If you could invite any 5 people to dinner who would you choose?
Easier. Caesar, first and foremost. But he would be the only Roman in all likelihood; I have a feeling if I invited Marcus Antonius we would end up in a brawl after he threw up on me. And Octavian frankly I find a little creepy.
So, after Caesar who would it be? Augustine would be another guest; his writing had a profound effect on my life at one point. Plutarch, for another, for similar reasons. Now that leaves two. Hmmmmm. Lance Armstrong, so we could talk cycling, and I could ask him a couple questions from some of the races we did together back in the late 80's and early 90's, when he was a brash 17 year old just starting out. I got to witness firsthand the things he is capable of on the bike, and since that is such a huge part of my life, I would love to discuss cycling with him. Which I know would bore the shit out of everyone else at the table, but as an old bike racer I'm used to that.
That leaves one. Okay, this probably will expose the pig in me, but for the final guest I would choose Salma Hayek, simply because I have long considered her the most beautiful woman on the planet. And I really think if she got to know me, I would have a chance!
What is one book everyone should read?
See above. Plutarch's Lives, but not the abridged version of just Roman Lives, which seems to be the most popular, but the whole thing. There's a lot of wisdom and examples from history that one can learn from to apply in everyday life. For example, look at Marcus Antonius and Cleopatra. The lesson there is be careful who you fall in love with!e to meet him for the first time.
Please tell us in one sentence only, why we should read your book.
Ah, my favorite "Define the universe, give three examples" kind of question. Because it's good.
Any other books in the works? Goals for future projects?
Actually, this series of books is already written. When I sat down to write what would become Marching With Caesar, it was originally going to be one book. But, really quickly, I figured out that it was going to be more than one. So I was faced with a decision (this was in 2009), and that was; do I stop and work on what I have, which will be the first book, or do I finish my character's entire story?
What I decided to do was tell my character's entire story, which encompasses a 42 year career in the Legions, during the most tumultuous period of Roman history, which is saying a lot. Titus Pullus is one of the lucky few men, and they did exist, who survive an entire career, rising through the ranks and retiring as wealthy men. Titus is one of these lucky men.
But what I recently figured out is that it's not a trilogy, which is what I've been telling everyone. It is in fact going to be FOUR books, and all but the very, very end of the fourth book is written and ready to go. I've been putting that off because I have become very attached to Titus, and don't want our relationship to end just yet!
I don't intend on writing in just this genre, although it's looking very much like I will have a fan base that will expect this from me. Marching With Caesar isn't actually my first novel; I completed a novel in 2006 that actually got interest from agents. However it's on a subject that is such that I decided to wait until a later time to pursue it being published, mainly to wait for some people to pass away so they won't be hurt.
What inspired you to want to become a writer?
Because my plans on making it as a winner of the Tour de France, or as a football player didn't work out.
Seriously, this is something that the people who have known me have been pushing me to do for years. But I was pretty foolish, because it wasn't something I wanted to pursue, for the dumbest reason of all.
I've always been attracted to taking the hardest road available to me; one doesn't join the Marines, or go into the Infantry, or go even further and become a sniper for an easy path. Nor was I a natural athlete; I come from a long line of professional classical orchestral musicians, so a good 40 time wasn't in my blood. But that made me more determined to make my mark in some sort of athletic endeavor, and completely ignore the talent I had in writing, because it came so easily to me.
I always liked to write, and I always liked the praise and accolades that came when I DID write, but again, it wasn't as important to me as it should have been. I know now that I squandered a gift, and it's something I am determined to take full advantage of, mainly because I have no backup plan. I didn't save money for retirement (I never thought I would live this long), so this is it for me. If I'm not successful at this, at 53, I've got some problems. Fortunately it looks like this is going to work out okay.
Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
Ironically enough, it has nothing to do with being published or writing.As I mentioned, I didn't know my dad. While I won't go into details, what I will say is that life, as most of us over the age of 20 know, is messy. And it's part of that messiness that I have a half-sister who is 6 months younger than I am. I wasn't even aware of her existence until I was in my 20's, at roughly the same time I first made contact with my dad's family. But when someone in my family (which is an embarrassing chapter in and of itself) reached out to my dad's widow, and asked if her daughter would be amenable to meeting her brother, the answer, understandably in my mind at least, was no.
