I hope you all will enjoy the series I'm doing on the process of becoming involved with the genre of romantic historical fiction. To thank you, I'm offering a chance to win $10 in credit with Riptide Publishing; every comment you leave on one of my blog tour posts all week long enters you to win!
I wanted to start out this series by talking about history in general, the study of it and the ways of seeing it. To me, there's something very sexy about history, at least if you do it right. A lot of students of history are interested in the big picture: the histories of whole countries and cultures, political movements, wars. There's something to be said for the way that provides us with a greater understanding of the human condition, but I've always preferred to study individual history: the stories of everyday people, their quirks and the minutiae of their lives. I mean, what must it have been like to live in a culture where there was a national holiday in which naked young men ran around blessing women with fertility?
It's one of the cultural aspects of Rome I explored in The City War:
“Waiting for the luperci to run past, Tiresias?” Brutus asked, leaning through the window next to him. Tiresias started, then gave him a shy smile. “Marcus Antonius is running this year. They say the women who normally line up to receive the blessing are lining up just to see him run naked through the street.”
The ancient world is full of personal narratives; a lot of the surviving documents we have from the days of the early Roman Empire are personal biographies of emperors and notable figures. As historians, we use these to deduce information about the culture, because they're pretty much all we have -- no photographs, no newsreels, few paintings, and the line of oral history from ancient Rome to modern anywhere was broken a long time ago.
The charm of personal history is twofold: it's often where you find buried treasures, deeper layers of knowledge that indicate greater ramifications for the culture as a whole. There's a thrill of discovery, finding new tidbits of information, and on occasion a little thrill of voyeurism as well. Studying history means witnessing private acts which were recorded during life but may never have been intended for revelation after death. Retelling history through people makes it more real, and can often impart that sense of revelation to one's readers as well. We remember narratives better than we remember facts -- even when the facts are embedded in the narratives.
It's one reason I like writing historical fiction -- but that's a topic for tomorrow, when I'll be posting at Scattered Thoughts.
Bio: Sam Starbuck is a novelist and blogger living in Chicago because he enjoys trains, snow, and political scandals. By day, he manages operations for a research department at a large not-for-profit, and by night he is a pop-culture commentator, experimental cook, advocate for philanthropy, and writer of fiction. He holds two degrees in theatre, which haven't done much for his career but were fun while they lasted. His love of ancient cultures and art crimes makes him a very strange conversationalist at parties. His novels include Nameless, Charitable Getting, and Trace, published independently, and The City War, published with Riptide Publishing. He blogs here, and you can check out his writerly accomplishments here.
Blurb: Senator Marcus Brutus has spent his life serving Rome, but it’s difficult to be a patriot when the Republic, barely recovered from a civil war, is under threat by its own leader. Brutus’s one retreat is his country home, where he steals a few precious days now and then with Cassius, his brother-in-law and fellow soldier—and the one he loves above all others. But the sickness at the heart of Rome is spreading, and even Brutus’s nights with Cassius can’t erase the knowledge that Gaius Julius Caesar is slowly becoming a tyrant.
Cassius fears both Caesar’s intentions and Brutus’s interest in Tiresias, the villa’s newest servant. Tiresias claims to be the orphaned son of a minor noble, but his secrets run deeper, and only Brutus knows them all. Cassius, intent on protecting the Republic and his claim to Brutus, proposes a dangerous conspiracy to assassinate Caesar. After all, if Brutus—loved and respected by all—supports it, it’s not murder, just politics.
Now Brutus must return to Rome and choose: not only between Cassius and Tiresias, but between preserving the fragile status quo of Rome and killing a man who would be emperor.
You can buy The City War or read an excerpt here.
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