StarkLight Press author Will Norton has penned some truly gripping tales of horror, science fiction and historical hypothesis for us over the years. For Great Ladies, he wrote a piece about Boudicca. Here is a bit about Will Norton, and his interview with Virginia Carraway Stark.
William Norton grew up in Vancouver B.C. And has spent the past few years working in the oil industry north of Fort Saint John. He usually writes stories that are uniquely and specifically from his perspective, his characters often share his name. He writes when he has time but spends most of his time working and being filthy. His hobbies include sleeping to catch up with sleep when he’s not working. Based off the current trend he suspects he will soon have more time for writing and social media than in the past which would be great if he didn’t have truck payments.
Hi Will, Thanks for being with us today for this live interview!
Thanks for having me, I give no guarantees on anything I do ‘live’. Editing is my friend.
That’s ok 🙂 Why don’t you start by telling us how you felt about writing Boudicca when you drew her as ‘your’ Great Lady?
Well, at first I was given Catherine The Great and I thought that one would be really easy to do. There was so much to her story and of course, there was so much scandal around her. When I started researching Catherine I had only really heard that she loved horses so much that she died fucking one. That turned out to be complete bullshit, by the way.
There turned out to be so much information on Catherine that I got overwhelmed. I didn’t know where to start with her so I hung my head in shame and asked for a redraw. When I got Boudicca I knew nothing at all about her except that everyone says her name differently. When I started to look into her I found out that Boudicca is the most modern understanding of the interpretation of her name and how it is (they think) supposed to be pronounced.
I found out that most of what we know historically about Boudicca is from the Roman records so everything was pretty biased. She planned all theses battle campaigns and caught the Romans with their pants down time after time. No one really knows how she died in the end, but after she started to lose wars her daughters died and she died shortly after, there was speculation that maybe Boudicca poisoned them all to save them from being raped (again) by the Romans.
I still had a lot of choices to write about but I decided almost right away that I didn’t want to write about the battles. Battles are hard to write and it’s the before and after part of them that really matter. When you’re having a fight you’re so hyped on adrenaline that you don’t know what happened until after when you try to figure out where all the bruises and broken bones came from. Not that I’m speaking from personal experience, of course.
That left me with the beginning or the end of her life to write about and the idea of writing about either her or someone else poisoning her and her daughters made me queasy. Dying from poison is usually slow and I’m pretty sure that right after doing it there’s a lot of, “What did I just do? Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit.” Then that’s followed by, “This hurts way more than the bottle said it was going to, holy shit, yep, this really hurts.” Then comes the crapping and puking and the realization that you’re going to be found covered in your bodily fluids and you realize that this really sucks and it’s really too late to do anything about it. There, I just wrote the end of their lives. Now imagine that is slow motion, I’m not that sadistic so I wrote about a mother watching her daughters get raped instead.
The concept of writing about women getting raped as an ‘inspiration’ point has a lot of criticism behind it. How did you feel about writing that part of things?
I thought, well, it happened and it was what made Boudicca go ape shit and who can blame her. People can talk about ‘tired tropes’ all they want but that sort of thing happens and I think that its a good reminder that ‘hell hath no fury than a woman who you rape her daughter in front of’.
I get it that people are tired of hearing about and want more complex back stories and for that I should have stayed with Catherine The Great. The thing is, I know women who have been raped and I’ve seen the devastating effects on their psyches from it. I’ve seen women get revenge on their rapists, I’ve known guys (I don’t want to get into trouble here so lets leave it at, ‘I’m talking about friends, not me’) who have gone after rapists. I also know that the women involved aren’t happy if someone else goes and makes the guy pay, they want revenge for that sort of thing in an up close and personal way.
It’s a ‘tired trope’ to talk about rape and the effects it has on women and that makes me sick. It’s only tired because it keeps happening. It keeps happening only because some guys seem to think that it’s something that is either their right or that ‘it’s just sex, what’s the big deal’. I’ve heard guys say that, I work in the bush and some of those guys are really rough characters, the sort of thugs most people will only meet briefly or in prison. Or at least, that’s the way it should be. Rape is still talked about so much because it happens so much. Not talking about it doesn’t make it go away and I find calling it a ‘tired trope’ kind of like saying, “I’m tired about hearing about your problems so go away”. Rape isn’t going away and it’s still hard to prove and even harder to prosecute.
