In the Eagleville home of Caroline Ludovici sits a simple lamp made of clay.
She said it was created during the ancient Roman occupation of Brittain, and added that many such artifacts may be found throughout modern England.
However, she further explained the significance of this antique isn’t so much its antiquity, but rather a single distinguishing mark found at the bottom of the Roman lamp.
“You can just see the thumb print of the potter that made it,” Ludovici said. “To think I had that 2,000 years later.”
She defines such connections to the past as true treasures, and delighted in how a human thumbprint, older than two-millennia, can completely captivate the imagination.
She’s hoping that this may also be the case for young teen readers, as her first self-published novel, “The Obsidian Mask,” attempts to connect the wonder of the past with adventure.
“I want to let them know that people were here before, and that they were very civilized,” Ludovici said. “And, I want them to think about it.”
The “Obsidian Series”
The Conshohocken-based company Infinity Publishing published “The Obsidian Mask,” in 2011. It is the first of a three-book series, focusing on two pairs of teenaged siblings, who meet at a mythical archeological site of a Mesopotamian warrior queen, as the teens’ respective archiologist parents uncover the queen’s tomb. The mystery revolves around why the warrior queen’s once thriving city disappeared thousands of years ago.
According to Ludovici’s website (www.carolineludovici.com), the other books in the series, “Secrets of the River” and “The Irish Queen of Algiers,” are yet to be released. She said in each story, the teens travel the world to different archeological sites, learning about both the modern and ancient cultures and taking in the remarkable scenery of foreign lands.
“I write about what I know,” Ludovici said.
A Reluctant Writer
Ludovici grew up in Central London, England, where her father was a developer. As a child, she recalled following her father to construction sites, where torn-down walls would reveal objects from decades past, including an old range complete with a very dusty tea kettle.
“It’s lovely to see the layers come down,” Ludovici said. “There are hidden secrets everywhere.”
During this time, at around 7 or 8-years old, she would collect photographs of late-19th-century London, looking for the same streets that large horse-drawn carriages once travelled.
For school assignments, she would gladly write about these experiences, stating that her stories “flowed right out of the pen.”
However, she also recalled the lack of encouragement and even ridicule from schoolteachers over her stories.
Her teachers pointed out that her stories were filled with misspellings and mixed-up numbers. She also had trouble identifying her left from her right sides, telling time and doing math.
As a teenager, she also struggled with reading, making it difficult to enjoy her favorite literature: realistic and non-fiction. Such literature included the exotic travel stories of Victorian-era explorers or stories by the late British children’s author Enid Mary Blyton, whose stories revolved around youth having adventures independent from adult help.
Although Ludovici has never been officially diagnosed, it wouldn’t be until she talked with fellow parents of young children, decades later, that she found she might have Dyslexia.
“This affliction of not being able to spell was a problem,” Ludovici said.
By her early 20s, in the late 1970s, Ludovici was frustrated by what little help and guidance was given over her disabilities. She decided not to pursue further academic education, and went directly into the workforce.
“My grades weren’t good enough,” Ludovici recalled. “It’s a shame, now there are ways around it.”
The studies she did pursue led her to become a Cordon Bleu chef in a London private kitchen, where she catered to top executives. After five years, by her mid-20s, she went on to join an international ski company, also based in London.
It was during this time of her life, Ludovici saw the world. She would save up her money to travel to places she only read about as a child.
She travelled throughout Europe, the Middle East and as far away as New Zealand. All the while, she wrote about her experiences in a journal, but kept its contents private.
“Everything I wrote was for my personal use,” Ludovici said. “I had no intention of sharing it.”
A Picnic in Surrey
By 1986, Ludovici married her husband, whose job took her first to Sweden then to the United States. She and her husband would start a family in the states, having a boy and a girl.
Sometime during the early 1990s, Ludovici took her children on a picnic, while visiting the historic market town of Dorking in Surrey, England. In the weeks leading up to the picnic, Ludovici’s then 8-year-old daughter was complaining that she had nothing to read.
“She didn’t like the fantasy,” Ludovici said with a little pride. “She liked the good-old-fashioned, exciting adventures.”
Ludovici recalled how children’s fantasy fiction dominated the bookstores, at the time and for years to come, leaving few alternatives.
While watching her children at play, during their little family picnic, Ludovici started writing what would become the seventh chapter of “The Obsidian Mask.”
Two of the four main characters are a Brittish-born brother and sister, whose personalities are based off her experience as a London teen, as well as her observations of her own children. She included imagery from her years of travelling. And, most importantly, she based her stories on the underlying connection to the past and the natural wonder derived from it.
However, as writing was not a full-time option, the process was slow.
While living in the U.S., She finished her final draft of the novel in 2000, and it took another five years for her agent to succesfully interest a large, exclusive London-based publishing firm.
All the while, Ludovici, still felt uncomfortable sharing her writing in light of her disabilities. However, during her writing process, she switched from pen and paper to computers, and eventually would dedicate her first book to the ‘Spell Check.’
In 2005, the large, exclusive London-based publishing company that reviewed her work, later rejected it.
Determined to have her book published, Ludovici turned to the Conshohocken-based self-publishing company, Infinity Publishing.
By 2011, “The Obsidian Mask” became available online and in local bookstores.
She said that her children, now in their mid-20s, have read the book, and very much enjoyed the story.
Oct. 6 Lower Providence Fall Fest Appearance
Ludovici will appear at the Oct. 6 Lower Providence Fall Festival in the carfter/vendor section.
There, children can explore Mesopotamian culture, including its Cuneiform alphabet, where youth can take home a Cuneiform clay tablet of their own creation with their names on it.
Ludovici will also be selling signed copies of her book at the event.