Tor.com content by

Margaret Owen

Finding Fantasy Inspiration in the Executioners of Medieval Europe

I’ve gotten a lot of questions in the last few months leading up to the release of my debut novel, but one of the most common ones is What inspired you to write this story? The answer is usually ‘It’s complicated’ (don’t sue me, Facebook, my estate is comprised of a modest artisanal skull collection and two delinquent cats and I guarantee it will not be worth it.) Most of my stories start as a vague primordial soup of concepts, and it’s only when lightning hits that something heaves itself out of the waters and demands to breathe.

For The Merciful Crow, that lightning struck circa October 2014. I’d had a handful of ideas floating around, but nothing really solidified until, in the midst of idly scrolling through Tumblr, I followed a link to an article on the lives of medieval executioners in Europe. There were many things that struck me, but none so much as the very particular rules and rituals governing their existence: who they could speak to, what things they could claim, how they were barred from the communities that depended on them. The more I read, the more clearly the facets of my heroine’s life began to carve themselves; and now I’d like to show you some of those facets, with the inspirational blade that struck them.

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