A handful of historical authors brave the wilds of unusual settings, times, and characters to create distinctive, exciting novels just outside of the mainstream. Join us as we chronicle the trials and rewards of our quest - from research and writing to publication and establishing lasting careers.
Author Interview & Book Giveaway: Faith L. Justice on SWORD OF THE GLADIATRIX
This week, we're pleased to welcome authorFAITH L. JUSTICEwith her latest historical fiction release, SWORD OF THE GLADIATRIX. One lucky visitor will get a free copy of Sword of the Gladiatrix. Be sure to leave your email address in the comments of today's author interview for a chance to win. Winner(s) are contacted privately by email. Here's the blurb.
Two women. Two swords. One victor.
An action-packed tale that exposes the brutal underside of Imperial Rome, Sword of theGladiatrix 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.
**Q&A with Faith L. Justice**
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your current book.
I’m a history buff and science junkie. I can’t say which came first; it seems like my whole life I’ve been interested in both. Consequently, I read a lot of history/historical fiction and science/science fiction. I guess I don’t like living in the present. My personal present is nice: married to a great guy, my college graduate daughter got a job—Woo Hoo!—love my old Victorian house in Brooklyn, and have plenty of cats to keep me company while I write. But I can’t seem to keep my mind here—it wanders to other worlds and other times. I became a writer to share those adventures.
My current book is an action-adventure, lesbian romance set during Nero’s reign. A departure for me. I usually write novels based on real historical women—ones who should be in the history books but aren’t. 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. Enslaved and brought to Pompeii, they try to replace lost friendship and love in each other's arms, but fate intervenes. Before they complete their journey, 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 Sword of the Gladiatrix?
I love museums. I spend days wondering around, studying exhibits, 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 the topic 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 my two characters Afra and Cinnia to stand in for those two women carved on the stone.
Whenever I pitched Sword of the Gladiatrix as my “lesbian gladiator novel,” I encountered raised eyebrows and skeptical snorts. The first question everyone asked: “Were there really lesbian gladiators?” My answer: “Of course!” We know there were females fighting in arenas for a couple of centuries. Some had to be lesbian. What really surprises people is the fact of female gladiators. They rarely appear in popular culture. Despite the popularity of Xena Warrior Princess and the myths of the Amazons, they don’t come to mind in the media-soaked imaginings of brutal, bloody, gladiatorial games. Women warriors? Maybe. Women gladiators? No. Yet they are there in classical literature, art, grave markers, and archaeology. I wanted to bring these forgotten women back to life.
How much research do you do for your books?
Incredible amounts, but it’s one of the most fun parts of writing these books. I’m a research librarian at heart and love tracking down the minutiae of everyday life and bringing different cultures, times, and places to life through my words. Mostly I consult books and academic papers, but my favorite way of researching is the site visit. I have a dozen books on Pompeii with gorgeous pictures and incredible diagrams, but nothing beats actually walking the streets, seeing the graffiti, and sitting in the seats at the arena where my characters fight. Museums come in a close second and we have world-class ones here in New York. I can study clothing, coins, art, and jewelry from my time period, giving me a mother lode of detail to enrich my stories.
What is the hardest part of writing?
Getting my butt in chair and fingers on keyboard. In today’s connected world, it is so easy to get distracted and fritter the day away on the internet. Working at home doesn’t help. Stuck on a scene? Oh, there’s laundry! Or cats to play with. Or…you name it. I schedule a minimum of three hours—preferably in the morning before I look at email/Facebook/Twitter—that is dedicated to new writing (not rewriting!) I take my ancient laptop to the couch in the parlor (no TV, no Wi-Fi) and sit staring. Sometimes the words flow and I’m “in the zone.” Other times it’s like pulling teeth, but I sit there until I write one word, then the next, then the next. Each word gets easier.
What’s next for you as a writer?
I’ll have another fact-based novel out by the end of the year. Twilight Empress is about Galla Placidia, a remarkable woman who ruled the Roman Empire in its waning days. There’ll also be a prequel novella and a short tie-in story out this fall. I’ve also got a first draft of a companion novel called Dawn Empress to rewrite and an untitled third book in the series outlined. New stories include a sequel to Sword of the Gladiatrix (about a third done), a sequel to Selene of Alexandria (outlined), and a couple of short stories to complete a collection. So many books, so little time!
What do you hope readers take away after reading one of your books?
A feeling of satisfaction; that they spent their time well and were entertained. If they also learn a little history or have an insight into a different culture, that’s gravy!
Thanks for having me at Unusual Historicals. If readers want to get in touch, I’d love to have them drop by my website/blog and leave a comment. Writing is such a lonely business and I do enjoy interacting with readers. Many hours of great reading to you all!
FAITH 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. Contact Faith online at: