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An Interview with Fiona Forsyth

It is a delight to welcome historical fiction author Fiona Forsyth to the blog today. Her novels, set in Roman Times are as authentic as they are gripping. Thank you so much for your time today, Fiona. Let's talk books and writing!

What inspired you to write Poetic Justice?

First of all, you need to know that I am a total ancient Rome nerd, so all my answers are going to relate to something that happened two thousand years ago. My latest book, Poetic Justice relates to a question that has bothered the Classical World for a long time. The poet Ovid, Rome’s most successful and popular living poet in AD8, was abruptly sent into exile for an unknown offence. I am assuming that this particular audience, like me, loves a mystery, so you will understand that I had to write a series set during Ovid’s exile. I’ve come up with a sensational theory about why he was exiled - serious Ovid scholars will hate it - so I’m looking forward to seeing the reaction when I write the second book in the series.

Who is your favourite character in Poetic Justice and why?

I really like a minor character, Apolauste. She is the teenage daughter of Menis, Ovid’s friend. I imagined being a rebellious and intelligent young woman at such a time and maybe stretched it a little – but I am sure that there were many Apolaustes in the ancient world, rebelling against expectations, just because that is what teenagers do. And should do. I thought long and hard before deciding that she would settle down eventually, but really that is what most people do, isn’t it?

What was the first piece you had published?

I had an article on the classical stories of Doctor Who published in the Classics magazine Omnibus when I was a very new teacher…. Happy days! Early sixties Doctor Who was just as ambitious as nowadays – we see William Hartnell’s Doctor in ancient Rome and at the siege of Troy.  And it was wonderfully faithful to the sources. You can get a glimpse here:

Do you have another story planned or in progress? When can we expect to see that?

I have the next in the Ovid series undergoing its second draft, and I am hoping to publish it in the late summer. There will be some upheaval as the Emperor Augustus dies (it is always good fun for a writer of historical fiction when there is a bit of upheaval).

What do you like to do when you’re not planning or writing your next book?

I always feel at my happiest in a good second-hand bookshop. The smell, the atmosphere, the hush. Have you noticed how second-hand bookshops are often cramped and crowded, yet you never feel claustrophobic? And it is always slightly too cold? That is because, quite rightly, the books are more important than customers. Given the right conditions, physical books last longer than humans. And of course, electronic books last for as long as we want to read them. Maybe books are the dominant species on our planet?

What do you like most about being an author?

I really, REALLY like saying, “I am an author.” After five books published, I am almost believing it.


Do you have a specific routine for writing?  Is there a special place or particular tool you use?

I usually write best in the late afternoon, when all my other commitments are done. Much of it is spent sitting and thinking with a cat on my lap, so my family are convinced that writing is my excuse to get away from them. I use notebooks and my iPad for research, then write using the app Dabble. It isn’t for everyone, and I know you have to find your own writing road, but this is mine. And, yes, I know Scrivener is very good too.

What advice do you have for other writers?

Just write. You can self-publish, look for an agent, look for a publisher, never publish at all, whatever suits you. But write. Oh, and always carry a notebook and pen with you. I recently shocked a reader by saying that I listened in on people’s conversations on the bus. He quite rightly pointed out that this was a breach of their privacy and I had to have a good think about it. In the end, I decided that if someone talks loudly enough on the bus for everyone to hear, then it was okay for me to listen.

If your book were to be made into an Audiobook, who would you choose to read it?

Kobna Holdbrook-Smith – he reads The Rivers of London series (by Ben Aaronovitch) and he is just brilliant. His reading distinguishes each character so well. And he conveys enjoyment which I think is really important. You want to hear someone who is clearly happy with their work when you listen to an audiobook!

If your book were to be made into a movie, who would you like to play the main character?

James Callis – he would be my perfect Ovid. He can do wit and self-awareness and total lack of self-awareness. It is very important that we believe that Ovid is intelligent, selfish, charming, and is interested in people. I’ve watched Callis in several movies (Bridget Jones’s Diary) and television series (Battlestar Galactica) and I think he’s the biz.

The Blurb

Rome’s celebrated love poet Ovid finds himself in exile, courtesy of an irate Emperor, in the far-flung town of Tomis. Appalled at being banished to a barbarous region at the very edge of the Empire, Ovid soon discovers that he has a far more urgent - and potentially perilous - issue to address. Somebody is slaughtering animals in a parody of ritual: and when the killer progresses from animal to human victims, it seems that Ovid and his poetry have an inexplicable link to the murderer. With his friend the Governor’s Advisor Avitius, Ovid investigates – and becomes a target for dark forces at work in Tomis.

The Author

Fiona Forsyth studied Classics at Oxford before teaching it for 25 years at The Manchester Grammar School. When her family moved to Qatar for her husband’s work, they all got the opportunity to try something new: Fiona visited the women’s prison, rescued animals and started writing novels set in the turbulent world of Roman politics at the time of Caesar. Back home in the UK, she has now published five novels, and her latest book, Poetic Justice, stars the notorious love poet Ovid.

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