Stephen Baxter’s The Earls of Mercia: Lordship and Energy in Late Anglo-Saxon England invaluable.

What was the primary scene you pictured on this e book?

It may need been the epilogue! With out giving an excessive amount of away, there’s lots occurring in that scene coping with among the issues I discussed earlier—the methods we view folks (significantly well-known folks and significantly ladies) and the way their tales might be reworked and hijacked within the telling till they develop into one thing collective slightly than private to the topic. A lot of what’s happening within the previous chapters is working towards that epilogue.

Which character was essentially the most enjoyable to put in writing?

I’d must say Leofric. He’s a really conflicted character, trapped between the world of the Danish invader kings and the world of the resurgent English monarchy. I additionally depict him as affected by the early psychological decline of advancing age, exacerbated by the ache of battle wounds and immense guilt from having ravaged one of many cities in his personal earldom on the insistence of King Harthacnut. These numerous types of stress manifest in some slightly darkish methods. Leofric is definitely a really tragic character, however as a author I at all times discovered his scenes enjoyably difficult to put in writing.

The story accommodates a number of non secular experiences: Godgyfu’s perception in relics, Leofrics imaginative and prescients, and Thomas’s folks faith. How do you see the interactions of or variations between these?

On some stage, they’re merely variations on a theme, however what pursuits me is how the characters internalize their experiences. When characters work together, they’re at all times enjoying roles, presenting themselves as they want to be perceived. However when a personality prays or in any other case interacts with the religious or divine, their religion means they’ve nowhere to cover—God or the gods or the saints know all—and we find yourself seeing the character’s truest self.

I’d notice, too, that Thomas’s “folks faith” has little to do with any established model of both Christian or pagan non secular observe. It’s a swirling amalgam of Anglo-Saxon Christian hagiography, Welsh myths and legends, and his personal uniquely warped beliefs about actuality.

Have you ever been to Coventry and different settings during which Beheld takes place? How does being within the place encourage you?

Sadly, there’s nearly nothing left in trendy Coventry to point out us what the Eleventh-century city would have appeared like. However different spots I’ve visited all through England protect one thing of what it will have felt prefer to stroll in Godgyfu’s world.

In all probability the one place I visited that had the largest affect on Beheld was the Rollright Stones, a gaggle of three megalithic monuments on the border of Oxfordshire and Warwickshire. Not almost as spectacular as Stonehenge, the location’s lichen-dappled stone circle nonetheless has its personal profound magnificence and sense of quiet surprise. These stones have been there since way back to 2500 BC. They’d have appeared a lot the identical in Godgyfu’s day as now, they usually’re little greater than 30 miles south of Coventry. My go to to the stones straight impressed an necessary scene close to the top of my e book.

What’s the final nice e book you learn?

Madeline Miller’s The Music of Achilles. She has a extremely spare writing fashion however evokes such a vivid Historical Greece and highly effective feelings. I additionally need to give a shoutout to Maria Dahvana Headley’s new translation of Beowulf, which blew me away.


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