Emerald Musings is pleased to have Ellis Shuman, the author of Valley of Thracians: A Novel of Bulgaria join us for one of our famous (or potentially infamous) 5 Question Interviews. So pull up a chair, relax, and gain some insight into the mind of this great author!
1- What was the inspiration (if any) behind Simon Matthews of Valley of Thracians: A Novel of Bulgaria?
In the opening chapter of Valley of Thracians, my debut novel, retired American professor Simon Matthews arrives in Bulgaria desperate to locate his grandson, Scott, who mysteriously disappeared while serving in the Peace Corps three years earlier. Matthews knows nothing about Bulgaria and doesn’t have a clue where to begin his search. He teams up with Sophia Ivanova, a lecturer on ancient Thracian History, and the two are lured into a bizarre quest to retrieve a stolen Thracian artifact—a unique object of immense value others will stop at nothing to recover.
Like Matthews, my wife and I arrived in Bulgaria in January 2009 with no knowledge of the country, its history or its culture. My job in online marketing had been relocated to Sofia for two years. We were determined to make the most of our stay in Bulgaria and on the weekends, we began to explore the country. One of our first trips was to the small town of Vratsa, north of Sofia. We visited the town’s regional historical museum. That was when we first learned about the Thracians, a militant tribal nation that ruled the Balkans before the time of the Romans.
During our travels in Bulgaria we came across many traces of its Thracian past. Burial tombs where tribal leaders awaited the afterlife. Golden relics displayed in museum showcases. An ancient people that nobody knows anything about. Unless you are familiar with the story of Spartacus, the Thracian gladiator who led a slave uprising against the Romans.
In my novel, I wanted to introduce readers to Bulgaria, and to the Thracians, but I didn’t want it to be a historical novel. Instead, the narrative takes place in the modern day. Professor Matthews learns about the Thracians just as I did. And he is as amazed at their story as I was when I lived in Bulgaria.