Today I’m thrilled to welcome Brook Allen to Author Chats, to talk about her award-winning Antonius Trilogy series. I have a particular fondness for the Roman period because it was one of my mother’s favourite historical reads; and because my daughter wrote a play called “Julius Caesar Salad” when she was in 4th grade. It still makes me laugh. Brook’s enthusiasm and obvious passion for the era she specializes in comes through in our chat. Welcome, and please sit back and enjoy meeting Brook.
What music do you listen to when you write (or don’t you) I’m a professional musician, so I adore music. However, because I listen with a critic’s ear and am so sensitive to what I’m listening to, I choose NOT to play tracks while writing. It’s simply a distraction for me. When I have opportunity, I listen to a lot of different things. While cooking, I love hearing movie or musical soundtracks. For me, it’s ear-candy.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer? One of the things that has totally blown me away in this journey is how supportive and loving the author community can be. Several people spring to mind… Margaret George is a dear, sweet friend who has been an advocate for my work since day-one. Michelle Moran graciously read my second book and blurbed it for me, and there are others—Griff Hosker, R.W. Peake, Linnea Tanner, Sarah Penner, Mary Anne Yarde, and a friend who is now deceased, unfortunately. She never got to see her work published. Her name was Mary Dove and she was one of my first beta-readers.
How did publishing your first book change your process of writing? This is such a super question, because after my first book, I realized I had done a lot of things the WRONG way. We learn from our mistakes and so the process behind the second book was much easier and fast. I had only a portion of my third book actually written and I’m in the final phases of writing It now. Margaret George got me involved in the Historical Novel Society and in attending conferences. That one piece of advice was the best I’d ever heeded. I’ve met such a phenomenal group of authors and I’ve learned so much more about craft over the past three and a half years.
Specific to your newest release
What kind of research did you do, and how long did it take you? I’ve been researching and writing the Antonius Trilogy for fifteen years. It’s been a labor of love and diligence. My research took me from the sands of Alexandria, Egypt, to Rome (six times, I think!), and Greece twice. In the process I was able to re-imagine what Marcus’s world really looked like, smelled like, and the cultural things experienced were invaluable. From being on-site at Actium, for example, I was floored at how enormous an ancient theater of war could be. Naturally, I’ve read and re-read Plutarch, Josephus, Appian, Dio, Suetonius, and the letters of Cicero. There’s really a plethora of stuff out there, despite my subject being such an ancient one. I’ve probably only scratched the tip of the iceberg.
When you did your research, did it change your plot or your characters significantly? Sometimes, yes. Especially Marcus’s character. So many people have written him as a lazy drunkard. During the writing of my last book in the trilogy, I see him as desperately trying to hold together a territory that was simply too large for one person to govern. He was strung out pretty thin at some points and forced to trust people who would ultimately betray him. Some of those people were his own countrymen who had actually treated and assured him of their support, yet never gave it. Sure he made mistakes, but then it’s the foibles of human nature that can ultimately endear a character to a reader and cause pain when they’re suffering. And, OMG—he does suffer in my last book.
How do you select the names of your characters? Since my work has been biographical, names are mostly dictated to me. However, Roman names are especially problematic. “Marcus Antonius” (my MC) was probably at least the third or fourth “Marcus Antonius” in his lineage. Sometimes in Roman families, there could be multiple daughters by the same name. Such was the case in Marcus’s family. He had THREE daughters sharing the name “Antonia”. So when writing a big historical epic in the Roman period, it’s challenging having characters that may be integral to the plot who have the same names. Sometimes I’d use their first name or a second name. For example, in Second in Command, I have both Marcus Brutus (Caesar’s assassin) and Decimus Brutus (no real relation to the assassin, but one of the top conspirators.) I called the assassin Brutus and the fellow conspirator Decimus. The struggle was REAL, in other words!!!
Quick Q & A
Tea or Coffee Tea, tea, TEA!!!
Dark or Milk Chocolate Milk Chocolate
When were you the happiest? Personally, I think happiness is a state of mind. We CHOOSE to be happy. So right now, I CHOOSE to be happy. Besides, I love being an author!
Favourite Children’s Book Charlotte’s Web
Favourite Adult Novel Mercy! There are sooooo many awesome ones! Probably Margaret George’s Memoirs of Cleopatra, since it was the inspiration behind my Antonius Trilogy.