I think you only get to call something a ‘tired trope’ when it’s no longer a common part of society. It happens a lot. It happens to women and sometimes to men as well. I think that putting it out there that there are consequences is a good thing.
You wrote your story from the first person. How hard/easy was it for you to see things from the eyes of a woman?
I’m not sure about that one. I thought about what women I know have told me and I’m a pretty good listener, or I like to think I am.
If I saw something like that happen to my daughters I would like to think I’d have the courage to act even a little bit like Boudicca did. I don’t have any kids but its not hard to imagine how I would feel about it, even a little bit. I’m not sure that I could ever capture the rage Boudicca must have felt, I don’t think anyone who did see her rage lived long enough to talk about it.
The good thing is that Boudicca’s revenge was a warriors revenge and I could relate to going and making ‘them all pay’ for a crime committed against my family with violence. I hope those words are never read back to me in court, by the way.
So you think you would have reacted like Boudicca did to the crimes against herself and her daughters?
I like to think so, I’m not sure though. It was such a fucked up situation. The Celtic laws clashed so much with the Roman ideas that women were just evil things sent from the gods to tempt men. The Celts were matriarchal in their lines and for most of the tribes it wasn’t a big deal to give inheritances and titles to their daughters or wives. The Romans didn’t just beat the crap out of Boudicca and rape her daughters, they also proved to their tribe that they were conquered as hell and that none of their culture or laws mattered anymore. That part must’ve stung almost as much as the rest.
Their tribe has successfully fought the Romans for ages and then, when they finally sought a peaceful resolution and capitulation it wasn’t enough for the Romans, they wanted to rub some salt into those wounds and make their point clear. That point was that: You guys are our bitches.
It wasn’t a civilized response (to make the understatement of a couple of millennium). The symbolism of the act was the point of the act and it was to tell the Isceni tribe that they didn’t have any culture anymore. They didn’t have anything. It was the real start of the eradication of Celtic laws and traditions. The beginning of the end in many ways. I guess they call those watershed moments. The Romans paid for it big time but there were too many of them for Boudicca to win against ultimately and when her rage stopped carrying her the Roman war machine ran her and her army over. It was sort of the style of the day.
Any final thoughts on Boudicca and what you wrote? Anything you would change?
It’s a haunting story. It stuck with me after I was done writing it, I guess all tragedies do that. It was a fucking tragedy and it brought home the fact that for all the glamorizing of Roman civilization they had all they had through taking it from others and slavery. The fact that so much of our civilization is modeled after their civilization just goes to prove that there is a real streak of monster in humanity. There is a part of us that still believes that ‘might makes right’ and that it’s ok to make someone your slave. It’s ok to conquer and that the most heartless and cruel are the ones that rise to the top. If you aren’t willing to be a corrupt piece of shit, chances are you won’t ever be in a position to make change and that means that we aren’t a nice species at all.
It also explains the ‘tired trope’ of rape. It’s I’m stronger than you so I can just take what I want, errr, what my dick wants, that is.
It’s not going to go away while any part of our mind or civilization thinks that might makes right. It’s never going to go away unless people are punished for believing that these things are anything like ok. We’ve got a lot of problems and this is the root of a lot of them. Women are the ones who make all of us and so long as they’re treated like less, or like strength over women gives anyone the right to do what we want to them, we are hurting the sources of life, the sources of our whole species. It’s so self destructive of us as a species to hurt the women who are the only ones who can continue our species that it messes with my head.
This ‘tired trope’ is the basis of so much of human history that it has to be talked about because if we ever get tired of talking about it as something wrong, a way we are scarring our very species, it’s never going to go away. That’s leaving the individual element of the human herself who hurt in this way out of it and trying to appeal to humanity on a global level.
I don’t think writing about Boudicca is going to make that element of society go away but it made me think and I think about the things I hear the other guys say in a new light. I guess I’m hoping that Boudicca will hear them and come back to show them what ‘some bitch’ could do to fuck them up.