We’re talking today to James Mace, author of the historical fiction novel, Soldier of Rome: The Legionary, about the writing and publishing process.
In his new book, the year is A.D. 9 when three Roman Legions under Quintilius Varus is betrayed by the Germanic war chief, Ariminius, and then is destoryed in the forest known as Teutoburger Waid. Six years later, Rome is finally ready to unleash Her vengeance on the barbarians. The Emperor Tiberius has sent Germanicus Caesar, his adopted son, into Germania with an army of 40,000 legionaries. They come not on a mission of conquest, but one of annihilation. With them is a young Legionary named Artorius. For him, the war is a personal vendetta-a chance to avenge his brother, who was killed in Teutoburger Wald.
In Germania, Arminius knows the Romans are coming. He realizes that the only way to fight the Romans is through deceit, cunning, and plenty of well-placed brute force. In truth, he is leery of Germanicus, knowing that he was trained to be a master of war by the Emperor himself.
The entire Roman Empire held its breath as Germanicus and Arminius faced each other in what would become the most brutal and savage campaign the world had seen in a generation; a campaign that could only end in a holocaust of fire and blood.
Enjoy the interview!
Thank you for this interview, James. Can you tell us a little about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?
I’ve been writing novels for about six years. Before that I wrote bodybuilding and physical fitness articles for Bodybuilding.com and a magazine called HardCore Muscle. I’ve been in the Army for almost eighteen years, having served in Iraqfrom 2004 to 2005, where I wrote the initial drafts of my first book.
Can you tell us briefly what your book is about?
Soldier of Rome: The Legionaryis the first book in the series, The Artorian Chronicles. It takes place in 15 A.D., six years after the disaster in Teutoburger Waldwhere three Roman legions were betrayed and ambushed by their German allies. The Emperor Tiberius sends his adopted son, Germanicus Caesar, on a mission of annihilation to destroy the barbarians. The story focuses on a seventeen-year old legionary named Artorius, whose brother was killed in Teutoburger Wald. We watch as he goes through recruit training and then receives his baptism of fire in battle.
Who is your intended audience? Have you been able to crossover into other audiences as well?
The book is mainly geared towards men with extremely high testosterone, who’ve perhaps watched Gladiator and 300 one-too-many times. It is also meant for those with an interest in Roman military history. What’s been surprising is the number of women who are fans of the series. Some of the most positive and enthusiastic reviews I have received have come from women. Anyone who is a fan of history mixed with action should enjoy this series.
Why did you choose your particular genre?
I have been interested in Roman history since I was very young. Being a typical boy, I was always playing soldier and into anything military; so my Dad introduced me to the Romans, who he felt had the greatest army the world has ever known. Since then, I have had a passion for the Roman legions, usually finding myself disgusted with how badly they are portrayed in books and film. While I want to tell a good story, I also want to educate the reader on the life of the legions, and perhaps pique their interest enough that they will want to pick up other books about the era.
Do you ever experience self-doubts with your work?
All the time. I read books like Stephen Pressfield’s Gates of Fire and I find myself questioning whether or not I measure up to his caliber of storytelling. One lesson I learned early on is that you cannot get too wrapped up around negative reviews. When you publish a book, you are completely exposing yourself to both praise and criticism. I have received a number of reviews that call my books the best out there about Roman history; and then there are others who say I am the worst writer that ever lived. It is difficult not to have self doubt some days, but then I figure even J.K. Rowling has her share of detractors.
Where do you write? Do you have a favorite place?
Most of the time I write in the upstairs office of my house. It is the one place with the fewest distractions, except for when I can’t keep off Facebook or YouTube! By far, my favorite place that I have done any writing is a little place called Mount Cashel Lodge, outside of Sixmilebridge in Ireland. The peaceful serenity of that place is so conducive to the Muse. I remember spending all day down by the lake, with no one else around. All I did was work on my fourth book, Soldier of Rome: The Centurion, and I managed to write ten-thousand words in a single day. There are times I cannot write that many words in a month!
What kind of research did you have to do during the writing process?
For this particular book I used The Annals of Tacitus as my primary source. It was the most thorough and honest work I could find about the campaigns in Germaniaduring this time. Another source was Adrian Goldsworthy’s In The Name of Rome, which has an entire chapter devoted to the campaigns of Germanicus Caesar across the Rhine. I also did a lot of research into the organizational structure of the Roman army, and found that it is very similar to our own. Many do not realize just how much the American Army has adapted directly from the Romans. I’ve worked with several historical societies and reenactment groups and have a complete legionary’s kit, to include a suit of segmented plate armor, all made to historical specs.
Who is your publisher and how did you get accepted by them? Did you pitch your book yourself or go through an agent?
I tried going the agent route, as I was told that was the only real way to go. With the explosion of the eBook, agents have started to become a thing of the past. I had many who expressed interest, yet none was willing to take on my story. Oddly enough, not one said they didn’t like it, or that it was badly written. Every last one said that there was no market for a story about a Roman legionary. That still has me scratching my head to this day. I ended up doing supported self-publishing with iUniverse. They put out a quality product and I have been pleased with them. My adaptations to Amazon Kindle and other digital formats I do myself.
How are you promoting your book thus far?
This is the area that is still new for me. The Artorian Chronicles are selling very well, especially on Amazon Kindle, even before I did any real promoting. I’ve done a couple of book signings, but these are time consuming with minimal payout in terms of getting the word out about one’s books. I just recently started doing blog tours and should know how much of a difference that makes within the next month or so. I’ve also started utilizing the social networks a lot more. These cost nothing and are a very effective way of networking with other authors and getting the word out.
If you could give one book promotion tip to new authors, what would that be?
Find social networks that promote your genre of book. Facebook is a good place to start, as is a simple Google search. To be honest, I’m still learning the ropes when it comes to book promotion.
What’s next for you?
Continue working on my fifth book, Soldier of Rome: Judea, as well as finish up a short story I’ve written called Centurion Valens and the Empress of Death. I’m traveling to England in September to do research on the British Army of the Victorian Era for another series I am working on.
Thank you for this interview, James. Can you tell us where we can find you on the web?
There are a number of places I can be found.
You can order your copy of Soldier of Rome: The Legionary at the Barnes & Noble Book Store at 4485 Virginia Beach Blvd or Books-A-Million at 3312 Princess Anne Road.