And now, a change of pace. First, a big thank-you to Caroline Davies, who tagged me for “My next big thing” longer ago than I care to admit. It’s a set of questions that one writer passes to another, giving each of us a chance to blather (sorry, tell the world) about our own current project.
Caroline is a poet. Now I have to confess that collections of poetry are rarely my thing. They tend to remind me of my efforts at wholemeal pastry – very good for you, but heavy going. Not so with Caroline’s soon-to-be published collection, CONVOY. The clue is in the title – it’s the story of one of the Allied convoys that battled across the Mediterranean to take supplies to Malta during the Second World War. I read a draft a while back and loved it. It’s vivid and exciting and humbling, and all the more impressive for being a true story. So that’s Caroline’s Next Big Thing. Here’s mine –
What is the working title of your book?
It’s called SEMPER FIDELIS. Thanks to my astounding ignorance, I had no idea when I chose it that this is the motto of the US Marines. I hope they aren’t going to pay me a visit and complain.
Where did the idea for the book come from?
It’s the fifth in a series featuring a Roman Army medic serving in Britain. We usually see the Roman Army as full of tough highly-trained killers, but every one of them was somebody’s son. I’m at the age where my friends’ cute little babies are donning uniforms, getting tattoos and being sent to countries where other people want to shoot them. Those of us who wait at home for news trust that their commanding officers will do their best to look after them, and it occurred to me that it must have been the same for Roman families waving their sons goodbye as they went off to join the Legions. But what if some of those officers didn’t have their men’s best interests at heart? Would mistreatment be dealt with, or would it be hushed up?
The series is now at the point in history where Hadrian visited Britain, and my characters are under serious pressure to put on a good show.
What genre does your book fall under?
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Someone who knows what they’re doing had better do the casting. Meanwhile I’ll be auditioning George Clooney and Daniel Craig over a long lunch.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Roman legionary medic is under pressure from his comrades to cover up a scandal, and from his wife to expose it.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
It’ll be published by Bloomsbury in the USA and Canada in January 2013. The UK shouldn’t be far behind.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
There are quite a few Roman crime series being published now, but as far as I know, the trend was started by Lindsey Davis and Steven Saylor.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I’m fascinated by the interplay between the occupier and the occupied in Roman Britain, and the fact that so much evidence still lies buried under our feet. I wanted to write the sort of personal stories that have slipped down the gaps of history.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Hadrian’s marriage was not made in heaven, and at about the time of the British trip, the Empress Sabina was involved in a mysterious disgrace. Only the flimsiest of details have survived in the records – but of course all is revealed in the book.
And now I’m going to tag the Mysterymakers, three writers from the north of England “who love to talk about murder”. First up is a fellow-writer of Roman mysteries who will be familiar to regular readers of the blog – Jane Finnis. Look out for Jane’s Next Big Thing in the next few days, and through her we’ll get to meet the other Mysterymakers. After that – who knows?