However, that turned out to be a decision that my sister knew nothing about. She became aware of my existence at roughly the same time as I did, but her mom never let her know that I had reached out to contact her.
So we both went on with our lives thinking that the other didn't have any interest in getting to know the other. It wasn't until I sent a picture of the cover of my book, using my real name, to my dad's sister, the only member of that side of the family that I know, that we actually made contact with each other.
It turned out that we were both interested, and it was because of the book that we made contact with each other. We now communicate regularly, and we're going to meet face to face. I am an only child, and until I saw a picture of my dad, nobody around me looked (or acted or thought for that matter) the way I did. But when I saw the first picture of my sister, it's hard to describe the feeling, as good as I may be with words, that comes from seeing the same set of eyes staring back at you. And it turns out she's athletic as well, and has just started in triathlons after being a runner for 20+ years!
What is your dream cast for your book?
Funny, but we've actually been talking about that. I made no secret that Ray Stevenson, the actor who played Titus Pullo in the HBO series Rome was the model for my character. In fact, Titus Pullus WAS Titus Pullo until the week before I published, because he is one of the few men from the ranks whom Caesar names. However, the real Titus switched sides in the civil war, and my Titus stays true to Caesar. So Titus Pullus it became, but in the book part of his prowess comes from his size when compared to other Romans.
But Ray, as perfect a fit as he may be, is a little long in the tooth to be a young Titus.
So otherwise it would have to be someone who is physically larger than everyone else, since that is a key element to the story. I can't think of anyone off the top of my head.
What's one piece of advice you would give aspiring authors?
Jeeze. I feel pretty pretentious giving advice, particularly since I'm self-published. Although I will say that I actually made that decision not so much out of desperation, as it was a deliberate choice. I heard Amanda Hocking speaking on Anderson Cooper; I had been really down on myself because I had been rejected around 20 times. Then I heard her story of a THOUSAND rejections, and remarkably, I didn't feel so bad after that. But it got me doing some research, and I realized that self-publishing is an absolutely viable alternative, IF, and it's a big "if", your work is not just good enough, but edited and presented well.
But if I were to offer one piece of advice, it would be what I told the writer's group of which I am a part. I was in a seriously dark and bad place at the end of last year and beginning of this one. As I mentioned, I had just lost my beloved boy Luke to cancer, and I was getting rejected. So I enrolled in a Creative Writing class at the local college. At first I felt really weird, because not only was I one of the oldest, but because I realized that I had actually finished my books. Most of my classmates were what I would call "dabbling"; lots of great starts, lots of great endings, but very, very few completed projects.
After the class was over, a few of us started a writer's group, and it was at the last meeting before the summer that I issued a challenge/piece of advice, and that was to FINISH something.
I was a great starter; I have so many story openings that just finishing all those would fill the rest of my career, but it wasn't until 2006, when I finished my first novel, that I ever felt like I was TRULY a writer. And that's the first step to being an author. Both of which I can say I am.
And I'm lucky, because I'm one of the few who can say that this is what I do for a living, that I have no other occupation at this point, which gets back to the fact that I put myself in a position where I MUST succeed.
So finish what you start.
What is your favorite Quote?
Veni, vidi, vici.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you "grew up"?
Oh wow. I pretty much did what I wanted to be, and that was a career in the military. At the time, however, I wanted to be in the Army, because one of the only things I knew about my dad was that he was in the Army. Fortunately I grew out of that.
It was in my teen years and early adulthood I planned on being a cop, and in fact I was accepted to the Houston Police Academy, but when I was accepted, I was a construction worker, an ironworker to be exact, the guy who rides the beams up buildings like the WTC and bolts them up, and I was making a lot more money than a cop would make.
Then I joined the Marines, and I grew out of the cop thing.
Who are your favorite authors of all time?
Already mentioned. Louis L'Amour, Stephen King (but really only for The Stand, which I consider not just his greatest work, but one of the great novels of our generation), Plutarch, Caesar, Bernard Cornwell, Sharon Kay Penman et. al.
