How did it feel to be a Briton in the Roman Empire?
[Image courtesy of Legion VIII Augusta MGV Roman Living History Society]
As a crime writer myself in 3rd century Roman Britain rather than Val’s modern times, I wanted to write about one of the broader issues arising from my cross-genre stories: identity. I am fascinated with how it might have felt to live in ancient Britain, as part of the Roman Empire. But this time I’m not shining the spotlight on my main character, military investigator Quintus Valerius. He is a Roman born and bred, who ends up in Britannia in The Governors’ Man through luck or fate. His attitudes to Britannia and its people are those of an outsider. So my new article focuses instead on Lady Julia Aureliana, Durotriges tribal noble, educated multilingual landowner, independent professional healer, and British to her (native plaid) socks.
Read “Being British at the time of Rome” on Val Penny’s blog. And while you’re there, take a look at Val’s own Scottish noir novels - terrific!
We’ve been enduring the horror of seven weeks of extensive building works in our cottage. It’s a long story involving leaking water mains; the digging up of both drives, the garage, dining room and kitchen all back to muddy foundations; and most recently a delivery of faulty flooring — enough already! Despite all that, and largely due to the flexible hospitality of our local watering hole, the Wyche Inn, I’ve managed to keep writing the second Quintus Valerius mystery, and have now reached 50,000 words.
That means we’re over the hump, past the tricky midpoint, and coasting down the other side. Actually careening would be a better word, as the pace picks up and the plot (and subplots) thicken. And still the research goes on. Just in the past week or so, I’ve chased down exotica such as: symbols and citizens of ancient Padua; building regs in Rome; poisons and how to mask them; how long it would take to run full-pelt from the Caelian Hill to the Quirinal, via the forum; and deepwater anchorage in ancient Poole harbour, Dorset.
I hope all this is whetting your appetite for The Carnelian Phoenix. The super-keen among you could begin by figuring out what a carnelian phoenix might be. It’s a clue to a spanky new character, who I dearly love. Won’t stop me being nasty to her, though!
Finally, I’ll be appearing next month in fantastic new historical periodical Historical Times, when I’ll be revealing quite how tough a job it was to police the Roman Empire. See you then.