Today, I don’t have one special guest but six! My writing friend Ben Kane has been working with a group of other historical authors to write a collaborative novel in six stories. This venture could have been as risky as the eruption of Vesuvius, the volcano at the centre of their story, A Day of Fire…
Pompeii was a lively resort flourishing in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius at the height of the Roman Empire. When Vesuvius erupted in an explosion of flame and ash, the entire town would be destroyed. Some of its citizens died in the chaos, some escaped the mountain’s wrath . . . and these are their stories:
A boy loses his innocence in Pompeii’s flourishing streets.
An heiress dreads her wedding day, not knowing it will be swallowed by fire.
An ex-legionary stakes his entire future on a gladiator bout destined never to be finished.
A crippled senator welcomes death, until a tomboy on horseback comes to his rescue.
A young mother faces an impossible choice for her unborn child as the ash falls.
A priestess and a whore seek redemption and resurrection as the town is buried.
Six authors bring to life overlapping stories of patricians and slaves, warriors and politicians, villains and heroes who cross each others’ path during Pompeii’s fiery end. But who will escape, and who will be buried for eternity?
I asked Ben to explain…
Why does Pompeii have an enduring attraction and why did you choose it as the focus for this book?
I think that its terrible history – a busy town that was destroyed by a volcanic eruption, with terrible loss of life – says it all – and the fact that it has been so well excavated. It’s the most amazing place to visit, because so much of it remains. In most ancient ruins, it’s hard to get a sense of what life might have been like. In Pompeii, with its citizens in their houses, bread still in ovens, guard dogs in their places, it is impossible not to get a feeling of Roman life. We chose it as a focus for the book because of its appeal – there are relatively few events in Roman history as recognisable as the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD.
Were the group of authors self-selected or chosen? And how did you find working together?
The authors were chosen by the three people whose idea it had been in the first place, that is, Kate Quinn, Stephanie Dray and Sophie Perinot. I had never collaborated with anyone else before, so I approached the whole thing with enthusiasm but a little trepidation. However, my concerns soon vanished. It was a real pleasure from beginning to end – and I would have no hesitation in working with the group again.
What do you think is in it for the reader having such a diversity of author styles?
One thing stands out for me – the cross-section of society that’s covered, which is from soldiers to politicians to tradespeople, gladiators and prostitutes. And because the focus of the eruption is so vital to the storyline, I think that any quibbles the reader might have will be smoothed out by the impending tragedy that unfolds through the book.
Will there be another book focusing on a different event?
An interesting question, and one I’ve been asking myself since we finished. I’d be open to the idea, certainly!
Thank you, Ben.
Well, I enjoyed A Day of Fire immensely – the six different voices were distinct but the whole thing melded together seamlessly. The intimate stories of real people trying to accept then survive the terrifying cataclysm seem so real in a way that we can understand today. You know people like these. Recommended.
STEPHANIE DRAY is a multi-published, award-winning author of historical women’s fiction and fantasy set in the ancient world. Her critically acclaimed historical Nile series about Cleopatra’s daughter has been translated into more than six different languages, was nominated for a RITA Award and won the Golden Leaf. Her focus on Ptolemaic Egypt and Augustan Age Rome has given her a unique perspective on the consequences of Egypt’s ancient clash with Rome, both in terms of the still-extant tensions between East and West as well as the worldwide decline of female-oriented religion. Before she wrote novels, Stephanie was a lawyer, a game designer, and a teacher. Learn more at: StephanieDray.com
BEN KANE worked as a veterinarian for sixteen years, but his love of ancient history and historical fiction drew him to write fast-paced novels about Roman soldiers, generals and gladiators. Irish by nationality but UK-based, he is the author of seven books, the last five of which have been Sunday Times top ten bestsellers. Ben’s books have been translated into ten languages. In 2013, Ben walked the length of Hadrian’s Wall with two other authors, for charity; he did so in full Roman military kit, including hobnailed boots. He repeated the madness in 2014, over 130 miles in Italy. Over $50,000 has been raised with these two efforts. Learn more at http://www.benkane.net/
E. KNIGHT is an award-winning, indie national best-selling author of historical fiction. Under the name, Eliza Knight she writes historical romance and time-travel. Her debut historical fiction novel, My Lady Viper, has received critical acclaim and was nominated for the Historical Novel Society 2015 Annual Indie Award. She regularly presents on writing panels and was named Romance Writer’s of America’s 2013 PRO Mentor of the Year. Eliza lives in Maryland atop a small mountain with a knight, three princesses and a very naughty puppy. For more information, visit Eliza at www.elizaknight.com.
SOPHIE PERINOT is the author of the acclaimed debut, The Sister Queens, which weaves the story of medieval sisters Marguerite and Eleanor of Provence who became queens of France and England respectively. Perinot has both a BA in History and a law degree. A long-time member of the Historical Novel Society, she has attended all of the group’s North American Conferences, serving as a panelist at the most recent. When she is not visiting corners of the past, Sophie lives in Great Falls, VA. Learn more at: www.SophiePerinot.com
KATE QUINN, a native of southern California, is the national bestselling author of the Empress of Rome novels, which have been variously translated into thirteen different languages. She first got hooked on Roman history while watching “I, Claudius” at the age of seven, and wrote her first book during her freshman year in college, retreating from a Boston winter into ancient Rome. She and her husband now live in Maryland with an imperious black dog named Caesar.
Learn more at http://www.katequinnauthor.com
VICKY ALVEAR SHECTER is the award-winning author of the young adult novel, Cleopatra’s Moon (Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic, 2011), based on the life of Cleopatra’s only daughter. She is also the author of two biographies for kids on Alexander the Great and Cleopatra. The LA Times called Cleopatra’s Moon – set in Rome and Egypt –”magical” and “impressive.” Publisher’s Weekly said it was “fascinating” and “highly memorable.” Her young adult novel of Pompeii, Curses and Smoke (Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic), released in June 2014. She has two other upcoming books for younger readers, Anubis Speaks! and Hades Speaks! Vicky is a docent at the Michael C. Carlos Museum of Antiquities at Emory University in Atlanta. Learn more at http://www.vickyalvearshecter.com/main/
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