Can you see yourself in any of your characters?
Sure. I put a lot of me in Titus, particularly as it pertains to the military stuff. And my first novel is kind of based on my life, although in my novel the character who plays me is on Death Row, and is executed. So far, that hasn't happened.
What's the craziest writing idea you've had?
Haven't really had anything I would consider crazy. I've lived a pretty crazy life; I've been shot once, run over twice, stabbed or cut a half-dozen times, had 20 surgeries and I stopped counting broken bones at 30, and I have the scars to prove every one. So it's kind of hard for me to get crazier than that.
What's the best advice anyone has ever given you?
The first week a recruit goes to Marine boot camp, they don't actually meet their real DI's. Instead they're shepherded by a Marine who is called a Receiving DI, named after the barracks and process in which a recruit spends their first week. After that week, the night before we were introduced to our real DI's, our Receiving DI, Staff Sergeant Glenn, walked among our racks (bunks) during what they called "quiet time", the period right after the lights went out and before we were allowed to go to sleep. It was always during "quiet time" that we would be given pep talks, ass-chewings, or in this case, the best advice I ever got.
"Privates, you're about to meet your real DI's. This system is (at that time) 207 years old. We process 10,000 recruits through here every year, and there's always someone who thinks they will beat the system. You won't, nobody beats the system. The DI's are in a no-lose situation; they're either going to break you and make you a Marine, or if they can't do that, they're going to shitcan you and send you packing. Either way they win. For you to be successful, you need to keep your mouth shut, your ears open and do what you're told, to the best of your ability. If you do that, you'll be successful, and you'll become a Marine."
As it turned out, a lot of my platoonmates had fallen asleep. I did exactly what SSgt. Glenn advised, and I breezed through boot camp, but more importantly I excelled. I was tops in 2 out of the 3 graded individual events, not just in my platoon, but in the entire training Company of more than 400, and more importantly it set the tone for my career.
How do you react to a bad review?
Good question. And I know how this is going to come off sounding, but I haven't had one yet. I am currently at 17 in the U.S., and they are all 5 star, and 13 in the U.K., and all but one are 5 star. I got a 3 star, but even that one was one that finished, "I'll buy the next book that comes out." His major complaint is that it was too long, which I liken to the scene in Amadeus where Frederick says, "Too many notes."
So I haven't had anything scathing yet, and I honestly don't know what I will do or how I will react. I have a pretty thick skin in general, but I'm finding that with this, it's a little different to all the other things I've done.
Which authors have influence you most how?
Louis L'Amour is the first one who comes to mind, and he had a huge impact on me as I've already mentioned. In fact, my VERY first novel I wrote when I was 10 or so, and I still have the notebooks and recently re-read them. What's interesting is that you can trace my influences through the story arc. When I started it, I was deeply into WWII, so when the godless Soviets chose MY block to invade, me and my friends were armed with Tommy guns, M1's and other ordnance from that era (which I explained by virtue of a friend's father being a gun collector), and we fought the entire might of the Red Army to a standstill. I wrote a few more battles into the story, all still centered on my block. (I never really went into why it was MY single street that served as the focal point of the invasion)
Then I discovered Louis L'Amour, and between his stories, and the fact that many of them are set in a region of Colorado with which I was familiar, since we went camping there every summer, my band of marauders and I relocated from Texas to outside Silverton, Colorado. Given that my only experience with any kind of driving vehicle at that point was a riding lawnmower, my friends and I "souped" ours up so they would go a whole 25 mph, and throwing some armor plating on, we drove all the way up to the mountains.
When we got there, we traded all the modern weaponry for six-shooters, Winchesters etc., and ditched the lawnmowers for horses. By that time, I guess I was around 12 or so, I had become a steel-eyed gunslinger, and like my L'Amour heroes, I would mosey into town from our hideaway, and slap leather with some Russkies. Again, why the Soviets thought that a town of less than 2,000 people in the middle of the Rocky Mountains was strategic importance I didn't go into.
Then puberty hit, and I developed other interests, so alas, the story is unfinished. Who knows, maybe this will be my Great American Novel?
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Genre - Historical Fiction
Rating - PG