I love mythology, I love everything about it; the monsters, the Gods, the heroes and magic. I love mythology from all over the world from Chinese folklore, to Celtic cycle epics and Norse poetic epics. I got into history back when I was in elementary school because of how much I loved my books on Egyptian mythology for kids. I love Greek myths, French and Germanic fairy tales, I love Japanese legends and early Christian saint stories. I love it all.
So when I write fantasy I'm often building worlds based on a historical moment as seen through the lens of the mythological and fantastical. Most of the time these myths and legends come from worlds and societies already very different from our own. Because of this sometimes I run into a problem. I'm sure this a problem very familiar to any writer who's ever written fiction with a historical setting: how do you represent that historical moment to the best of your ability while not totally putting off a modern audience?
Any mythology and culture you choose to work with comes with its own issues and things that just don't translate well. While taking notes for a possible story based on Greek mythology I wondered a lot about how to accurately represent sexuality in Ancient Greek culture for a modern audience. One of the reasons why that stories is on hold at the moment is because I haven't decided how best to handle the issue.
In most of my stories based on history and mythology the characters drink alcohol at every meal including breakfast, a few of them smoke like chimneys, and most take violence as an everyday fact of life. I know a lot of these issues and the others I've discussed will turn people off. Maybe not so much in Heart of Water and Stone and The Kraken Lord and the Eater of the Sun where we don't see a lot of human culture, but definitely in stories which humans play a bigger role. In a lot of ways that's okay, it's more important to me that the stories have the right feel to them and that they represent a mythological/historical moment in a fantasy setting as much as possible. On the other hand I don't want my characters and their basic humanity (even the ones who aren't human) to get lost in translation. Most of all I want people to have fun while reading my stories. I think it's it definitely possible to have it both ways, it's just a little bit of a tight rope walk, one I hope to get better and better at.
What do other authors think, especially those of you who take your inspiration from history/mythology/folk lore? How do you make the very distant past enjoyable and accessible for your readers?