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An Interview with Fiona Forsyth

I am delighted to have historical novelist, Fiona Forsyth, visit me on the blog today to chat about her novel,

Thank you for your time today, Fiona. It is lovely to be able to chat with you today.

What inspired you to become an author?

I have always wanted to write. I was a voracious reader as a child – in fact, I still am – and my favourite authors inspired me to write, to study history (in particular the Greeks and Romans), even to apply to Oxford. In my thirties, I wrote to my all-time great, Geoffrey Trease, feeling that it was important that I thanked him for unwittingly guiding me. After all, Greek and Latin were not cool when I took them – and he understood that, and still championed them. He was the first author to write unashamedly left-wing viewpoints in historical fiction for children. He wrote the loveliest letter back and it is one of my treasures!

What is the best thing about being an author?

Oh, the space and time you can claim you need to sit and think! And the freedom to research things you are passionate about. In addition, an unexpected bonus for me was discovering the Twitter writing community, which is witty, knowledgeable and supportive.

What is your latest book about?

Philippi finishes - or will do, when I have the courage to submit it! - a trilogy (Rome’s End and The Emperor’s Servant are the first two books). In it I explore the aftermath of one of the most gruesome battles in Roman history through the eyes of my hero, Lucius Sestius Quirinalis, who is based on a real Roman. I put him through a lot in the first two books, and Philippi explains why he is who he is. No-one goes through a campaign like that and comes out unscathed. I read some fascinating and sad research on Roman soldiers’ reactions to war and the really interesting question of when PTSD can be said to have affected soldiers. In the end, however, a human being’s reaction to traumatic events is there and must be dealt with, whatever history decides to label it.

What inspired it?

I found a coin the real Lucius Sestius minted when he was working for Marcus Brutus after the latter assassinated Julius Caesar. To me, this coin is absolutely beautiful and I can’t begin to tell you how exciting it was to read “Lucius Sestius” running around the edge of it. I imagined that Lucius himself had actually picked up this slight sliver of metal, perhaps examining the run of coins, checking for quality control… When I researched the coin I realized that Lucius used the imagery on both sides to promote Brutus’ cause. With the Goddess Liberty on one side, and the instruments used in a sacrifice on the other, the message is clear. Brutus and Cassius called themselves “Liberators” and their coin tells everyone that, for them, Caesar was the necessary sacrifice that had to made in order for Rome to regain her liberty. It’s a pretty stark message though, and in the end it didn’t persuade people. Can you tell I’m a bit of a nerd?

What writing advice would you give to an aspiring writer or a new author to the block?

Follow lots of writers on Twitter, don’t be afraid to reach out with a question, carry a notebook everywhere with you, don’t worry about whether or not it is “good enough”, join a group of like-minded writers online or in real life. Above all - if in doubt, write.

What are you currently reading?

Alistair Forrest’s new book “Sea of Flames”, Susan Hunter’s “Leah Nash” series, and S.G.MacLean’s latest “The Bookseller of Inverness”. (Is it cheesy to add your book, Hunter's Chase, Val? If not…)

The Author

I will never fully understand the Romans, and that is the challenge.

I have loved the ancient world since I read my first Greek myth, Theseus and the Minotaur. After reading Classics at Oxford, I taught at a boys’ public school for twenty-five years, but then my family moved to Qatar. There isn’t much call for Latin teachers, so I write, and all the questions I have asked myself about the Romans over the years are turning into novels.

I was once accused by a slightly indignant teenager of being in love with Cicero. This is not strictly true…

The Links


Twitter: @for_fi

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1 Comment

Mason Bushell
Mason Bushell
Aug 13, 2022

A fascinating interview and an intriguing history led book. Thank you,. Val and Fiona.

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