Wednesday, October 17, 2007

"The Witch's Trinity"

Erika Mailman is the author of Woman of Ill Fame and the recently-released The Witch's Trinity, the story of a medieval German woman accused of witchcraft when her village undergoes famine.

Mailman applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Witch’s Trinity is about as different from the rest of the book as possible. It’s one of the few flashbacks to the time when the village was happy — and also has one of exactly two sex scenes!

In my novel, the village of Tierkinddorf fights famine. Hungry neighbors turn to each other to try to learn who is to blame. My main character, Güde, casts her mind back to her wedding day when neighbors were far more open-hearted.

When I brought this scene to my writers group, people expressed disbelief that wedding revelers would lean in through the window to watch the first deflowering. I had found historical reference to neighbors actually sitting on the bed, and had tamed the concept slightly to be more credible. Sexuality in the middle ages was far more crude and rollicking, and privacy a foreign notion. I remember touring a chateau in France and the tour guide saying that the lord and lady of the manor would share their enormous bed with their servants, simply because heat was such an issue.

I felt this kind of flashback was important, to show the reader that the village was once the site of true revelry — that these peasants whose lifespans would be so short enjoyed the hell out of what they were given.

So, page 69 is not representative of the book as a whole, but a foil for the desperation that later ensues. Güde watches as her closest friend is accused of witchcraft, and then fights for her life as she is also fingered.

Note: As there was no glass for peasants at this time, the “window” is a hole covered simply by a cloth.

“Can we not pin down the cloth?” I pleaded.

“Aw, give them their pleasure, too,” smiled Hensel gently. “It’s summer time! We are all lovers now.” He positioned his body so his head blocked the view of the window for me. Such a handsome face! The eyes that wrestled with a gentian for the best kind of blue, and the strong jaw with soft whiskers. Hensel’s eyelashes were longer than a broom’s straw and I sank into his kiss until I didn’t care who saw my legs wrapped around him and eventually giggled at the thought of his arse pumping away to their amusement.

Afterwards, I pulled my gown back down, clean white it was, embroidered with tiny bluebells by my steady hand, and we invited everyone in to sit at the table and eat with us. They crowded in, the entire village practically, except for Ottilie Shuster who’d set her cap on Hensel and spent our wedding day crying in the forest. They were so many that they sat upon the bed — making great sport of avoiding the wet area where Hensel’s seed had leaked — and upon the ground and leaned against the wall ... and there was so much food back then! We had nary a thought of not sharing what we had; there was so much. Hensel’s mill was going all the day to grind the meal and oft he had to tell the men to return the next day; he had all he could do to grind what he had. There was a flock of sheep on the hill that was his, and he traded for whatever else we needed. That day we offered our guests bread, and lard cakes, and lamp chops with fat sizzling around the edges of the meat, and a profusion of radishes.
Read an excerpt from The Witch's Trinity and learn more about the book and author at Erika Mailman's website.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue