Hello Faith, and welcome to Passages to the Past! We are thrilled to be hosting you today as part of your blog tour!
To begin, can you tell us a little about yourself and your novel, Sword of the Gladiatrix?
I’m a science geek and history junkie and have been all my life. I knocked around a bit and worked as a lifeguard, paralegal, systems analyst, human resources executive, and college professor before settling into full-time writing. I live in Brooklyn with my family and the required gaggle of cats. For fun, I like to dig in the dirt—my garden and various archaeological sites, although both are getting a little hard on the knees.
My current book is an action-adventure, lesbian romance set during Nero’s reign. Sword of the Gladiatrix features two fictional characters from the far ends of the Roman Empire: Afra, scout and beast master to the Queen of Kush; and Cinnia, warrior-bard and companion to Queen Boudica of the British Iceni. Both are enslaved and brought to Rome. They try to replace lost friendship and love in each other's arms, but fate intervenes. Before they complete their journeys, I toss in a pair of trained hunting cheetahs, a nasty snake dancing bitch, a natural disaster or two, a neurotic emperor, and several gladiator fights.
What inspired you to write a novel set in Imperial Rome? What draws you to that time period?
I love museums (see science geek and history junkie above). I spend days wondering around and reading all the labels. When I visited the British Museum several years ago, I came across a stone carving, from the first or second century, found in Turkey. It showed two women named Achilla and Amazon fighting with swords and shields, their helmets on the ground. Female gladiators! At that time, I didn’t know they existed. I researched and found that females (in small numbers) fought regularly over a two hundred year period.
The image of those two women haunted me. They were real women who lived and died centuries ago. Who were they? Where did they come from? How did they feel about their lives? That’s when I decided to tell their story. Well, not their story—no one knows their background or fates. So I created Afra and Cinnia to stand in for those two women carved on the stone. This time period is actually a departure for me. I usually write novels set in the fifth century based on historical women—ones who should be in the history books but aren’t.
What was the hardest scene to write?
Whenever Afra or Cinnia get beaten or abused. I hate “hurting” my characters, but this was a violent age and that’s how women and slaves were treated.
What was your favorite scene to write?
The sex scenes. In my first drafts, I always mark them with [brackets] and come back to them later so I don’t lose the flow of the plot. I like my sex scenes to be tender and erotic, but not blow by blow (pun intended) mechanical descriptions. Getting the right balance of romance and erotica is difficult but fun. I spend more time polishing dialog and rearranging action in my sex scenes than I do on any other.
What do you want readers to take away from Sword of the Gladiatrix?
Primarily a feeling of satisfaction; that they spent their time well and were entertained. Secondarily, I hope they learn a little history or have an insight into a different culture.
What appeals to you most about writing in the historical fiction genre?
I like discovering outstanding women and telling their stories—the ones I should have learned in school, but didn’t. We have a few bare facts about female gladiators or the mathematician Hypatia or Empress Galla Placidia, but what do we really know about the them? Building these few bare facts into interesting stories about compelling characters is why I write. And I love doing the research, digging for the details that bring a narrative to life. I learn for myself and share that information with my readers.
Who are your writing inspirations?
None of my favorite authors—Ursula K. Le Guin, Mark Twain, Nancy Kress, Neil Gaiman—inspired me to write. They intimidated me. I’ve always been a voracious reader. It was a run of horrible, banal, uninspired fantasy novels (I don’t remember the authors) that sent me to the keyboard screaming, “I can write better than that!”
Of course, I couldn’t—then.
What my favorite writers did inspire me to do is persevere. They all made their livings writing and they wrote a lot, getting better at what they did. I might never be a Twain or Le Guin, but I practiced, improved, and learned my craft, getting better with each story. My early stuff is better off in the trunk, but I’m proud of the work I have out now.
What was the first historical novel you read?
