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Roman Roamin

Roman Roamin > The central character of the story is Rome herself

The central character of the story is Rome herself

There are authors who set mysteries or romances in historical times. And then there are authors who write about historical times. I love both. You do too, probably, if you are here on this website.

In my novel "Rome is Born! - Rise of the Republic" the central character is the City of Roma herself. It is the spine around which all the rest of the action is framed. Lucumo and Tanaquil and Marcus are the human 'movers and shakers' of the tale, but it is the setting that molds their actions: the swamp must be drained, a bridge must be built, a valley is transformed into the Circus, and then we enclose the whole thing with a ring of walls. The setting of the city on a vital river crossing, square on the main trade route, influences everything that happens to the people who choose to live there. This is the historical truth, and the focal point for a good story.

I enjoy spending time with the comfortable love between Lucumo and Tanaquil, and the deep friendship between Lucumo and Marcus; and their concerns become our concerns (worries about security, wanting to integrate the gods more closely in the peoples' lives, celebrations and weddings, and so on). But driving the story, ultimately, is the true tale of the rise of a great city from a dusty collection of ignorant villages.

I feel the story of Roma has her own string on the lyre, and is played in harmony with the other strings: the Tarquin family string, the Junius family string, the Servius Tullius string, and the other themes that rise and fall on the world stage.

I recently posted half of the "Sabine Attack!" chapter on the Scarrow brothers' website, and it was well received. But one of the comments in the Feedback section suggested: "I think you should take the lead from Simon's work, lots of pace and character interaction and plenty of info but it's subtle and the dialogue is modern, the reader now wants the escapism and mystery of the past but does not want a roman dictionary with them to do it." He is referring to Simon Scarrow, who has set his fictional stories in the historical setting of Vespasian's occupation of Britain in 42 AD. His characters serve in the Roman Legion, but they go off on entirely fictional adventures like tracking down the pay wagon, or bringing a ransom payment to the Druids. I love his stuff.

Steven Saylor is another of my favorites. His character "Gordianus the Finder" is a Columbo-like detective set in the days of Cicero and Cato. Another author named Lindsay Davis uses Rome in 70 AD as the setting for her Phillip Marlow-like gumshoe detective named "Didius Falco." Character development is the key to success for these three authors, and they do it amazingly well.

That bit of feedback is right: people want escapist fiction. I want it too, and that is why I am drawn to these authors. But that is not what I am trying to do here with this novel. Here I am modeling myself after Robert Graves ("I Claudius") and Colleen McCullough (the "Masters of Rome" series). They wanted to bring to life a true slice of history, and so do I. There is a huge market for this kind of work. James Michener and Gore Vidal and so many others use the device of the 'novel' to bring history to life. And people enjoy learning; people like to learn something new; people want some meat with their froth, most days.

People may not enjoy dry history textbooks, but if delivered in a palatable way, there is nothing like actual human drama for a good read. Truth is stranger than fiction. What people have actually done in the past is more astounding than what most of us can make up in our imaginations. But unless you are doing a scholarly tome, literary agents force you to pick a genre that makes no distinction between historical accuracy and pure imagination; that genre is called 'historical fiction.'

And so Scarrow, Saylor and Davis share the same shelf with Graves, McCullough and Michener. There are markets for both.

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