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Back to Scipio…

September 20, 2009

A little more than a year has passed since I finished whittling The Scourge of Rome down to around 140,000 words. In the months since, I’ve beat my head against the wall of history trying to settle on what to write about next. I’ve jumped from Alaric and the Visigoths to the Cannae Legions, the continuing adventures of Scipio and friends, back to Alaric, and, more recently, to the Byzantine general Belisarius.

It’s been frustrating, this bouncing back and forth through history, touching on a great story idea only to have it wither on the vine.

Then, earlier this week, inspiration struck. Or, rather, inspiration coalesced.

The next novel is going to be about Scipio.

Not his origin story, not the early battles of the War with Hannibal. I’ve already gone down that road, and I think I’ve finally come to terms with its inherent flaw. The War with Hannibal – the Second Punic War – is a massive affair, spanning sixteen years, dozens of battles and a multitude of personalities. Even with a tight focus on Scipio, it’s too much for one novel. When I embarked on The Scourge of Rome, the plan was to break it up into four acts. Four novels. If I were an established author, that might fly. But trying to break into the business, a series of four epic historicals doesn’t seem the way to go, especially when the first two would have downer endings.

This realization’s been in the back of my thoughts for some time now, teased out a bit more with each rejected query, each rejected partial. And all the while I’ve tried to figure out a way to tell Scipio’s story – and it’s truly an amazing story – in the span of a single novel. But I could never find an angle.

Until this week.

It was early one morning, watching Sesame Street with Nolan and guzzling coffee, that it hit. There is one moment, about halfway into the war, when Scipio’s world is utterly changed. And from that moment, his career slams into overdrive.

It’s from that moment, from when Scipio really begins to come into his own, that I plan to kick off the book. There’s still a lot to cover – a five-year campaign in Spain, the invasion of Africa, a battle of wills with the Senate, the final showdown with Hannibal – but I think I can make it work.

So, as of this weekend, work has officially begun on what I’m presently calling Son of the Republic.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. September 21, 2009 9:42 pm

    Matt-

    Thats great to hear. I look forward to hearing more about your progress on the new novel.
    I recently saw two things that I thought might interest you:
    Rome- Built in a day
    http://www.arthousetexas.org/index.php?_page=load_page&_id=24HR&PHPSESSID=7399fdc646c73fb9bd6104eead0c99c2

    Informal lecture series on Greece and Rome
    You can do the whole thing or take classes ad-hoc
    http://www.utexas.edu/ce/tcc/courses/classical-worlds/

  2. September 24, 2009 7:43 am

    Have you ever read the series by David Drake and Eric Flint where Belisarius tries to save the world from and alien life form? Flint’s Ring of Fire series is great alternative history!

  3. Matt permalink*
    September 24, 2009 10:45 am

    Haven’t read the Belisarius novels…there’s another one out there by Robert Graves (of I, Claudius fame), but I find when I’m zeroing in on a historical personality I try to avoid other fictional treatments so as to not color my own interpretations (of course Drake/Flint’s Belisarius is a bit of a different matter).

  4. September 24, 2009 9:02 pm

    Either way – I can’t wait to read your next one!

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