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Interview: James Mace, Author of Soldier of Rome: The Legionary: A Novel of the Twentieth Legion

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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.

About Tracee Gleichner