25 December 2011

Guest Blog: Heather Domin

This week, we're welcoming historical author and new contributor Heather Domin, whose novel, THE SOLDIER OF RAETIA, is set during the Roman period. It offers a unique perspective on the life of Roman soldiers on the barbarian frontier.  Heather is here to talk about the book and give away a digital copy. Here's the blurb:

The Soldier of Raetia is an historical novel set in Ancient Rome and the Germanian frontier, a coming-of-age military adventure combined with an unorthodox love story. Rome, 10BC – Manilus Dardanus, a new soldier from the provinces, applies for sponsorship with the respected general Cassius Valerian. Dardanus has a lot to learn about the life he has chosen, and at first Valerian seems the least willing candidate to teach him. But a bond forms between this unlikely pair that neither could have imagined; and as the legion moves out to the northern frontier, battles and betrayals will prove just how profoundly Dardanus and Valerian have changed each other's lives — and hearts — forever.

**Q&A with Heather Domin**

Can you tell us a little about The Soldier of Raetia?
The Soldier of Raetia is set within a Roman legion during the Augustan period (10BC to be precise), beginning with spring training in Rome then shifting to a fortress on the Danube in what is now Bavaria. It tells the story of two men: Valerian, the legion’s general, restive after ten years of emotional isolation; and Dardanus, his potential protégé, anxious to prove himself after a lonely adolescence. At first they seem woefully mismatched, but slowly a bond forms between them that no one, especially they, could have expected – until the legion is threatened, and personal desires must be set aside. A Roman soldier vows to surrender everything to his legion: unswerving loyalty, unreserved dedication, unconditional sacrifice. Can there be anything left to surrender to someone else?

How would you label the story? Romance? Military fiction? Gay fiction?
I suppose it’s “romantic adventure”, but I’m not a fan of labels. I don’t believe in rigid genre division that says you can either write A or B but never the twain shall meet. Genre-mixing turns some readers off, it’s true – some romance fans don’t like my graphic battles, and some battle fans don’t like my graphic romance. You can’t please everyone, as every historical fiction writer knows all too well. So why limit yourself? I write stories I would want to read, and the response has been absolutely wonderful. (Also, as a woman, I have no desire to appropriate the experience of gay men, so I don’t call my stories Gay Fiction any more than I would call them African-American Fiction if they contained a character of color.  I’m not about to co-opt the queer struggle just because I write about dudes getting it on.)

What made you choose Rome for your setting, and the Roman Army in particular?
I’ve loved Ancient Rome since I was a little girl – I was introduced to Greek mythology at an early age, which led me to Greece, which led me to Rome, and Rome stuck. In college I majored in History and minored in Classics and German; I love many historical periods, but Ancient Rome is one of my favorites. Also, being a fan of military history, I’m fascinated by the Roman Army – its evolution and eventual degradation, its virtues and evils, successes and mistakes. (Actually that’s what I love about Rome herself, too.) One of the fundamental principles of the legion was dedication to others at the cost of self – that deep-seated commitment to duty over desire makes a great backdrop for personal drama.

Are any of the characters in The Soldier of Raetia based on actual historical figures?
The only “real” person in my novel is Augustus, and he never appears on screen. (I did make all mentions of him as historically correct as possible, though.) Most of my characters share names with various kings, emperors, priests, etc, but it’s kind of impossible not to – there were just too few Roman names. Having said that, the next book in the series will feature real historical figures as some of the major players.

What’s next for you?
I’m working on two novels at the moment: one is the sequel to Soldier of Raetia, entitled Heirs of Fortune; and the other is a contemporary urban paranormal with a female protagonist. (How’s that for a label?) I have a third novel that’s stuck in the research stage, which I’ll focus on after completing the other two; it has a medieval setting and a female protagonist. In the meantime I’m polishing up one of my older novellas, an M/M set in 1922 Dublin, for release as a free e-book to thank my readers for their patience. I’m a very slow writer, but I think that’s one of my strengths. I won’t let a story go until I’ve served it as best as I can.

Thank you, Heather, and best of luck with THE SOLDIER OF RAETIA. 

Please leave your comment to win a  copy of this exciting coming-of-age novel.