Monday, April 20, 2015

Interview with James Mace, author of Soldier of Rome Rebellion in Judea

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Soldier of Rome Rebellion in JudeaTitle: Soldier of Rome: Rebellion in Judea
Author: James Mace
Publisher: CreateSpace
Pages: 430
Genre: Historical
Format: Kindle/Paperback

 In the year 66 A.D. the Roman province of Judea exploded in rebellion. Far from being a revolution of unified peoples, the various Jewish factions of Sadducees, Zealots, Sicarii, and Edomites are in a state of civil war; as anxious to spill the blood of each other as they are to fight the Romans. The Judeans find hope when the Romans commit a serious tactical blunder and allow their forces to be ambushed and nearly destroyed in the mountain pass of Beth Horon. Following the disaster, Emperor Nero recalls to active service Flavius Vespasian, the legendary general who had been instrumental in the conquest of Britannia twenty-three years before. In the northern region of Galilee, a young Judean commander named Josephus ben Matthias readies his forces to face the coming onslaught. A social and political moderate, he fears the extremely violent Zealot fanatics, who threaten to overthrow the newly-established government in Jerusalem, as much as he does the Romans. Soon Vespasian, a tactical and strategic genius who had never been defeated in battle, unleashes his huge army upon Galilee. His orders are to crush the rebellion and exact the harshest of punishments upon those who would violate the Peace of Rome. Lacking the manpower and resources to face the legions in open battle, Josephus knows he will need plenty of cunning, ingenuity, and, perhaps, even the intervention of God Himself, lest the once proud Kingdoms of Judah and Israel should become a kingdom of the damned.

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  • Soldier of Rome: Rebellion in Judea is available at Amazon.
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads
What are you most proud of accomplishing so far in your life?
As far as writing goes, my proudest accomplishment has to be becoming a five-time ancient history best-seller on Amazon and Amazon U.K.
How has your upbringing influenced your writing?
I’ve always loved telling stories, and my parents encouraged my sister and I to read from a young age. My entire family is also big into history, and I found I was fascinated by specific eras, specifically Ancient Rome, Medieval Europe, and the British Empire.
When and why did you begin writing?
I got my actual start writing bodybuilding and physical fitness articles for and a magazine called HardCore Muscle. For me, writing has always been about gaining knowledge, and then passing that on to others, in a format which they will enjoy reading.
When did you first know you could be a writer? 
When I was working on the initial draft to my first book, Soldier of Rome: The Legionary. I was in Iraq at the time, and for me, it was a cathartic means of escapism. Pretty much everyone knew what I was doing, and several soldiers in my platoon asked to read the chapters I had written so far. I was afraid they would think it was campy or cheesy, yet when they all really liked it, and asked me if I had any more for them to read, I knew I could be a writer.
What genre are you most comfortable writing?
Historical fiction / based on actual events. As most people are not up for reading dry history books, I attempt to bring history to them, in a way that they will both learn about our collective past, while also enjoying the story. Some of the biggest compliments I have received from fans and readers is when they tell me that they only got into a particular historical period because I wrote about it.
What inspired you to write your first book?
Watching the series, I, Claudius, and then later reading the books. One episode that stuck with me was the disastrous ambush in Teutoburger Wald, Germania, in 9 A.D., where three Roman legions were destroyed. This is brought up in the series, though they only gloss over the Roman campaigns of retribution, six years later. I always thought it would be great to read about those campaigns, but to have them told from the perspective of an individual Roman legionary. I was twelve at the time, and such a book would not exist until I wrote it, seventeen years later.
What do you consider the most challenging about writing a novel, or about writing in general?                                                                                                                                                           
Keeping the characters fresh, original, and above all, believable. There is also a level of balance, because you want your characters to be relatable; however, one cannot insert modern moralities that would not have existed then. For example, while I find the thought of slavery to be abhorrent, it was commonly accepted during the 1st century A.D., and not just by the Romans. Pretty much every culture in the known world practiced slavery, especially when dealing with conquered peoples.
Another challenge, especially when writing about actual events, is keeping the historical facts accurate. While I insert fictional characters into my stories, I make certain that they are believable, and that the balance of probability is there was someone like them from the time. I also try to make certain that they do not change the events that we know happened.  I can think of a few instances, where I had written a chapter, only to have to change or completely re-write it, because I had my facts wrong. While many authors are okay with changing historical events because “it is just a story” (filmmakers are notorious for this), to me, that breaks the bond of trust between the author and the reader.
Do you intend to make writing a career?
I already have. Mind you, it took a few years. My first book came out in February 2006, and I did not become a full-time author until my fifth book came out, around December of 2011. Up until then, it was simply a hobby, and I wrote for my own enjoyment. Around spring of 2011, after I got all of my works onto Kindle and eBooks, sales immediately skyrocketed. By summer, I was making far more in book royalties than I was working for the federal government, and by fall I made the decision to leave my job and become an author exclusively. I left my job on 9 December 2011, and I haven’t looked back…well, except when my wife and I get invited to their annual Christmas party!
Have you developed a specific writing style?
Extremely graphic. I believe that war is mankind’s most abject failure, and while there may be honor in fighting for one’s nation, there is no glory. If fans read the battle scenes in my books and are repelled by the horrific violence, then I have done my job. I also take a very direct approach, in that I make every attempt to write the events as they happened, without passing judgment one way or the other. This is probably one of the most difficult things to do, especially when I do have a personal bias towards the events I am writing. When I wrote my novel on the Waterloo campaign, called I Stood With Wellington, many fans noted that, while it was definitely written from a heavily British perspective, I still treated the French characters with respect, while avoiding painting either side as either heroes or villains.
What is your greatest strength as a writer? 
Being completely relentless. The greatest weakness of most aspiring authors is self-doubt, and the inability to finish what they start. I have interacted with dozens of people, who all asked me to read segments of their work (some of which was actually quite good), and to give them publishing advice. In all but two cases, the writers in question never finished a single work. Once I completed my first full-length novel, even in its raw and unedited state, I knew I could finish any work I set out write. In fact, my fourteenth book is coming out very soon, with two more to follow by the end of the year.
What is your favorite quote, by whom, and why?
I have a few, and they are pretty self-explanatory.
“Assume a virtue, if you have it not.” - William Shakespeare
“In a free state there should be freedom of speech and thought.” - Emperor Tiberius Caesar
“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” - The Dalai Lama
“Next to a battle lost, the saddest thing is a battle won.” - Sir Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington
“If this day should be your last, may you die with honor.” – I wrote this in my most recent work, as the last words between two Roman soldiers on opposing sides of a civil war. I won’t claim it as a “James Mace original” however, because I am certain this quote, or ones very much like it, have been said throughout history.

James Mace James Mace is the author of twelve books and the CEO and Founder of Legionary Books, which he started in 2006. He developed his passion for history at a young age and has made Ancient Rome a life's study. He penned the initial draft of his first novel, Soldier of Rome: The Legionary, as a cathartic means of escapism while serving with the U.S. Army in Iraq. He spent a career as a Soldier, and in 2011 left his full-time position with the Army National Guard to devote himself to writing.

 His well received series, Soldier of Rome - The Artorian Chronicles, is a perennial best-seller in ancient history on Amazon. With his other favourite period in history being the British Empire, his writing has branched into the Napoleonic Wars. He is currently working on a new trilogy about the Roman-Jewish War of 66 to 73 A.D., along with a side project about the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879.

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