Today Wild Women Authors is pleased to welcome author, John Caligiuri, who brings Lucius Bernius, from Red Fist of Rome a July release from Nightmist Publishing. First up is Lucius.
Tell us a bit about Red Fist of Rome. Set in the last days of the Roman Empire, it takes a Fantasy/Alternate History view. . .
Life is cheap in the mid-four hundreds as the dying Roman Empire struggles with endless swarms of barbarians. Lucius, the son of a Senator, joins the Legions prepared to face the savagery of his nation’s enemies. But his vision of the world is crushed when he encounters the depravity of Rome’s own rulers. Despite this reality, he defiantly clings to the ideals of ancient Rome.
In Gaul, Lucius discovers Dervla, a slave, brutalized by the worst of the Empire’s nobility. Thrown together by chance, they forge an improbable alliance that grows into love. His indomitable nobility draws an unlikely coalition of others yearning for a better world. Those efforts draw the wraith of a power hungry despot who ruthlessly smashes the visionaries and drives them into hiding. They hatch a desperate plan, but it might be too late.
The Vandal horde is descending on the gates of the Eternal City and Rome is about to be ransacked. These idealists must find a way to come together, overthrow the Emperor and rally the dispirited citizens. Whether or not Rome can be saved lies in the hands of those who were named traitors. . .
Thanks for that, Lucius. It gives us exactly what we wanted to know about the story. More about you—what influenced you to choose Roman legionnaire officer as a career? I joined the legions to make a difference. Rome represents all that is beautiful in the world, but it is decaying on the inside and being pressed by the barbarians from the outside. It is only as a soldier that I believe I can stand against both of these curses.
Knowing what you know now, if you had it to do over again, would you stick with being a soldier for Rome or do something different? I have tried farming on my father’s estate and failed and I have dipped my toe into politics and failed even more miserably. The life of a soldier fits my temperament and goals. I believe it is the one place where my limited talents are of some use.
What is your biggest fear? I have two great fears. First is that I lack the courage to live an honorable life, and second, that I cannot be persuasive enough to draw my fellow Romans into my dream of a better world.
Who is your favorite fictional character and why? That is an easy one. My hero is Horatius Cocles. He was the legendary Roman warrior in the 6th Century BC written about by Livy. He stood almost single-handly on a bridge over the Tiber fighting off the Etruscan invaders. His valor saved Rome during its infancy.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received? My mentor came from a mysterious land beyond the Silk Road. He told me, “A brave man only dies once.” Those words have helped me face the obstacles this hard world has set in my path.
Now for a word from John: Which writer or character[s], from either books or movies, have had a major impact on your writing? My writing is in the style of Michael Shaara (Killer Angels) and Tom Clancy (Red Storm Rising).
With regard to research, John, where did you start for this novel? Did that lead you down different paths, thereby changing the original concept? I am a lifelong student of history. My research took me deep into the studies on the Roman Empire. I have walked the roads and visited most of the sites referenced in the novel. This story emerged from my keen interest in and study of ancient Europe and my curiosity in asking “what if” at watershed events in history.
John was kind enough to offer an excerpt to further entice us:
Lucius stood before the General never so scared and angry in his life. One minute he was putting his new command into order, the next, the ten deserters who recanted were being dragged off. Some pleaded with him to save them. Others just stared stone faced with looks of betrayal. He could live with neither.
“Imperator Aetius, with all due respect, I cannot allow these men to be punished. I had already judged them and set the terms for their return. I cannot go back on my word. If there is any transgression here it is mine.” He took a shuddered breath. “They have fully abided by my conditions.”
The ten shackled men looked up with their first glimmer of hope.
“Well, General, then the answer is clear. The traitor who should be stoned to death stands before you. He flaunted Roman law and directly countermanded your order,” Publius hissed.
Aetius felt caught like a rat in a cage. He looked over at his senior officers. Their silence was deafening. I can’t defer this decision to anyone else.
Only Satewa spoke up. “He’s the hero who managed to get the entire army moving. We should be piling honors on him. Not threatening him.”
“Hold your tongue, savage. I heard he merely stood half naked in the field while the Visigoths argued and never even lifted his sword. I would hardly call that a hero. General, you must do your duty.” He pointed his flabby hand at Lucius. “You’ll never be able to control the Emperor’s army if every whiskerless boy can flout Rome’s laws. I should not have to remind you the Military Code is very specific.”
Aetius looked around the packed audience chamber. I need a thousand officers like this and now I am forced to kill the one I do have. In a soft voice he spoke to the trembling young man in front of him. “Forgive me son. I am as bound by my word as you are by yours.”
His jaw clenched. “Lectors, take the Tribune out to the yard and bind him to the post. Unchain those Legionnaires. They are free.”
As cruel callous hands lay hold of him, Lucius’ numb mind snapped into focus and he shook free of their grasp. “I am a Tribune of Rome. I’ll go of my own accord.”
The Chief Lector chuckled with glee. “It’s not often I get to ply my trade on a nobleman.” The bull necked torturer raised his club to smash Lucius for his insolence.
He was halted in mid-swing.
“You’ll escort him with the dignity he has earned or I swear I’ll have you staked to the ground next to him,” General Aetius roared.
The lector bowed his head and turned to his men. “Strip him.”
Lucius stood stiff and silent as his clothes were torn from his body. When they had finished, he raised his head and walked out on legs that had difficulty supporting him.
Thank you so much for that powerful piece of writing. Back to you. What are you reading currently? The First Man in Rome by Colleen McCullough and What If, edited by Robert Cowley
What's next for you? I am working on two exciting projects: The Last Roman’s Prayer which is a sequel to Red Fist of Rome set in the last days of the Byzantine Empire, and Cocytus which is a science fiction, another of my loves, set in present day with a twist reminiscent of Dante’s Divine Comedy.
This has been a real pleasure for us, for a number of reasons. Thanks so much for visiting with us today, John. Much luck in sales with Red Fist and future books.
Kat and Veronica
To learn more about John Caligiuri and the stories he creates go to:
To purchase RED FIST OF ROME, go to AMAZON.COM