Author spotlight - Robert Southworth (Spartacus)

Posted on Friday 23rd November 2012

Spartacus - Talons of an empire
Introducing the new historical fiction imprint from Pen and Sword Books – Claymore Press. Written by first time novelist Robert Southworth, Spartacus – Talons of an Empire is the latest in a new range of titles from the publisher, covering subject areas from Ancient Rome, to the American Civil War and the two World Wars. Here, Robert Southworth discussed his inspirations, producing his first novel and his plans for the future.

Congratulations on the publication of your first novel, Spartacus – Talons of an Empire! how did you turn your idea into a published novel?
I am absolutely delighted with firstly the completion of my first novel, and then to succeed in having it published fills me with a great sense of pride. The publishing deal came about when I saw an article by Pen and Sword that they were launching a new historical fiction section and were looking for authors. Despite my own self doubt because of the work being my first novel, I sent away a synopsis and a couple of chapters. I still have the communication from Pen and Sword agreeing to publish my work and look at it from time to time, it has been like a dream.

Tell us briefly (without any spoilers!) what the book is about...
The novel itself is a 'what if' story'. Most people are aware to a certain level of the tale of Spartacus. However, the truth be told when it comes to actual facts on the man there is very little is known, only educated guess work. I have for a number of years been piecing together a story based on his life after the crushing of the slave army. It is my interpretation but one which is possible, for nobody was ever produced by the victorious Romans. Although the book's main character is Spartacus, there are many others which play a vital role within the story. As you would expect from the era and personnel there are a few battle scenes but I have tried to go further. As the characters within the book face more and more dangerous trials, their characters evolve where the same person is both heroic and flawed.

If you were to compare the book to an existing publication, what would it be?
That is a difficult question because I have tried to be as unique as I could. I admire greatly the talents of Scarrow and Mcgee and so the reader will no doubt see their influence upon me. I suppose the type of book would fit nicely on the shelf alongside Scarrow, Kane or Cornwell. Whether or not it deserves to be there only the reader can say, but I hope those that read my novel will finish it with a contented smile.

Writing a good historical novel must take an awful lot of research and preparation, tell us about the writing process?
When it comes to interest, I have a hunger to learn about most eras in history. This was definitely passed down from my father who I still have debates with over certain happenings in the past. The research did take time, but I would mention that I wrote the novel in a fashion of novels that I like to read. I do not like fiction to be too heavily laden with facts and figures. I wanted the story and characters to take centre stage, the era and detail are there to enhance the story – at least that was the plan.
Where did the inspiration for your plot come from?
The inspiration for the actual novel was easy really; a character in history that is so famous and yet so little fact is known about the man. It is a subject that just cries out to be written about.

Other than the main character, are the characters based on real people or did you invent them?
The majority of the characters are my creations but there is a healthy splattering of real characters especially from the Roman political scene.

What kind of challenges did you come up against when you were writing?
To be honest, writing the novel did not present too many problems. It is probably due to the fact that I had the novel for so long that it flowed quite well. The editing is by far the worst part of writing a novel, because it is both difficult and tedious. I am not a English scholar by any stretch of the imagination so this side of writing I find by far the most difficult.

Do you have any advice for other budding authors in historical fiction, what are your top tips – is there any advice you would give to someone just starting out on a similar project?
My advice is simple: just make a start. The most common phrase I hear is, 'I want to write' – well just do it! When you decide to write for a living as I have, you have to be more disciplined and put the hours in. However, if you are writing purely for the love of it and have no financial constraints then just pick up the pen or tap the keyboard and before long the sheer enjoyment means you will struggle to stop.

'My advice for budding authors is simple: just pick up a pen or tap the keyboard and before long the sheer enjoyment means you will struggle to stop.'

Is Roman history your only area of interest, or would you like to write further novels set in other periods of history? Do you find you must immerse yourself in the era to write a convincing historical novel?
As I mentioned earlier, I love all history. If I were to point to one particular time, I would probably highlight the Napoleonic Wars as my favourite time in history. That is more than likely because my knowledge is far greater of that era. I think when you write it is important that you immerse yourself as much as possible. I do not see how it would be possible to bring your characters alive unless you did so.

Which other historical authors do you admire? Do you have any favourite historical novels? Did you draw on these in writing your own?
I have great respect for writers such as Scarrow, Mcgee and Cornwell in the historical fiction genre. There are other outside that field too, such as Pratchett and Robert Rankin. My favourite historical novel is Rapscallion by James Mcgee, it is just superb. I don't think you avoid being influenced by such great writers.

Can we look forward to a sequel to Spartacus? Are you currently working on any other projects?
The sequel Spartacus: The God's Demand Sacrifice is already completed and at the moment I am working on my third novel called Wrath of the Furies which is a thriller based in the time of the Roman Emperor Hadrian, which at the moment I am absolutely elated with because it is coming along so nicely.

Further Reading

Spartacus: Talons of an Empire
(Paperback - 208 pages)
ISBN: 9781781590843

by Robert Southworth
Only £8.99

This enthralling piece of work by first-time novelist Robert Southworth explores the avenue history could have run down if Spartacus had survived the slave rebellion in 73BC, an uprising whose aftermath didn't deliver the remains of the famous slave leader. The brute force of this famous figure of Roman history is relayed in vivid prose, and the events of the period re-imagined from a fictional perspective. The work is sure to appeal to fans of Roman history, as well as those enamoured by stories of action and adventure. Whilst the…
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