Alisha Dainton has severe epilepsy, so she’s used to having seizures. Sometimes she even has weird visions and hears strange noises. After a particularly bad episode on holiday in Cyprus, what she sees and hears makes her think she’s going mad: who is the beautiful girl with the see-through eyes, multi-coloured hair and rainbow and the half-woman, half-bird creature singing by the hotel pool, and just why has she been chosen to go back in time to ancient Sparta to help save a princess called Helen? Either Ali is having some sort of bizarre dream, or she’s about to have an amazing adventure that might change the entire story of the Trojan War.
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I have epilepsy and often asked myself: what could happen to someone if they have a full-blown tonic-clonic seizure? They obviously lose time, but could these seizures take them to other worlds and to other times? I used this theme in my previous work, Epiworld. This time my characters take a trip to ancient Sparta and Troy. I studied The Iliad at school and have always had an interest in ancient history and literature, and I saw Episode as an opportunity to revisit Helen of Troy's story and look at it from a different perspective. Suppose she didn't want to be with Prince Paris of Troy any more than she wanted to be with King Menelaus? Can Alisha help her?
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
Although Episode is not a direct sequel to Episode, I reintroduced the character of Travis. Alisha is new to time travel and is shocked that her seizures can make this happen, so Travis is a sort of mentor, guiding her along. The characters of Helen, Menelaus, Paris and the gods already exist in the Epic Cycle of poems depicting the Trojan War, so I borrowed them.
The girl’s face is a blur at first, but gradually becomes clearer. I’ve never seen anyone so beautiful before: her large eyes are a dazzling deep blue and her skin is milky-white, like a statue I saw in a museum once. She’s wearing a long, shimmering purple dress down to her feet with gold-coloured straps across her shoulders, purple sandals and a chunky purple beaded necklace. Her hair is a mass of red-gold curls reaching to her waist. For a moment we stare at one another and I’m so freaked out I can’t stop shaking. Who is she and where am I?
The girl jumps and drags her eyes away from me.
‘I beg your pardon, Mother,’ she says nervously to the woman in the pale green dress lying on the opposite couch. You couldn’t call her beautiful: she’s got a face like a smacked backside. Her dark hair is tied tightly on top of her head and her eyes are painted with heavy purple eye shadow. She’s literally dripping in bling with the gold band in her hair, dangly red earrings, a heavy red necklace and bangles on her arms.
‘Take your attention away from that slave girl and pay heed to your tutor!’ she snaps. ‘As a daughter of Sparta you are privileged to receive an education when so many of your sex in Greece are denied!’ She turns to the bald-headed bloke sitting on the stool next to her. He’s wearing a dress, too, a beige one that only reaches to his knees. ‘Continue, tutor.’
Slave girl? Is she talking about me? Then for the first time I notice what I’m wearing: a horrible brown tunic thing made out of what feels and looks like an old sack. I sniff at it and pull a face; it smells dodgy and I feel hot and itchy in it. I scratch my chest and look down at my bare, grubby feet. What’s going on?
The girl says nervously, ‘My feet are hot, Mother. I would like the helot to bathe them.’
‘Mother’ makes an impatient hissing noise and turns to me. ‘Well, what are you waiting for, child? Fetch warm water and oils for my daughter and attend to her wishes.’
I stay put, matching her glare with my own.
‘Are you deaf?’ she bellows, and the girl – Helen – jumps again. ‘I said…’
‘I heard what you said, missus,’ I snap back, ‘but you can’t mean me! I’m not a slave.’
I was born and brought up in Liverpool, England, but now live in Bristol with my husband Keith and cat Treacle. I write and self-publish fiction for children and teens and K&T Mitchell is our own small press. Keith designs my book covers.
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