From the far edges of the Empire, two women come to battle on the hot sands of the arena in Nero’s Rome. They seek to replace lost friendship, love, and family in each other’s arms; but the Roman arena offers only two futures: the Gate of Life for the victors or the Gate of Death for the losers.
Release Date: May, 2015
Pages or Words: 260 pages, 75,000 words
Hi. Welcome to All I Want and More. We’re glad to have you here.
Thanks. I’ve been poking around your blog and it looks like I’m in great company. My “to read” list just got a lot longer.
Tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m a history buff and science junkie. I can’t say which came first; it seems like my whole life I’ve been interested in both. Consequently I read a lot of history/historical fiction and science/science fiction. I guess I don’t like living in the present. My personal present is nice : married to a great guy, my college graduate daughter got a job—woohoo!—love my old Victorian house in Brooklyn, and have plenty of cats to keep me company while I write. But I can’t seem to keep my mind here—it wanders to far other worlds and other times. I became a writer to share those adventures with others.
In this book, who was your favorite character to write and why?
Oh, that’s a tough one! I had so much fun with all my characters, but when pushed, I’d say Afra, my Kushite huntress. Her voice rings in my head. Writing her wasn’t always easy because she comes from a different culture with different values. In many ways—physical, emotional, and spiritual—she’s just the opposite of me. So another fun thing was getting to “try on” a very different person’s life.
What 3 words would you use to describe your main characters?
Both Afra and Cinnia are fierce, vulnerable, and honest.
Can you tell us a little bit about this book? Maybe a little snippet?
It’s an action/adventure, lesbian romance set in the first century Roman Empire. Afra is a huntress and spy for the Queen of Kush (modern day Sudan) and Cinnia is a warrior bard serving the rebellious Queen Boudica of the Iceni (Britain). In the Prologue Afra sets up the book:
“Cinnia is goddess-given to me; from a land of mists and forests, so different from my country of desert and blistering sun. Without her, I would be dead. Without me, so would she. We have suffered, struggled, lived, and loved. Now we go out upon the sands of the great arena to die. One by her lover’s hands, the other by her own. It is not the life or death I chose for myself, but it is the one the gods gave me.”
The rest of the book tells how they wound up in such a perilous situation. Along the way there are battles with the Romans and several gladiator fights. For fun I’ve thrown in some quicksand, a pair of cheetah cubs, a nasty snake dancing bitch, a neurotic Emperor, a natural disaster , and a few sex scenes.
How do you go about picking character names? Do you have to get them just right and make sure they fit with the characters personality?
My earlier books were based on real historical characters, so I was stuck even if that meant having a dozen people whose names started with the same letter (often confusing for readers). Although there are a couple of historical characters in this one, most are fictional and I had tons of fun with the names. Afra was easy because it’s a Roman word for “woman of Africa”—she was actually named after a Kushite warrior queen who defeated the Romans a generation earlier, but the name was difficult for Romans (and readers) to pronounce. I fussed with Cinnia’s name through several drafts and finally settled on the Celtic word for “beauty,” but more for easy pronunciation than description. I had the most fun with minor characters using Roman names as descriptions or puns: Rufus (red) for a red bearded man, Celer (quick) for a lame slave, Bassa (plump) for a matron, etc.
We’re cover hussies..What was your first impression of this cover?
I love the cover, but we had a hard time getting there. I sent the designer several images of African women as inspiration. He chose a picture of a stunning woman—absolutely drop-dead gorgeous—and he kept trying to make her look fierce. Unfortunately, she looked gentle and wise. No helmet, sword, or blood spatter made her look like a gladiatrix. I finally said, “lose everything but the sword” and voila!
What does writing mean to you?
Writing is my job, but it’s also my escape. I love working with words and building stories. It took me a while to get here—I’ve been a lifeguard, paralegal, business executive, and academic. All but the lifeguard required me to write, but in very different ways. I still enjoy writing non-fiction almost as much as fiction.
What do you hope readers take away after reading one of your books?
A feeling of satisfaction; that they spent their time well and were entertained. If they also learn a little history or have an insight into a different culture, that’s gravy!
If you had a technology free day, what would you do?
I actually schedule those occasionally. My favorite technology free days involve gardening, reading, walking in the botanic garden or biking in the park, and dinner out with family and friends.
Sexiest feature on a wo/man? Her legs. His ass.
What is on your night stand/dresser?
A book (surprise!): Otherwise Fables by Oscar Mandel. A marble lamp, Zenith CD player/clock/ radio (CD doesn’t work), the remote to the overhead fan, a Blistex Herbal lip balm, brown hair clips, and a cup coaster showing one of the Lady and the Unicorn tapestries from the Musée National du Moyen Âge in Paris.
Tattoos or piercings? I let my pierced ears grow in when I had a small child and never redid them.
Secret talent? I’m an excellent seamstress—I hand tailored a winter coat when I went to college, but hung up my scissors after I made my wedding dress.
What’s your guilty pleasure? Really good dark chocolate—I keep a bar at my desk and eat it over the course of days.
Celebrity crush? Her: Carey Mulligan Him: Patrick Stewart
Night owl or early bird? Definitely a night owl!
Twitter or Facebook? Have both, don’t like either, but use Facebook far more than Twitter.
Pinterest or Instagram? What are those? 😉
ebooks or paperbacks? Ebooks for travel/commute, paper for home.
Is there anything else you like to add?
Thanks for the opportunity to share with your readers!
A slave wraps my lower legs with felted wool and straps a gilded greave to my left shin, because I fight as myrmilla. He smells of sour sweat, as do I. I’ve already fought once today, tested fate, and won. The gold sand that Nero favors in the arena still crusts my hair and rasps the skin under my sweat-soaked breast band. I will go again before the ravenous crowds to satisfy their bloodlust. For what? An emperor’s whim? The crowd’s passing fancy? A sacrifice to their gods?
I swallow the bitter gall that surges into my mouth.
Across the room, another slave straps armor on Cinnia, my beloved. She looks at me with pride in her eyes and a brief smile on her lips. We said our goodbyes last night, clasped breast to breast, thigh to thigh, a stolen moment before being sent to our lonely cells. My heart beats an irregular rhythm.
My love. Light to my dark. Fire to my ice.
Cinnia is goddess-given to me; from a land of mists and forests, so different from my country of desert and blistering sun. Without her, I would be dead. Without me, so would she. We have suffered, struggled, lived, and loved. Now we go out upon the sands of the great arena to die. One by her lover’s hands, the other by her own.
It is not the life or death I chose for myself, but it is the one the gods gave me.
FAITH L. JUSTICE writes award-winning novels, short stories, and articles in Brooklyn, New York. Her work has appeared in Salon.com, Writer’s Digest, The Copperfield Review, the Circles in the Hair anthology, and many more. She is a frequent contributor to Strange Horizons, Associate Editor for Space and Time Magazine, and co-founded a writer’s workshop many more years ago than she likes to admit. For fun, she digs in the dirt—her garden and various archaeological sites.
Where to find the author:
Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3268206.Faith_L_Justice
Publisher: Raggedy Moon Books
Cover Artist: Todd Engle
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