Every comment on this blog tour enters you in the draw for a copy of my two previous eBooks—Tribute and The Island—and a $10 Riptide Publishing credit. Entries close at midnight, U.S. Eastern time, on November 18, and winners will be announced the next day. The contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries.
And thanks so much to Elisa for hosting me today.
I love writing historical fiction, but sometimes you hit a wall. That wall is called historical fact.
Here’s one: in Ancient Rome, a boy was considered a man at fourteen. Most girls were married by sixteen, some as young as twelve. Today, that’s rightfully considered a crime, but for much of human history that hasn’t been the case. The concept of childhood—this period of sacred innocence—is fairly new. It’s Victorian, and it’s the height of Victorian hypocrisy as well, because being a kid just meant you were the perfect size to get shoved up a chimney or down a mineshaft.
But back to Rome.
In He is Worthy, I wanted to write a story where one of my characters was a slave in Nero’s court, and that’s where I ran into that wall. Nero loved to surround himself with pretty boys, but in a world where consent sure as hell didn’t come into it, neither did the age of consent.
So I cheated. Kind of. I couldn’t get over that wall so I went around it. I made the slave Aenor nineteen—a meaningless age in the Roman Empire, but one that bumps him over the age of consent for modern readers—and I acknowledged from the beginning that he’s not Nero’s usual type. He’s too old.
But I didn’t want to airbrush Nero and make him seem less horrific than he was. I didn’t want readers to not be appalled by him. Nero is almost a tragic figure—almost. He’s promise that turned to something awful, a golden boy that became a monster corrupted by his own power. An idealistic youth polluted by politics and paranoia, and finally destroyed by it. You might almost feel sorry for Nero, except for Sporus.
That’s why Sporus is in this book.
Sporus was a slave boy who Nero “loved” and treated as his empress. Nero castrated him, then married him. Nero called him Sabina because he resembled the wife he had kicked to death. In contemporary accounts, Sporus isn’t even the worst of Nero’s depravities.
There’s no real way to know how much is true about Nero’s crimes. His histories were written by his enemies, after all, and Sporus is just a sad little footnote. He didn’t outlive Nero by long.
After Nero’s death, Sporus was claimed by Nymphidius Sabinus. Sabinus tried to have himself declared emperor in the power struggles that resulted from Nero’s death: his own men killed him. Sporus then went to the Emperor Otho, one of Nero’s previous favourites. Otho reigned for four months until he fell on his sword and was replaced by Vitellius. Vitellius claimed Sporus as well, but for a different reason.
Like all Roman emperors, Vitellius planned games to amuse the people. Cruelty amused the people. Violence did. Vitellius intended to use Sporus in a starring role in “The Rape of Proserpina”. Sporus, to spare himself the humiliation of being publicly raped for the entertainment of the masses, killed himself. He was probably only around nineteen when he died.
I thought it was important to let you know that I didn’t make Sporus up—he was real. And he deserved a much better ending than the one he got from history.
Bio: Lisa lives in tropical North Queensland, Australia. She doesn’t know why, because she hates the heat, but she suspects she’s too lazy to move. She spends half her time slaving away as a government minion, and the other half plotting her escape.
She attended university at sixteen, not because she was a child prodigy or anything, but because of a mix-up between international school systems early in life. She studied History and English, neither of them very thoroughly.
She shares her house a long-suffering partner, too many cats, a dog, a green tree frog that swims in the toilet, and as many possums as can break in every night. This is not how she imagined life as a grown-up.
Lisa blogs over here. She is also on Twitter (whenever she remembers) as @LisaHenryOnline. She spends more time on Goodreads than on housework.
Blurb: Rome, 68 A.D. Novius Senna is one of the most feared men in Rome. He’s part of the emperor’s inner circle at a time when being Nero’s friend is almost as dangerous as being his enemy. Senna knows that better men than he have been sacrificed to Nero’s madness—he’s the one who tells them to fall on their swords. He hates what he’s become to keep his family safe. He hates Nero more.
Aenor is a newly-enslaved Bructeri trader, brutalized and humiliated for Nero’s entertainment. He’s homesick and frightened, but not entirely cowed. He’s also exactly what Senna has been looking for: a slave strong enough to help him assassinate Nero.
It’s suicide, but it’s worth it. Senna yearns to rid Rome of a tyrant, and nothing short of death will bring him peace for his crimes. Aenor hungers for revenge, and dying is his only escape from Rome’s tyranny. They have nothing left to lose, except the one thing they never expected to find—each other.
You can buy He Is Worthy or read an excerpt here.
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