Interview Brook Allen, Author of Antonius Trilogy

INTRODUCTION

 

It is my pleasure to introduce Brook Allen, author of the Antonius Trilogy, historical fiction about Marcus Antonius (Mark Antony). Her first book, Antonius: Son of Rome, caught my attention when it was awarded the must-deserved 2019 Book of the Year Award by The Coffee Pot Book Club. Mark Antony is one of the most fascinating historical figures from Ancient Rome. He is an enigma because most of the accounts about him were written by his enemies. Author Brook Allen realistically captures the essence of Mark Antony and Roman politics. The second book, Antonius: Second in Command), is also an engaging, must-read book for those who love historical fiction set in ancient Rome.

Below you will find a brief biography, interview, and contact information.


BIOGRAPHY

Brook Allen has a passion for ancient history—especially 1st century BC Rome. Her current work is a trilogy on the life of Marcus Antonius—Marc Antony. The first installment, Antonius: Son of Rome was published on March 15, 2019. It follows Antony as a young man, from the age of eleven, when his father died in disgrace, until he’s twenty-seven and meets Cleopatra for the first time. Brook’s newest book is Antonius: Second in Command, dealing with Antony’s tumultuous rise to power at Caesar’s side and culminating with the bloody civil war against Brutus and Cassius.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW QUESTIONS:

Would you provide an overview of the books you’ve published in the Antonius series about Marcus Antonius who is considered one of history’s most controversial men?

I guess I’ve always felt a little sorry for Marcus (Marc Antony). Octavian not only demanded his death, but in treating his memory with damnatio memoriae—the damning of one’s memory, his statues and busts were destroyed, his name chiseled off of inscriptions, and even his birth date was designated as a day of “bad omens”. All that is pretty heavy stuff. To this day, he gets Classicists rattled, and they always have opinions about him. Usually it’s either “love him or hate him”!

Certainly, Marcus Antonius had an agenda, but truthfully, nobody knows what it was. There had to be reasons he acted as he did. In approaching his life story, I decided to begin at his father’s death, since it must have been a humiliation for his family. As my book Son of Rome progresses, the Antonii deal with repeated misfortune and humiliation. And all of this was going on in the middle of so much political and social upheaval—the Spartacan Revolt, the Catiline Conspiracy… Patricia Southern, who wrote a fantastic biography on Antonius said it best, stating that he grew up never seeing the Roman Republic work properly. The death throes of the Republic provide a thrilling and breathtaking panorama of events on which to depict his story since not much of his early years is known.

In my second book, Second in Command, Marcus comes into his own. This is where writers like Plutarch especially, kick in and give a lot more details about what he was doing—especially once he joins Caesar in Gaul. Second in Command is one fast-paced read. There’s scandal, political intrigue, tragedy (Marcus’s life was marred by multiple tragedies, poor guy!), and war. Battle scenes have become a personal hobby now and I actually enjoy writing them. Thank you, Adrian Goldsworthy—a man who knows Roman legions and warfare like the back of his hand.

The final book in my trilogy should be out a little later this year. I’m hoping by early fall. It will be tragic and dark, as that’s the sort of life Antonius endured in his later years. However, to lighten that is one of history’s most celebrated love stories; that of Antonius and Cleopatra. I am doing my best to treat it with justice and empathy. There were kids involved, sadly, and life at its best in the 1st century BC could be brutal. Expect plenty of warfare and emotional torment, both physical and propaganda-driven.

What inspired you to write about the legendary historical enigma, Marcus Antonius?

Way back in high school is where it all began. I had a fabulous Sophomore English teacher and she had us read Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. By then, I’d already been bitten by the writing bug, but after studying it, I was hooked on Roman history. I knew I wanted to write on the 1st century BC/end of the Republic dilemma somehow.

Fast-forward now to 2005. I had just completed my Masters with an emphasis in Roman Studies and decided, “It’s time.” By then, I’d had enough life experiences and deep research into Roman culture that I felt as though I could manage the world-building aspect, which, to me—is possibly even more important to historical fiction writing than building character. Anyway, Robert Harris was in the midst of his Cicero trilogy, so Cicero was out. Several series had recently been done on Julius Caesar, who would have been a blast to write on. So, I skipped him. Honestly, I didn’t like Octavian enough to focus on him. I just kept coming back to Antonius. And I’m so glad I did. He’s been my close friend now for fifteen years and my husband even tolerates him well!

How much research was involved in writing your books?

If I was going to make this worthwhile… to succeed with this trilogy, then I had to build a world and character that was so believable and irresistible that people would have no choice but want to read it.

My parents were still alive when I began writing it, and they sent me to Egypt. It was the most incredible trip I’ve ever taken. I spent a week just in Alexandria, walking the beach, taking a boat out into the Great Harbor, exploring the foundations of the ancient Pharos Lighthouse inside Fort Qaitbay, and visiting helpful folks at the Center for Alexandrian Studies.

Naturally, Rome and Greece have been on my itinerary multiple times, and I even made a brief visit to Ephesus. For a guy who lived two-thousand years ago without jet service, Marcus got around! I have some incredible guide-friends now—two in Greece whom I depend on, and one in Rome. They have all been such integral resources for these books and walking ancient sites with them was an experience that I’ll never forget. Several times, either the Greek or Italian government had shut down sites I needed to see. However, with the help from my Classics professor, the Italian government, and even a humble security guard—I’ve been everyplace from Actium in western Greece to Taposiris Magna in Egypt, to the House of Livia in Rome!

Truthfully, I’m still researching, and even as I continue my drafting process, I sometimes take research breaks to fine-tune something I want to be sure of.

How did you go ABOUT researching the history, language, and culture of the 1st Century BC ancient Romans?

The Classics professor with whom I did my Masters thesis, Dr. Christina Salowey, provided me with a Latin book and I self-taught myself a few basics. Fortunately, I speak French, and that helped quite a bit. However, I’ll admit that I never got as far along with Latin as I wanted.

There is so much material out there and sometimes when writing you have to be careful not to “kitchen-sink”—stick in too much detail. Readers want to be immersed but not overwhelmed. When I did my Masters, I did it in order to write this trilogy. Everything I focused on had a place in my story. Once, while in Rome, I remember slipping on my sports sandals and jogging from the Palatine Hill in Rome all the way down to the Curia to determine how long it took to get there in a hurry! And I spent nearly a week in Pompeii, visiting that site multiple times with a friend, just to feel the pulse of ancient Rome. That was time very well-spent.

Were there any unexpected surprises about Marcus Antonius that you found in your research?

Indeed! Perhaps the very thing that is so surprising about him is that he’s still soooooo controversial. Classicists and historians either love him or hate him. After researching the guy for fifteen years, I see communication as having been his biggest issue. Poor Marcus lived in the wrong age. Today, he would’ve been on SKYPE in Greece, defending himself to the Senate in Rome, or on Twitter, tweeting about his REAL intentions regarding his plans in governing the East. Really, I think distance was one of the things that wound up defeating him in the end. Distance from Rome and not being able to be there to stand up for what he believed. Why didn’t he go back? Maybe it was due to Cleopatra… Who knows? I do know that he governed the East and that when Octavian finally took over, he didn’t make immediate changes. Something had to be going fairly well!

Is there any sub-character in the Antonius series that is your favorite? Explain why?

YES! I love Julia Antonia, Marcus Antonius’s mother. Granted, they don’t always see eye-to eye in Antonius: Son of Rome, but I think readers will come to love and respect her. She was one brassy lady, to say the least. During the proscriptions, she confronted a group of soldiers at her doorstep, hunting her brother down, opening her stola and challenging them to kill her first—the mother of their general—before forcing their way in to kill her brother. Needless to say, her brother was safe! Later, in the final book that I’m writing, she winds up on a pirate’s ship! This was a Roman matron—high-born! Ancient sources are chock-full of some pretty incredible stuff. Love it!

How often do your characters surprise you by doing or saying something totally unexpected?

When I have the time to really sit down and focus on a scene, that’s when it happens. And seldom during the first draft, either. It’s when I’m working on the second, third, fourth drafts that stuff just starts flowing and the characters just take total control. I start visualizing the scene and BOOM! For any author, that’s utter bliss. And in a way, when your characters speak to you and work through you like that, I guess it’s sort of creepy, too!

Have you received reactions/feedback to your work that surprise you? In what way?

This whole “being an author” thing has been mind-blowing in a lot of ways. I have a reader in Australia who has been so kind—so encouraging. She writes something positive to me almost weekly now. I don’t think there’s any way I could convey how much of a difference it makes when somebody believes in your work in that way. And here she is, literally on the other side of the world from me. And yet, we have this special connection. Then there’s a manager in my local Barnes & Noble who believes in hometown authors and completely supports my work. This guy has become a champion for me. When I walk in and see my books on his shelves, always facing out so that the cover shows… it seems like nothing to most people, but to an author? It means the world.

I think it’s these kindnesses that totally eclipse an agent’s rejection or overshadow negative reviews. Loyal readers truly have the power to make an author. I can see that now.

What are the most important traits you look for in a friend?

This one’s hard, as honestly, I’m pretty hard to pin-down and become really close to, friendship-wise. I suppose it would be somebody who has commonality with me in some way—like writing, perhaps. A person who’s forgiving and forbearing, for sure. I’m not always likable. That’s why my sweet husband it such a diamond.

 If you could have one skill that you don’t currently have, what would it be?

I’ve always thought it would be super-cool to be able to communicate with animals. I’m talking Dr. Doolittle, here. I would LOVE to be able to touch a grizzly bear’s head, stroke it gently, and tell the biologist, “His tummy hurts because he’s been hibernating for seven months and hasn’t pooped in all that time! That’s the reason he’s so lethargic!” Wow. If I could understand animals, I could quit my day-job!

What might we be surprised to learn about you?

All of the riding scenes and cavalry/horse-related scenarios in my trilogy are from personal experience. Long, long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I was an equestrienne and did pre-training for the Olympics. But again… that was LONG, long ago. However, my memory of riding and how it felt, and the way I trained— it brought a lot of fine-tuned action into my scenes with young Marcus.

What makes you laugh?

My husband. He’s hilarious—even when he doesn’t mean to be funny.

What simple pleasure makes you smile?

Just being with my dogs. I’m a dog-person to the max and I’d prefer being in their company any day compared to the company of people. Not that I’m anti-social or anything, but we introverted folk are like that!


You can contact Brook Allen and learn more about her books at:

Amazon Author Page

Website/Blog

Twitter

Facebook

Goodreads

 

 

Book Review Antonius: Son of Rome by Brook Allen

Antonius: Son of RomeAntonius: Son of Rome by Brook Allen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I purchased “Antonius: Son of Rome” by Brook Allen, I was excited to read the novel about the early life of Marcus Antonius (Mark Antony), an enigma in Roman History. Though the book is fictional, it captures the true essence of the controversial Roman figure, whose reputation was smeared by his enemies and Augustus Caesar. The story begins when the eleven-year-old Marcus Antonius grieves for his father who has died in disgrace. His mother soon marries Publius Cornelius Lentulus, a consul in Rome. As a teenager, Marcus possesses the promise of military talent, but he succumbs to the excesses of whoring, gambling, and drinking that leads to calamitous consequences. Even so, Marcus shows unyielding loyalty to his step-father, Publius Cornelius Lentulus, who is executed for leading the conspiracy to murder Cicero and set fire to Rome. He also demonstrates undying love for Fadia, a slave he frees and marries. After he is forced to leave Rome to escape creditors, he is educated in Greece where he adopts many of their beliefs and lifestyle. To redeem himself, Marcus joins the military staff of Aulus Gabinius, the Proconsul of Syria, as chief of the cavalry. His reputation as a military leader rises when he successfully fulfills his mission to defeat rebels in the middle east. His accolades pave the way for him to serve with Julius Caesar in Gaul (to be continued in the next book).

Author Brook Allen has written an engaging story of a young Roman nobleman born into a family that has fallen from grace. Although Marcus Antonius has major character flaws, his attributes as a military leader and his courage and loyalty to those he loves are qualities that help him on his journey to greatness. The author has masterfully weaved the historical accounts of Antonius into a tale that rings true. The story is suspenseful and provides insight into Marcus Antonius and Roman politics.

“Antonius: Son of Rome” is one of the best historical fiction books that I’ve read. I highly recommend this novel to those who relish reading historical fiction set in ancient Rome. I’ve purchased the second book, “Antonius: Second in Command,” and look forward to reading it.

View all my reviews

Q & A with Linnea Tanner

Introduction

It is with great pleasure to share my interview with Luciana Cavallero, an Australian Author and Historian, that was recently posted on her website. If you click below, you will find out more about what inspired me to write Apollo’s Raven.

