Who is going to read your book? Who is going to care about what you write? Why will they care?
These are things that spin through my mind when I'm not writing.
This book started as a fantasy novel and has grown into an historical fiction. It has become a mammoth project encompassing more than just the Ottoman Empire's history, Wahhabism, and harem women, but stretching out into existential thinking about why a slave woman would risk her life to save her captor.
Why do people so often protect those that harm them? How do people go about the mundanity of their lives when so much is at stake with every action they choose? We still have to eat, sleep, and go through the motions even while everything is screaming at us to escape. Every word and action has weight beyond normalcy. We wait for the moment that someone will acknowledge that we are captive, that we are powerless, that we should be saved. Eventually, we stop expecting others to save us. We either save ourselves or we don't.
That is what I wanted to convey with this book. I want people to see that smart people can be trapped. Smart and worthy people can't always find a way out. It isn't their fault, and the fact that they protect those harming them isn't their fault either. It's complicated and ugly and real.
The answer for this book was unexpected. Harem women were rarely harmed. Many of them wanted to be slaves. They wanted to be captives. It was a way to get an education, to have wealth, and to advance themselves in political society. They had the chance to become the mother of a Sultan, and that would bring power and fame. It was a world where women were seen as valuable, but also as valuables. That distinction is crucial.
The answer for my heroine is different. She doesn't want to obtain power and fame. She doesn't want to marry. She doesn't want the things that everyone around her expects her to want because she sees slavery as a loss, not just for the individual, but for society as a whole. She is a fish out of water, and how does one go about changing the world when the world thinks you should be grateful for the chains that bind you?
She doesn't want to just survive. She wants to live, but within her world the only way to live is to submit without giving up. Sometimes, the way out is through.