Author Interview : Brook Allen / Son of Rome
Welcome to Author Interview Tuesday! We are delighted to have with us the author Brook Allen. Brook is going to talk about history, writing, and of course, her books!
JMR-Welcome Brook to the Books Delight. Tell our readers where you live, what you do for fun and what does the perfect day look like?
BA- Hi, Jeanie! It’s a joy to be here. Thanks for having me. I live in Virginia, in the heart of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains with my husband and two Labrador Retrievers. I’m such an author geek, that I honestly love writing books for FUN! But when I need a break or I’m waiting on the answer for a plot problem to strike me, I love hiking, cycling, and reading in my hammock on my back porch. Our house is right off the Blue Ridge Parkway, so I can rest in my hammock at night and hear whippoorwills, coyotes, owls, you name it! So for me, the perfect day is in the woods with my dogs.
JMR-I think I might know the answer to this, but what is your favorite historical era and why?
BA- Surprise! I like a LOT of historical eras! American History is my focus right now. And I’ve always had a fascination for Dark Age Europe and ancient Egypt, but, yeah—ancient Rome has become near and dear to my heart, for sure. I think the 1st century BC was incredible because of all of the huge names alive at the exact same time… Pompeius Magnus, Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, Cicero, Marcus Brutus, Marcus Antonius (my personal fav!), Octavian Augustus. Literally, ALL of these people rubbed shoulders at one time or another, so there’s just such a wealth of history in that period as Rome transitioned from Republic to Empire.
JMR-Who is your favorite historical female and why? If you could ask her one question, what would it be?
BA- Wow. That’s a tough one. In my most recent release, one of the main female characters was Octavia, the sister of Octavian. She is intriguing, because she was given to Antonius as a wife, and their marriage ends in a tragic divorce. Because I have such affection for both her and Antonius, I think I’d ask her what their marriage was like. How difficult was it, juggling her feelings for her brother versus those for Antonius, her husband?
JMR-What inspired(s) you to write?
BA- Writing in general has been a favorite activity since I was in high school. As a teen, I wrote simple poetry, short stories, and started a novel which I never finished. But I always knew I wanted to write on 1st century BC Rome. When I was a sophomore, my English Lit class read Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and I was hooked. Yet, it wasn’t until thirty-five years later that I felt “ready” to write the Antonius Trilogy.
JMR-Brook, tell us about your Trilogy and Marc Antony.
BA- I’ll begin by stating that the research alone behind this trilogy was a dream come true. I traveled to Egypt and Turkey once, Greece twice, and Italy six times to learn more about Antonius and his era. On some visits, I was able to enter archaeological sites which are closed to the public—the House of the Griffins on Rome’s Palatine Hill, for example. Once, a guide in Greece “smuggled” me in to a site that was closed so I could see it. That was an adventure! And I got to interact with real archaeologists on sites to learn more about particular things they were digging and explore the site undisturbed. So many authors have written the stories of Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, Cicero, and Augustus. Antony—Antonius was his Roman name—is still such a controversial figure, that I think people have avoided him. Why? Probably because of his weaknesses, and boy did he HAVE weaknesses! Drinking, womanizing, and he was so impulsive. And mostly because his history is so sketchy. Nobody really knows the real Antonius since his story was written by his enemies.
Allan Massie wrote a very nice histfic book on him from the death of Caesar until Antonius’s death. But I wanted to begin BEFORE that. My first book, Antonius: Son of Rome begins when he’s an eleven-year-old boy whose father has just died in infamy. So Antonius had to scramble up the ladder of success in Rome—no easy feat, especially when you’re prone to binge-drinking and whoring, and nobody believes in you. Antonius: Second in Command is about Antonius’s rise to power at Caesar’s side and how he took control of Rome after Caesar’s assassination. Personally, I don’t think he ever got the credit he deserved for the delicate balance of power he exhibited immediately after that tumultuous Ides of March. Lastly, Antonius: Soldier of Fate deals with his relationship with the East and Cleopatra, his military foray into Parthia, and the culminating Battle of Actium.
JMR-You have traveled to Italy, Greece, Turkey and Egypt, where did you feel closest to Marc Antony? What is your favorite Roman site?
BA- Definitely in Rome. There have been a couple of instances when I’ve been at sites where I’ve found myself in tears. Both in the ancient Tabularium, which was built in his lifetime and atop the Palatine Hill where his family once lived, I’ve had some fairly emotional moments. Call it what you will, but sometimes authors do commune with characters, and there were definitely times when that happened.
JMR-You spent 15 years researching and writing this book. What surprised you the most about Marc Antony? What do most people get wrong about him?
BA-I’m so glad you asked this one. Antonius’s career alongside Julius Caesar allowed him a front-row seat to some of Rome’s most tantalizing history: the Catiline Conspiracy, the Battle of Alesia, Pharsalus, the Ides of March, Philippi. . . see, I could go on and on. He literally became the catalyst transforming the Republic into an Empire. He knew all of the people I mentioned above in your question about why the late Republic was my favorite period in history. He brushed shoulders with them all. What surprised me the most about him was his travels. From age 25 onward, he was rarely in Rome. Instead, he was in Syria, Egypt, Palestine, Gaul, Greece, Parthia—you name it. If it was a Roman-occupied place, he probably went there. He must have loved to travel—to see new places and experience new cultures. Sadly, many people just consider him as Cleo’s “boy-toy” or one of history’s biggest “losers”. As eye-witness to some of the most engaging moments in Rome’s history, his story is unique, colorful, and adventuresome. And, yes—tragic, too.
JMR- What project are you currently working on? Do you have more books up your sleeve?
BA-Yes! Currently, I’m working on a book much closer to home, here in Virginia. I’m telling the story of our county seat: Fincastle. It will include one very famous guy—William Clark of the Lewis & Clark Corps of Discovery. I’m going to tell the tale of Clark’s first wife: Julia (Judy) Hancock. It’s been so refreshing, having all of this history at my fingertips instead of traveling half-way around the world to get to it! And, I do have more books “up my sleeve”, as you say. I want to tell my grandmother’s story. She homesteaded to Montana at the turn of the 20th century and helped my grandfather prove-up his land there. They withstood a lot of hardships, including temps falling to sixty below zero! And I already have another Roman book in mind, too. But I’ll keep that one quiet for now.
JMR- Tell our readers how to find you on social media and the web.
JMR- What question were you hoping I’d ask but didn’t?
BA- Hmmm… maybe what’s something not many people know about me? When I was in high school, I did pre-training for the Olympics… equestrian. I used to show horses, do dressage, cross-country, and stadium jumping. I had a rather serious accident while helping someone train a horse in college. I pretty much ploughed a field with my face, so that sobered me up about getting too crazy in the saddle!
Thanks so much for this opportunity to share, Jeanie! I really enjoyed being with you!
JMR- Thank You Brook! We enjoyed this interview and I know our readers did too. If you are interested in see more about Brook's books I've included a link, just click on the Amazon button.