A new point of view. A new character, or actually, a whole bunch of new characters. And yes, of course, all the incompetence and hijinks one could expect from a comedy about a 17th century siege.
His name is Valvasor, Johan Weikhard Freiherr von Valvasor, or Janez Vajkard Valvasor in Slovenian. He was a real guy. He was a man who lived during the time of the book that I’ve always known the name of but never that much about before recently.
Valvasor was from what I like to think of as my other hometown, Ljubljana, in what is now called Slovenia. It’s a country that didn’t really exist as a thing at the time, but is now, and the people speak more or less a language that they always have. Back in 1683 it was a much more different place. Ljubljana, or Laibach in German, was the capital of the Grand Duchy of Carniola. It doesn’t really exist as a separate place anymore and that to me is interesting.
When you’re writing fiction you have to think up all sorts of things. Sometimes they just come to you, but most of the time you just sort of run into things, and others you have to pull out of the back of your head. This is the case with Valvasor.
In what you could call the grandly and pitifully small amount of field research I’ve done for the novel, I spoke to a guy in Ljubljana, an ethnographer of the Balkans, about The Gates of Vienna. He also told me, “you know that Valvasor was supposed to be at the battle, but he only had 400 men and they never made it and it might have been because of disease.” That, combined with the bit about people then believing in unicorns, sounded immediately like what I was going to do next once I had ploughed through Kara Mustafa, Katrina, Franz, Selim and Murad.
You never know where you’ll meet characters or how they’ll end up acting or talking, but they come out. The thing is, I’ve spent a lot of time, and by a lot of time I actually mean most of the time, on making a new sort of book and also coming up with scenes and characters all long the way. Its all happening at once, making the book and then the story and all the things crammed into it into what I like to think is an entirely new thing.