That’s a tough one because I’m a women of (ahem) a certain age and started reading long, long ago. A good guess would be Betty Zane by Zane Grey, a pioneer novel partially set in my home county. I found a battered copy in the attic among my father’s things when I was about nine or ten and immediately fell in love with the brave heroine and her brothers who helped settle the Ohio valley. The story sent me to the history books to find out more about them; a pattern often repeated as I read more historical fiction.
What is the last historical novel you read?
Ah, much easier! Let me check my Goodreads Challenge…The Tapestry by Nancy Bilyeau, which I finished a couple of weeks ago. A Tudor mystery and the third in her Joanna Stafford series. Highly recommended.
What historical time period do you gravitate towards the most with your personal reading?
I’m all over the place. The fifteen HF books I’ve read this year range from ancient Egypt (The Heretic Queen by Michelle Moran) to WWII (City of Women by David R. Gillham), touching down in nearly every major time period between. There seems to be no pattern except I avoid imperial Rome, because I don’t want to unconsciously imitate my peers.
Is there anything special you’d like us to know about it?
I’m working on a sequel Song of the Gladiatrix which I hope to have out next year. In the meantime, I’ll have a fact-based historical coming out this fall called Twilight Empress. It’s the fascinating story of Galla Placidia who ruled Rome just before the “fall.” It’s got romance, war, political intrigue, rebellious children, and Attila the Hun.
Thanks again, Amy, for hosting me on your blog, and thanks to your readers for stopping by.
About Sword of the Gladiatrix
Publication Date: May 2015 |Publisher: Raggedy Moon Books | Formats: Trade paperback & eBook
ISBN: 978-0692386491 | Pages: 260pp
Two women. Two swords. One victor.
An action-packed tale that exposes the brutal underside of Imperial Rome, Sword of the Gladiatrix brings to life unforgettable characters and exotic settings. From the far edges of the Empire, two women come to battle on the hot sands of the arena in Nero's Rome: Afra, scout and beast master to the Queen of Kush; and Cinnia, warrior-bard and companion to Queen Boudica of the British Iceni. Enslaved, forced to fight for their lives and the Romans' pleasure; they seek to replace lost friendship, love, and family in each other's arms. But the Roman arena offers only two futures: the Gate of Life for the victors or the Gate of Death for the losers.
Praise for Faith's first book: Selene of Alexandria“A promising new historical novelist [with] the gift for wonderfully researched, vividly evoked, good old-fashioned storytelling.”—Historical Novel Society
“I am blown away and enthralled with the work of this author.”—BookPleasures.com
“Does what historical fiction does best—weaves historical fact, real-life historical figures, and attention to detail with page-turning, plot-driven fiction.”—The Copperfield Review
Sword of the Gladiatrix Available AtAmazon (US, UK, Canada)
Barnes & Noble
CreateSpace (print only)
iBooks (ebook only)
Kobo (ebook only)
Smashwords (ebook only–all formats)
About the AuthorFAITH L. JUSTICE writes award-winning novels, short stories, and articles in Brooklyn, New York. Her work has appeared in Salon.com, Writer’s Digest, The Copperfield Review, the Circles in the Hair anthology, and many more. She is a frequent contributor to Strange Horizons, Associate Editor for Space and Time Magazine, and co-founded a writer’s workshop many more years ago than she likes to admit. For fun, she digs in the dirt—her garden and various archaeological sites.
For more information visit Faith L. Justice's website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.
Sword of the Gladiatrix Blog TourMonday, June 29
Guest Post at The Writing Desk
Tuesday, June 30
Spotlight at What Is That Book About
Wednesday, July 1
Spotlight & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More
Thursday, July 2
Review at Svetlana's Reads and Views
Friday, July 3
Spotlight at CelticLady's Reviews
Saturday, July 4
Guest Post at I Heart Reading
Monday, July 6
Review at Book Nerd
Tuesday, July 7
Interview & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Wednesday, July 8
Guest Post & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books
Spotlight at A Literary Vacation
Thursday, July 9
Review at Genre Queen
Review at Boom Baby Reviews
Review & Giveaway at Broken Teepee
Guest Post & Giveaway at Unshelfish
Friday, July 10
Review at Bookramblings
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