I’m in Ireland, climbing up a very old and very uneven staircase made of stone. My hands trace the walls and the stones and windows that I find there. Somehow, I have got to bring this home with me. I do miniatures, so I tell my sisters and mother that I’m just going to take a little time off from my dollhouse and work on this castle. Just one room, you see. No need to do more. They nod solemnly. Sure, just one room to get it out of your system. Wink, wink, nudge nudge. Apparently, the bets on the size of the castle started being placed that night.
I started working on the castle when we returned. Twenty years passed and I was coming to the end. I would never have begun if I had known how large a project I was going to end up with, both figuratively and literally. It ended up taking a whole room and then some of my house. While it was a labor of love, it was often a nightmare of frustration. While I know others have tried and accomplished things similar to this, most of this was done before the internet showed its powers to us. I had to learn everything alone, sometimes with some help from friends, but little else. Often, the procedure was a trial and error, one step forward and eighteen steps back process. I literally ended up doing almost all of it over later on as I had improved enough that I wasn’t satisfied with much of my early work. I kept a written log of sorts as I went. Tenses throughout it would be odd as I would write about something as it was happening and then switch to something already finished. There are no dates to much of it as I had no idea what I was taking on as I began the whole thing.
Almost all of the castle and church are accurate for the Middle Ages or early renaissance. There are things that would have been in a castle in the 900’s in Ireland and there are things that came from Italy in the early renaissance period. I took the things I liked and put them together. Actually, that could have happened in real life to some extent. People made things with more care and thus they tended to last longer and there was some trade. When possible, I logged where I got the designs from if I did not come up with it on my own. Though most everything is period (in other words, accurate for the time and place), there are nods to some of my favorite fantasy writers’ lands as well (note the shiral crystal and saint’s seals from a series by Katherine Kurtz and the fire lizard eggs warming by the hearth from a series by Anne McCaffery).
As to the people I envisioned in my land, I created them as I went. They are from the later period so that I could include all different time periods as family artifacts, etc. Celtic traditions play a big role, but I have made them travelers and scholars to help me justify any input I desire. Thus, while the castle is vaguely placed in Ireland, really there are ideas from Italy, Russia etc.
I had multiple influences. First and foremost were the castles of Europe that I had the good fortune to visit. For that, I thank my mother, Doris Sperlich and my two sisters, Sue Hendricks and Mickey Sperlich for starting me off. My nephew and nieces not only gave input, but adventured with me through many of these castles. So, thank you to Lyssa, Cade, Kristen and Katie. Katie gets a second helping of thanks, not only for almost losing her life alongside one cliff trying to get to a fabulous castle, but also for having such an intense interest as a little girl that she was a real motivation for me when I would get discouraged. I also belong to SCA, the Society for Creative Anachronism. This is a medieval recreation group that gave me a lot of input. The SCA member who gave the most input, was a modern day alchemist of a sort who lived with me for two years, but for decades was my sounding board for any new ideas, my dear friend Deforest “Arnie” Piper. Lastly, authors like Katherine Kurtz who wove such interesting tales as to make me want to create a world such as theirs.
The following is a blow-by-blow account of the creation of the castle. This is not a how-to, but rather a how I did it story, and often how I messed it up and had to do it over sort of story.