Stella Gemmell: Trojan effort

Stella Gemmell: Trojan effort

<p>Stella Gemmell had been helping her novelist husband David with research for his Troy-set historical trilogy, but never expected to end up completing it. But when David died unexpectedly last summer, with half of <em>Fall of Kings</em>, the third novel, left unwritten, she knew there was no one else she could trust to do the job.</p><p>&quot;I hadn&#39;t written before, and sometimes I think I was absolutely mad or hugely arrogant to think I could actually finish the book,&quot; she says. &quot;But I felt there was no choice. It had to be finished, and I didn&#39;t want Transworld to bring in someone else&mdash;I was the obvious candidate.&quot;</p><p>The first time she sat down to write was just four days after David died, before the funeral had taken place. &quot;I got up at three in the morning, went into the office, sat down and wrote the epilogue. Doing that was a bit cathartic. It was also psychologically a good idea because it meant that I&#39;d written the end of the book, so all I had to do was fill in the bit in the middle.&quot;</p><p>But it took her a while to make the suggestion of finishing the book herself to Selina Walker, David&#39;s editor at Transworld--who had had the same idea, but didn&#39;t want to push her into anything she wasn&#39;t ready for. &quot;It was kind of a stand-off for a few weeks,&quot; says Gemmell. &quot;I was a bit nervous about putting the suggestion to them, and nothing was said to me, so I dithered a lot for a while.&quot;</p><p>A year later, Gemmell is giving the finished novel (Bantam, August) a final proof read. She&#39;s pleased with how it turned out and excited to see her name alongside David&#39;s on the front cover, but it&#39;s obviously also a wrench to give it up. &quot;All the time I was writing it I felt I was tremendously close to Dave,&quot; she says. </p><p>Her husband had wanted to go back from fantasy to historical fiction for some time, and &quot;in a way the siege of Troy seemed obvious. Dave&#39;s best known book is <em>Legend</em>, the story of a siege, so if he was going to write a historical book, writing one about a siege seemed obvious.&quot;</p><p>The trilogy starts with a semi-invented character, Helikaon (based on Aeneas), to give David the freedom to come into the Trojan War from his own point of view. &quot;He was originally intended as almost like a narrator,&quot; says Gemmell. &quot;But of course he took on a life of his own. When Dave, off the top of his head, decided to introduce Andromache, instantly the idea of them falling in love pushed the book in a direction that hadn&#39;t been planned. That&#39;s how many authors write&mdash;it&#39;s certainly how Dave wrote. Suddenly someone does something and the book&#39;s got its own momentum, and sweeps the writer along with it.&quot;</p><p>Some of the characters were easy for her to take on, and just flowed off the page; she cites the &quot;in your face&quot; personalities of Odysseus, Banokles [&quot;such a typical Gemmell character, he&#39;s irresistible&quot;], and &quot;probably the best female character Dave&#39;s ever written&quot;, Andromache. Battle scenes, however, were more of a challenge. &quot;When I started it, all I could see ahead of me was a sea of battle scenes. The action was just helter skelter right through to the end.&quot;</p><p>Although she&#39;s enjoyed <em>Fall of Kings</em>, Gemmell isn&#39;t sure she&#39;ll be writing more. &quot;So much of this was fixed. I had the characters already there. Plus my motivation was huge because I had to finish the book for Dave.&quot; But she isn&#39;t ruling it out entirely. &quot;Sitting down from page one, and having the motivation entirely out of my own head&mdash;I&#39;m not sure. But maybe one of these mornings I&#39;ll wake up and think &#39;Oh, perhaps I&#39;ll start a book today.&#39;&quot;</p>