16 May 2010

Guest Author: Ali Katz

This week on Unusual Historicals we're happy to welcome Samhain author Ali Katz as she celebrates the release of her novella "Damon's Price," set in ancient Rome! Here's the blurb:

Widowhood agrees with thirty-eight-year-old Claudia Sabina. Her husband and father left her wealthy, but her most prized possession is their gift of independence. She enjoys a freedom few women in male-dominated Roman society will ever know.

One of her most valuable assets is Damon, a young Greek slave bequeathed to her by her father. Intelligent, resourceful and educated beyond the norm for even a freeborn Roman citizen, Damon is a man of many talents. It doesn't hurt that he is also a pleasure to look at.

For months, Damon hides the fact he's fallen in love with his new mistress. He convinces himself he can be satisfied with her nearness--until the night he walks in on her bath, and his rigid control deserts him. Consequences fail to matter as he offers her full use of talents that, until now, he's never revealed.

In a moment of weakness, Claudia crosses the line laid down by Roman law and custom, immersing herself in an illegal and dangerous love affair. A choice that threatens both their futures.

"Damon's Price is a sexy and emotional read. Ali Katz succeeds once more in immersing the reader in the story from the first page, and keeps the tension and interest going. The book's main strength is in its characters-both Claudia and Damon felt real, their emotions raw and believable. 5 Angels." ~ Maija, Fallen Angel Reviews

"Ms. Katz's writing pulled me in from the first page and I was never bored reading Claudia and Damon's story. 'Damon's Price' moved along quickly and I understood the hero and heroine's hopes, dreams, desires, and conflicts. I never thought of putting it down and finishing another day. I loved that the time period was unique...authentic and the plot extremely believable. I really felt for these characters and couldn't stop smiling when they achieved their happily ever after." ~ Lynette, CK2S Kwips and Kritiques


An independent Roman woman?

Unlikely you think? True, Rome was very much a man's world. Traditionally, a woman and all her property were under a man's authority--her father's until she married, then her husband's and, if she found herself orphaned and widowed, a guardian (tutela).

But by the first century AD, women had much more freedom. She could marry "sine manu" and remain under her father's authority. She could inherit and dispose of her own property. She could own and manage a business and handle her own financial affairs. After the reign of Octavian Augustus (31 BC – 14 AD), guardianship was no longer required if she had already borne three children. Her status became "sui iuris."

In 'DAMON'S PRICE,' Claudia's relationship with her slave, Damon is illegal. Wasn't sex with slaves common in Rome?

Sure it was. Sex with slaves wasn't even looked down upon or considered adultery--as long as you used your penis. Being on the receiving end, vaginally, anally or orally, not so good.

I thought Rome was a decadent society.

Recent depictions of life during the Republic (509 BC – 44 BC) would certainly back you up, Augustus, Rome's first emperor, made efforts to change the moral culture. How successful he was is debatable, but the laws he put into effect to regulate Rome's moral climate were on the books, and any man could call on them as he saw fit. Women were expected to be dignified wives and good mothers and, while the rules could be bent, they couldn't be broken. No woman was immune; status did not offer safety. Claudius had his wife, Messalina, and her lover executed. Augustus's own daughter, Julia, found herself exiled for her many affairs.

Augustus had little choice, really, considering her reputation and his Lex Julia which made adultery a crime. Being a parent and a bit of a prude myself, I almost understand why he stuck her on an island by herself.

Prude? Come on, Ali, you can't write sex like that and call yourself a prude.

True enough. I do think sex should be fun and enjoyed by all, LOL. We have to face the fact, though, that until the last few years, sex had consequences--especially for women. And, oh no, men were not going to let them get away with enjoying themselves, especially if that meant they could never be sure whose sons they were raising.

Do you have any new Roman hotties coming our way?

Yes, I do, as a matter of fact, and thank you for asking.

I'm currently working on a series of three novels staged in an alternate Rome during the first century--the same era as my novella, 'DAMON'S PRICE.' In this Rome, however, magic wins the empire and Roman wizards are a powerful and dreaded force.

The first book, GLADIATOR, is a M/M erotic romance. Here's a short blurb:
Power and respect--the two most valued commodities in Roman society.

Marcus has power. So much power, his mentor couldn't begin to touch his potential. He taught what he could. And then, taught him how to restrain the magic when it raced through his veins with the speed of a wild fire threatening to consume him and then saw him off to Damascus to learn the art of war with Rome's most powerful mages.

No one can teach Marcus how to win respect.

Marcus stands at the threshold of his future--and he's scared to death. He has the power, but can he overcome his peaceful nature and learn to use it in war? The question is moot if he can't overcome his other nature. The part of him which guarantees he'll never have respect from anyone who counts.

Gallus respects him, and fears him, and loves him. His job is to protect him. Little did he know when he took the job, the hardest part would be protecting Marcus from himself.
"Sometimes I wonder where, in the midst of all this abundance, Lies the essence of love..." The Art of Love, Ovid (43 BC – 18 AD)


Thanks so much for stopping by today, Ali. Readers, if you'd like to win a copy of 'DAMON'S PRICE,' please leave a comment or question for Ali. Maybe you'd like to know some of the interesting quirks or Roman society, or why Ali chose to write a Roman-set historical? Ask away! I'll draw the winner in one week. Void where prohibited. Best of luck!


Cara Wallace said...

Hi, Ali! I don't think I've ever heard of a Roman historical romance before (not that I've researched it, lol).

Were there any aspects of Roman society that you found particularly challenging as you wrote?

mbreakfield said...

