When James Mace first watched the series I, Claudius he knew that he had found a new passion. Realizing that Roman history was something he loved, he proceeded to read every book influenced by Rome he could find.
He got his start by writing bodybuilding and physical fitness articles for magazines such as Bodybuilding.com and HardCore Muscle. He decided to start writing books based on Roman emperors and generals while he was in Iraq, searching for the stories he wanted to read but couldn’t find. His goal with his series The Artorian Chronicles is to tell the story of a common legionary and what could have happened throughout his career.
To find out more about James and his books, please visit him at the Legionary Books website.
When did you first know you could be a writer?
I used to think it was around 2001, when I started writing bodybuilding and physical fitness articles for Bodybuilding.com and a magazine called HardCore Muscle. However, recent discoveries have shown that it was probably much sooner. My Mum found a short story I wrote in probably the fifth grade about Indiana Jones, that my teacher said showed I had writing potential. I kind of remember this, but don’t remember exactly what I wrote. Mum said it’s a riot, so maybe I’ll have to post it to my website. Of course since it’s written in cursive and is somewhat legible, I may have to question its authenticity!
What inspires you to write and why?
I draw inspiration from a number of sources, though I think the most profound is my desire to tell stories from history that I feel have been neglected. This is why when I write about historical events, wars in particular; I do so from the perspective of individual soldiers, rather than the emperors or generals we hear so much about.
What genre are you most comfortable writing?
I am most comfortable writing historical fiction, particularly Ancient Rome. I enjoy putting historical events into novel format so that they can introduce the reader to events that they may not otherwise have heard about. After all, how many people really want to crack open a dry history book? Okay, so maybe I do; however, I am probably the exception.
What inspired you to write your first book?
I drew my inspiration from a variety of sources. Foremost, I have wanted to tell the story of the campaigns of Germanicus Caesar since I was about twelve. My parents got me interested in Roman history around this time, and I was absorbing as much about that time period as I could. The campaigns are alluded to in the Masterpiece Theater series, I, Claudius, but never told in detail. Around the time I was sent to Iraq with the U.S. Army in 2004 I started to hand write some notes for a story about a legionary from this time period. I would be lying if I said my experiences in Iraq did not influence the story. That being said, I think it was from more of an emotional impact rather than based around any actual experiences I had.
Who or what influenced your writing once you began?
One source of inspiration came when I was debating if I wanted to potentially make this into a series. Of course this was when I was still trying to create a complete story arc for just one book and wasn’t sure if I was even going to finish it, let alone an entire series. Where I drew my inspiration was from the C.S. Forrester series, Horatio Hornblower, about a British Naval officer during the Napoleonic Wars. I liked how it followed him from the time he was a seventeen year old midshipman all the way to when he’s a forty-seven year old admiral. I wanted to do the same thing with Artorius; to follow his entire career in the legions.
Who or what influenced your writing over the years?
I have been very fortunate to have the strong support of family and friends over the years. One of my closest friends, named Martin Shepard, had started a small publishing house and print shop. It was he who showed me how to get my books onto Amazon Kindle and break into the eBook market. I owe a lot of my success to him, but sadly he passed away recently after a long battle with colon cancer.
What made you want to be a writer?
I believe that all of us have a story to tell. I had done some writing in the past for Bodybuilding.com and a magazine called HardCore Muscle. It was around the time my unit was ramping up for Iraq that I decided I wanted to attempt to write a novel. I wrote the first drafts of The Legionary while deployed, as a means of passing the time when not on missions.
What do you consider the most challenging about writing a novel, or about writing in general?
The most difficult thing for most aspiring writers is just finishing what they start. All too often they became assailed by self doubt and quit before they are even finished with a completed draft. This is a shame, because I have read chapters from a number of potential works that would make great stories, yet they are never seen to fruition.
Did writing this book teach you anything and what was it?
I learned a number of hard lessons when writing my first book. Foremost, that you cannot edit / proofread your own work. The brain will see what is supposed to be there; however, that may not be what is actually on paper. On the positive side, I did learn that people are interested in reading stories about ordinary legionaries in the Roman army. Interestingly enough, one reason why I failed to get an agent was because every single one told me there was no market for this genre.
Do you intend to make writing a career?
I already have. I’m now to the point where I make substantially more in book royalties than I do with my day job and am slowly transitioning to where I will become a full-time author. In the meantime, I am continuing to work on my fifth book, Soldier of Rome: Judea, as well as finish up a short story I’ve written called Centurion Valens and the Empress of Death. I’m traveling to England in September to do research on the British Army of the Victorian Era for another series I am working on.
Have you developed a specific writing style?
To be honest, I’m not sure how I would define my writing style; although I will say that it is very direct and at times ‘in your face’. I don’t pull any punches when writing about unpleasant events, such as battles, torture, or rape. I believe that trying to soften the blow for the reader takes away from the brutality and pure evil of what people are willing to do to each other.
What is your greatest strength as a writer?
My greatest strength would have to be historical integrity. I feel that when one writes about known historical events, even in a fictitious setting, there is a bond of trust between the author and the reader. Too often one will find the author deliberately changed known historical facts or tried to insert 21st century morals into an era that they would not have existed. I do my best to avoid this, though often times I will find that the people of the Roman era were a lot more like us than perhaps we would like to admit.
Have you ever had writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?
I think writer’s block is something that hits every author, no matter how experienced. From time to time I will get hung up on a specific chapter or series of events in a book. If I simply cannot get past it, I will jump ahead to another chapter and start working on it, coming back later to the area I was hung up on. Sometimes a change of environment is in order. J.K. Rowling was known for locking herself in a hotel room when finishing up each Harry Potter book, so that she could be free from distraction.