Q & A with Linnea Tanner

Come and meet Linnea Tanner in an interview about her debut book Apollo’s Raven. In her novel, Linnea Tanner weaves Celtic tales of love, magic, adventure, betrayal and intrigue into historical fiction set in Ancient Rome and Britannia. (Click here to go to the interview)

Claudius Roman Invasion Britain

Emperor Claudius Credited with Roman Conquest of Britain

Emperor Claudius Credited with Roman Conquest of Britain

“Claudius undertook, in all, one expedition and that one was of no great extent. When he was granted triumphal ornaments by decree of the Senate, he thought that the title was not weighty enough to grace the imperial magistracy and craved the distinction of a proper triumph.”
—Suetonius, Life of Claudius.


Claudius Roman Invasion Britain

Ancestral Legacy of Claudius

Emperor Claudius is credited for the Roman invasion of Britain in 43AD. He was the first emperor born outside of Italy in Lugdunum (Lyon, France). As the son of Drusus and Antonia Minor, he emphasized his right to rule as a member of the Julio-Claudian dynasty.

Cameo of Claudius Cabinet des Médailles

Cameo of Claudius Cabinet des Médailles

Claudius was also the grandson of Mark Antony, whose marriage to Octavia (Octavian’s sister) resulted in the birth of two daughters, one being Claudius’ mother. Shortly after Antony’s defeat and death in 30 BC, Octavian declared his rival’s birthday, 14 January, as nefastus (unholy). Of note, Claudius’ father also had the same birthday on January 14—a day no public business could be transacted in Rome.

Octavian also convinced the Senator to damn Antony’s memory forever (damnatio memoriae). By discrediting Antony, Octavian hoped to elevate his standing as Emperor Augustus in history. It took Claudius, almost one hundred years later, to restore Antony’s memory

Bust of Mark Antony

Bust of Mark Antony

Not only did Claudius restore the memory of Antony, he also needed a conquest which he could earn a triumph to legitimize his rule against potential usurpers. Suetonius dismissed the Roman invasion of Britain by Claudius as of no great importance. “Claudius decided that Britain was the country where a real triumph could be most readily earned. Its conquest had not been attempted since the days of Julius Caesar. The Britons were now threatening vengeance because the Romans had refused to return some fugitives.”

The written account of the Roman invasion of Britain in 43AD is primarily based on Cassius Dio’s “Roman History.” Unfortunately, his account gives very little detail about the campaign. The only resistance the Romans encountered was the forces led by Caratacus and Togodumnus, the anti-Roman sons of Cunobelin from the Catuvellauni tribe.

 

Britain_WEB_SIZED_INK[1]

Opportunity for a Triumph

In 41AD, Caratacus strategically positioned himself in Silchester, so he could thrust westward to grasp the lands of the Dobunni and of the Atrebates, ruled by the elderly Verica. Verica fled to Rome seeking help from Claudius to stop the aggression. Caratacus and Togodumnus countered by arrogantly demanding that Claudius return their pro-Roman brother, Adminius, and Verica to Britain. Their demand instead triggered the emperor’s decision to send four legions to settle the political differences. Claudius would later use this as a propaganda tool to convince the Senate that he deserved a triumph for conquering Britain—a task left undone by his great ancestor Julius Caesar.

Bust of Emperor Claudius

Bust of Emperor Claudius

The Britons must have been misled to believe that Rome’s only intent was to provide legions for peace-keeping. Most tribes that felt the expansionist weight of the Catuvellani had no reason to resist the Romans. The Atrebates viewed the empire as their saviors.

No Initial Resistance

In the summer of 43AD, the Roman legions led by Plautius did not encounter any British resistance after they landed. They had to search for the troublemakers, Caratacus and Togodumnus.

Possible Landing Richborough Roman Fort at Sandwich, Kent

Possible Roman Landing Site Richborough Roman Fort in Kent

The first battle took place at a river that many believed was the Medway in Kent. Armed Britons waited for the Romans on the other side of the waterway that had no bridge. Plautius sent some auxiliaries, who were accustomed to swimming in full armor, across the waterway to wound the horses that drove the British war chariots.

Celtic Chariot

Celtic War Chariot in Britain

Soon after, Flavius Vespasian crossed the river with his troops and surprised the Britons. The ensuing battle lasted for two days until reinforcements from another Roman legion proved the turning point.