Oh! I'm fascinated with the ancient Romans. I, also, have a thing for the ancient Egyptians. Have you seen the new production of Spartacus and if so, do you think it is mostly accurate?

SonomaLass said...

I'm always intrigued by widow stories. Widows in some cultures inhabit a space with a lot more freedom than married or single women, while in other cultures they are among the least powerful groups. It's always an interesting way to get new insight, I think.

Denise A. Agnew said...

Fantastic! Can't wait to read this. And I have a book set in Roman Britain coming out at Samhain in January '11! Excellent!

Denise A. Agnew

Denise A. Agnew said...

Excellent and congratulations on your new book! Can't wait to read your novel. I have a Roman Britain novel coming out in January '11 with Samahin, too.

Denise A. Agnew

Tili S. said...

Oh, gosh, this looks like a lot of fun. I'm a Latin student, so I keep my eye out for these!

Pamala Knight said...

Both blurbs have me intrigued! I love ancient Rome. Where did you find your most useful research on the customs and laws regarding women?

limecello said...

Hmmm... ok - being a huge Classics geek (although I don't remember everything...) I'm definitely intrigued by this book. What made you write a historical set in ancient Rome, Ali? And what books did you look into or use for research?
I'm so excited your books are coming out - I've been asking authors for a romance set in ancient Rome for years now!

Ali Katz said...

Oh, my goodness, questions.

Cara, as I said, there are no first hand accounts of what a woman's life was like. What we can glean is written from the male perspective and, in many cases, not very flattering.

Travel is giving me the biggest problem. How long would it take to get that letter from Sabina to Alexandria? What was life aboard a merchant ship like?

Ali Katz said...

Funny you should ask, mbreakfield. I discovered Blood and Sand on the day the last episode aired -- much to my disappointment, since at the time, I was about 20k into my current WIP, tentatively titled, you guessed it, Gladiator. Fortunately a friend had Tivoed the series and graciously allowed me to camp out in front of his TV to watch the twelve episodes.
Spartacus lived in the 1st century BC, the last years of the Roman Republic and about 200 years before my stories take place. It was a decadent time and led to many of the 'morality' laws put into effect by the early emperors.

I found a few things that felt vague or out of place - the circumcised Gaul one that could have been avoided. The fact most of the story takes place in the ludus gives them a lot of artistic freedom. Each ludus would have its own climate and rules.

Ali Katz said...

Congrats on you January release, Denise!

Ali Katz said...

Tili, oh dear, a fact checker LOL. Where were you when I needed you? Two years of high school Latin isn't much help when trying to come up with every day phrases.

Ali Katz said...

Pamala and limecello, The internet, of course, is the place to start. The living history sites are invaluable. For original source material, there is Perseus.tufts.edu and Questia.com. Pliny, who wrote in the first century, is invaluable. I also found a book called Women and the Law in the Roman Empire, by Judith Grubbs (2002). She did most of my research for me :)

Ali Katz said...

Why Rome? Mr. Gallus, my high school Latin teacher. His enthusiasm was contagious.

Alison said...

Fascinated by the idea sex with slaves wasn't adultery/illegal/frowned upon, as long as you were in the driving seat (as it were). I read a while ago that in some countries male/male sex wasn't considered proof that the parties were homosexual - as long as (again) you were the one in control.

Ali Katz said...

That continues to be true in some areas of the world even today, Alison.

Thanks to everyone who commented.

a.m.harte said...

How intriguing! I enjoy reading historical novels for the very fact that they teach me something I often can't be bothered to research myself!

Ali -- what's the oddest or most interesting fact about the romans that you learnt during your research which you weren't able to include?

Chelsea B. said...

Wow, this book sounds fascinating! (And by 'fascinating' I mean 'hot') Can't wait to read it! ;~) Really, though. It sounds to be a very romaantic read, and I love me some romance! Also, lovin' the cover!

Ali Katz said...

Hi, a.m.

Research! I love it. Damon's and Claudia's story actually arose from research I'm doing for the trilogy - a sort of side story that came to me while reading about women's roles.

I keep getting caught up in the lives and deaths of the emperors and wannabe emperors of the time. There were eight during the five years my trilogy covers (65 - 70AD)- not a healthy time to be ambitions.

One thing I didn't get the chance to include was a scene in the public baths. The baths were an integral part of Roman life and society - a place to socialize and conduct business for both men and women (segregated). They were often the first building to go up when Romans settled an area.

Dulcia, a sprawling country villa, had its own bath, but count on a few bath scenes in the other books.

Ali Katz said...

Thank you, Chelsea. The cover art was done by Samhain's art director, Scott Carpenter.

Verona St. James said...

Have you seen the HBO Rome from a few years ago?

Really well done, although they TOTALLY screwed with history.

californiameaghan said...

i've only read one other series set in roman times and loved it. this one sounds great too! can't wait to read it!

Ali Katz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ali Katz said...

Hi, Verona, Yes, I did watch the first season of Rome and part of the second until my attention waned. I particularly liked the gritty depiction of the city and its lower class. The atmosphere felt authentic. As a matter of fact, I'm thinking about buying the series on DVD--research ya' know. :)

Thanks for commenting, Verona and californiameaghan. (sorry, misspelled meaghan's name first time around LOL)

librarypat said...

I've not read many stories based in this time period. This book is one way to find how certain aspects of roman life were handled & what recurse there s

Carrie Lofty said...

Sorry about the delay. Our winner is Alison!


Thanks to everyone who stopped by!