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An Interview with Jacquie Rogers

It is a delight to welcome back to the blog one of my favourite historical novelists, Jacquie Rogers. Thank you for your time today Jacquie, it's always good to chat history, writing and books with you.


What inspired you to write your most recent book?


The Loyal Centurion is the third of my trilogy set in 3rd century Roman Britain. I’m always inspired by actual historical events and characters. In this case it was a command by Emperor Septimius Severus to his vast army, as he lay dying in York in AD 211. He had failed twice to conquer what he regarded as the barbarians north of Hadrian’s wall, and in exasperation he instructed his soldiers to wipe out every man, woman and child in southern Scotland. It was that act of genocide, recently attested by archaeology, that prompted this book.



Who is your favourite character in this book, and why?


I have three major continuing characters: senior military investigator Quintus Valerius, his British associate Tiro, and his wife, healer and tribal leader Julia Aureliana. But for this book I have developed two new characters, both now dear to my heart. The first is one of several candidates for the eponymous title, Centurion Litorius Pacatianus. Litorius is a long-serving and distinguished officer at Vindolanda, who has been bearing a heavy burden of guilt and shame for too long. Nevertheless, his pride and innate decency shine through by the end of the story.


My other favourite is a young Pictish lass, Aila. She too has suffered, and has to overcome hatred and suspicion to play a major part in saving Quintus and Tiro from a ferocious enemy. I’m planning to bring Aila back, together with her love interest Kian mac Dougal, in my fifth book The Irish Slave. 


What was the first piece you had published? Do you write in other genres?


I began writing short stories about ten years ago. My first published piece was a modern take on Red Riding Hood. Since then I’ve had quite a few short stories published in various genres, including science fiction, horror, fantasy and comedy. My first novel, Entangled, is an SF mystery languishing in my figurative bottom drawer, having three times been accepted by publishers who then fell foul of disaster, including severe heart disease, Covid, and bankruptcy. Wasn’t to be, I suppose!


This year I have a flash story appearing in the Crime Writers’ Association 2024 anthology. It’s a crime story which pokes fun at Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Not sure what genre you would call that!



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


Right now I’m working on my fourth Quintus Valerius novel, The Bath Curse. Yes, you’ve guessed it: it’s set in Bath (or Aquae Sulis as the Romans called the louche spa resort). This time I’m trying my hand at a ‘locked-room’ type of structure. The city is cut off by a sudden flood, while mysterious high-profile deaths occur to puzzle and frustrate Quintus.

I’m aiming to get the book ready for publication by the end of 2024, hopefully sooner.


Who is your favourite author?


Depends on the genre. I read widely, and enjoy anything well-written with a twist. Over the years the authors I return to include Rosemary Sutcliff (of course!), Georgette Heyer, Isaac Asimov, and JRR Tolkien. More recently I’m loving Susanna Clarke, Andrew Taylor, Robert Harris, Abir Mukherjee, Stuart Turton, and Andy Weir and Dennis E Taylor for SF. I very much enjoy the work of fellow crime authors like you, Val, together with Eleanor Swift-Hook, Alistair Forrest, Fiona Forsyth. But whatever I read must have puzzles, suspense, and a satisfying denouement.


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


I’m a creature of habit. I work weekdays, from about 1.00pm, in my hillside writing cabin. Scrivener is absolutely essential — I couldn’t write without it. I also use a mind-mapping tool like Scapple for the early stages of plotting.


I find creating a detailed outline works for me. Quite often the characters then determine changes, usually minor ones as I write. But I need to know where I’m starting, finishing, and all the plot points in between before I begin any actual writing.


I aim roughly to produce a book a year, and spend half that time researching: site visits, museums, libraries (especially the Hellenic and Roman Library in London), archaeology papers and history books. Surprisingly often I get lucky. Just this week, while away on a birthday break in north Wales, we stumbled onto an enchanting little Roman army bathhouse in Prestatyn, hidden away in an estate full of bungalows.


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


I long for Michael Fassbender to play Quintus Valerius. He has all the attributes for my high-minded but damaged and alienated imperial officer. He even looks good in a leather skirt (see the film Centurion). Sadly, by the time Hollywood gets round to optioning my first book, The Governor’s Man, Fassbender might be a bit long in the tooth.



What do you like most about being an author?


Talking to readers about my books. I get very excited and wave my arms around. People usually understand, and listen.


When did you know you wanted to write novels?


I didn’t. My creative writing tutor at the Open University, novelist Jane Elmor, told me in 2015 that my assigned short story was a potential novel. That story became The Governor’s Man, years later.


What advice do you have for other authors?


Do your homework, meaning do the research. Learn the craft from greats like Stephen King (On Writing), and Lee Child (BBC Maestro online course, remarkably good value for money). I don’t say undertake an MA. I’m not sure what that adds, that attendance at Arvon courses and Swanwick Summer School wouldn’t give you (with a lot more fun and much less cost).

Network with other writers.


Sit down to write, whether you feel like it or not. Develop a routine that suits you, and treat your writing as a job.


Finally, be lucky. That certainly helps!



The Author


Jacquie Rogers grew up in Australia, and lived abroad for many years before settling back in Britain. She worked in various careers, including advertising and university lecturing, until she found writing suited her best.

 

She is the author of the Quintus Valerius Roman Britain mystery novels. The Governor’s Man was published in 2021, followed by The Carnelian Phoenix in 2022, and bestseller The Loyal Centurion in 2023. Linked short stories have appeared in anthologies Imperium (2021), and Triumphs and Tragedies (2023).

 

Jacquie’s other short stories have been published in several countries. In 2020 and 2021 she was Runner Up in the Lincoln Book Festival story competition.

 

Jacquie lives in Malvern, England, where she walks the hills daily with her husband Peter and their dog, Peggy. Jacquie loves to travel by motorbike, and enjoys discussing politics, travel, history and books with friends and family. She spends quite a lot of time in cafés and pubs.


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