Friday, April 9, 2010

Author Interview: Kate Quinn talks about Mistress of Rome

I am pleases to announce that today, the wonderful Kate Quinn has stopped by for an interview about her debut novel Mistress of Rome, which you can read my review for here: Mistress of Rome review

Thank you Kate, for bestowing Confessions and Ramblings of a Muse in the Fog with insight to your novel! Now without further ado, here is my interview with this talented new author.


What was your inspiration for writing Mistress of Rome?
The spark for Mistress of Rome came when I was about eight years old and I saw Stanley Kubrick’s Spartacus – I thought Kirk Douglas was an absolute hunk, and I knew I would write a book with a gladiator someday. It took me a few years to get around to it, but by the time I was a freshman in college the story started percolating and took off on me. I’ve always adored ancient Rome – thanks to my mother’s ancient history degree, my bedtime stories were all Julius Caesar and Augustus and Diocletian, not Grimm’s fairy tales. I knew the Emperors of Rome long before I ever knew the Presidents of the United States.


In Mistress of Rome, there is such a vast difference between all the character personalities. Did this cause you to enjoy writing certain characters more than others? 
My villainess Lepida was great fun to write because she was such an evil shrew – I always grinned whenever I slipped into her head, no matter how awful she was being. I love my other characters, but I did feel guilty sometimes when I wrote about them because I was putting them through so many harrowing problems. But that isn’t an issue with villains because the whole point is to build them up for three quarters of the book, and then knock them flat in the finale. I had a blast building up Lepida into the most devious, callous, backstabbing bitch in the world, because I knew I’d be able to pull the rug out from under her in the end. Wonderful fun.


The gladiator games have a large part in Mistress of Rome. Can you give us a brief history of the “sport” or some interesting facts you found while researching it?
The games were absolutely appalling to research. Thousands of people and hundreds of thousands of animals could die in one festival. The bouts pitted animals against each other, animals against men, men against men – and women too, since there were some female gladiators. The games were considered quite lowbrow in Rome, but they were still immensely popular. What I found the most interesting was how the gladiators themselves were regarded. Whether slaves or freedmen, they were looked on as the absolute dregs of society, but the top men of the profession had privileges like today’s movie stars: fans, fame, groupies, money. The world was their oyster – but they were still the dregs, socially, and they could still get killed.


Arius is constantly plagued by the “demon” in his head. What exactly was this “demon”?
The demon is his own temper. With a nice normal upbringing Arius would have been quite a sweet guy – the type to work out all his aggressions in a rough bloody-nose football game with his buddies, and have a beer afterward with no hard feelings. But he didn’t have a nice normal upbringing; he was enslaved and brutalized for so long that he has no emotions left except rage. And along with the rage comes the urge to lose his temper and let it all go, because it feels so good to lash out. The fact that he can identify his temper as a voice he doesn’t trust is probably what keeps it leashed most of the time. And the fact that he tries so hard not to listen to his own temper is an indication that underneath all the anger there is still a good guy.


Since this is your debut novel, is there any advice you can give to any aspiring authors?
Don’t spend your money on classes and instruction groups. They can be good, but the best way to learn to write is to read all the good fiction you can get your hands on, and keep plugging away at your own writing. You’ll get an ear for what good prose is, and trial and error will teach you how to produce it. Find a few intelligent readers – friends, relatives, anyone you trust to read your work and give you an honest opinion about it – and listen to them. Learn to edit your own work; that sinks a lot of new writers. I think it really comes down to those three things: read, write, re-write. And keep at it! It takes a long time to write a book, a long time to get an agent, and a long time to find a publisher, so don’t get discouraged if the whole thing takes years. Just keep plugging.


What can we expect from you in the future? Is there anything in the works for a new novel?
Actually, I’m working on both a sequel and a prequel for Mistress of Rome. It didn’t start out as a trilogy, but I found myself getting interested in several of the book’s minor characters and wanting to explore their stories. Like Emperor Domitian’s extremely enigmatic wife – how did she end up married to such a man? Her story, along with her sister and cousins, takes place some fifteen years previously during the turbulent Year of Four Emperors. I also got interested in the two children in Mistress of Rome, wanting to see how the streetwise Vix and the quiet Sabina would grow up. Their story will span the reign of Emperors Trajan and Hadrian – lots of criss-crossing adventures.
Svea, thanks for having me!
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If you would like to learn more about Kate Quinn and her works, you can visit her at her website: katequinnauthor.com.

Interested in reading Mistress of Rome? I have you covered, one lucky winner will be chosen at random to receive a brand new copy of Mistress of Rome! You can enter in this great giveaway here: Mistress of Rome giveaway.




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