The British warriors then retreated to the River Thames, possibly the Tidal Pool of London, east of the Tower Bridges. After some more fighting, Plautius stopped his advancement and sent for Claudius to lead the final charge. By this time, Togodumnus had died from injuries suffered from battle.

Roman Infantryman in Ancient Britain

Roman Infantryman

Claudius’ Final Victory

Extensive preparation had already been made in advance of Claudius’ arrival. Various types of equipment, including elephants, were gathered to support the emperor’s final charge into battle.

Roman and Celtic Shields Used in Ancient Britain

Roman and Celtic Shields Used in Ancient Britain

Claudius arrived at the Thames toward the end of summer. He crossed the river, defeated the enemy, and captured Camulodunum (Colchester). Cassius Dio says, “He won over many people, some by diplomacy, some by force of arms. He confiscated the weapons of these peoples and handed the tribes over to Plautius, and left him with orders to subdue the remaining regions.”

Claudius depicted as the Roman god Jupiter

Claudius depicted as the Roman god Jupiter

Claudius was in Britain for only sixteen days to achieve his glorious victory. He rushed back to Rome for his triumph and accolades. The inscription dated 52AD on the Arch Claudius in Rome was dedicated by the Senate and the People of Rome in recognition of Claudius receiving the submission of eleven kings without loss. The phrase “without loss” confirms Suetonius’ account that British princes submitted without battle or bloodshed to the emperor in Colchester.

Linnea at Roman Wall at Colchester

Linnea at Roman Wall at Colchester

Conclusions

It is now theorized that Rome culminated the processes of subjugating at least southeast Britain and of bringing that area under its complete control before 43AD. Viewed in this light, the Claudius’ campaign in 43AD was not a military invasion, but rather a political annexation of an already ‘Romanized” region.

Celtic Tribal Territories in Southern Britain

Celtic Tribal Territories in Southwest Britain

The primary evidence leading to this conclusion is as follows:

  1. Archaeological findings suggest the region was populated with increasing multiple cultures with different ethic identities and languages between the time of Caesar and Claudius.
  2. Children and other close relatives of indigenous rulers in Britain were educated in Rome. There was a growing practice that British kings first sought recognition from Rome when they took control of a region. Augustus also personally appointed client kings.
  3. There are increasing hints from archaeological sites that Roman soldiers were present in Britain before 43 AD. Orthogonal structures, more typical of Roman architecture, have been discovered near Colchester and the Fishbourne Palace.
Replica of a Dining Room at Fishbourne Palace

Replica of a Dining Room at Fishbourne Palace

There was precedence of Romans stationing legions beyond the formal frontier of the empire’s rule. Julius Caesar stationed three to four legions with Cleopatra after he restored her to the throne in 47 AD. Feel free to comment on whether you believe the theory that the invasion of Britain was nothing more than a ploy by Claudius to legitimize his role as the Roman emperor.

Julius Caesar Statue

Statue of Julius Caesar

References

  1. John Manley, AD 43 The Roman Invasion of Britain: A reassessment; Tempus Publishing, Inc., Charleston, SC, 2002.
  2. Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, The Twelve Caesars, Translated by Robert Graves; Reprinted 2007 by Penguin Books, New York.
  3. Graham Webster, Roman Invasion of Britain, Reprinted 1999 by Routledge, London.
  4. Graham Webster, Rome Against Caratacus: The Roman Campaigns in Britain AD 48-58; Reprinted 2002 by Routledge, London.
  5. Graham Webster, Boudica: The British Revolt against Rome AD 60; Reprinted 2004 by Routledge, London.
  6. Cassius Dio, Roman History, published in Vol. VII of the Loeb Classical Library, Edition 1924; Book LX   http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Cassius_Dio/60*.html

Coming Soon!

My website is undergoing development in anticipation of the launch of my epic historical fantasy, APOLLO’S RAVEN, next year. The next series of posts will focus on the historical background and themes in the upcoming series.

Apollo's Raven Book Cover Under Development

Apollo’s Raven Book Cover (Historical Fantasy)

The concept of what constitutes a heroine’s journey for the main character of Catrin, a Celtic warrior princess, will be discussed. Mark Antony—the inspiration for Marcellus, Catrin’s lover—will be explored in a new light.

Celtic Warrior Princess

Catrin, Celtic Warrior Princess Summons Raven

Please join me on my journey of discovering how history and mythology can relate to each one of us today.