Virtual Tour: F/F ~ Sword of the Gladiatrix by Faith H. Justice ~ (Author Interview, Excerpt + Giveaway)
Author Name: Faith H. Justice
Book Name: Sword of the Gladiatrix
Release Date: May, 2015
Publisher: Raggedy Moon Books
Cover Artist: Todd Engle
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From the far edges of the Empire, two women come to battle on the hot sands of the arena in Nero's Rome. They seek to replace lost friendship, love, and family in each other's arms; but the Roman arena offers only two futures: the Gate of Life for the victors or the Gate of Death for the losers.
Pages or Words: 260 pages, 75,000 words
Categories: Fiction, Gay Fiction, Historical, Lesbian Romance, Action/Adventure
A slave wraps my lower legs with felted wool and straps a gilded greave to my left shin, because I fight as myrmilla. He smells of sour sweat, as do I. I’ve already fought once today, tested fate, and won. The gold sand that Nero favors in the arena still crusts my hair and rasps the skin under my sweat-soaked breast band. I will go again before the ravenous crowds to satisfy their bloodlust. For what? An emperor’s whim? The crowd’s passing fancy? A sacrifice to their gods?
I swallow the bitter gall that surges into my mouth.
Across the room, another slave straps armor on Cinnia, my beloved. She looks at me with pride in her eyes and a brief smile on her lips. We said our goodbyes last night, clasped breast to breast, thigh to thigh, a stolen moment before being sent to our lonely cells. My heart beats an irregular rhythm.
My love. Light to my dark. Fire to my ice.
Cinnia is goddess-given to me; from a land of mists and forests, so different from my country of desert and blistering sun. Without her, I would be dead. Without me, so would she. We have suffered, struggled, lived, and loved. Now we go out upon the sands of the great arena to die. One by her lover’s hands, the other by her own.
It is not the life or death I chose for myself, but it is the one the gods gave me.
Today I’m very lucky to be interviewing Faith L. Justice, author of Sword of the Gladiatrix. Hi Faith, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself, your background, and your current book.
Thanks so much for having me here at Bayou Book Junkie. I’m a science geek and history junkie and have been all my life. I knocked around a bit and worked as a lifeguard, paralegal, systems analyst, human resources executive, and college professor before settling into full-time writing. I live in Brooklyn with my family and the required gaggle of cats. For fun, I like to dig in the dirt—my garden and various archaeological sites.
My current book is an action-adventure, lesbian romance set during Nero’s reign. A departure for me. I usually write novels based on real historical women—ones who should be in the history books but aren’t. Sword of the Gladiatrix features two fictional characters from the far ends of the Roman Empire: Afra, scout and beast master to the Queen of Kush; and Cinnia, warrior-bard and companion to Queen Boudica of the British Iceni. Both try to replace lost friendship and love in each other's arms, but fate intervenes. Before they complete their journeys, I toss in a pair of trained hunting cheetahs, a nasty snake dancing bitch, a natural disaster or two, a neurotic emperor, and several gladiator fights.
Whenever I pitched Sword of the Gladiatrix as my “lesbian gladiator novel,” I encountered raised eyebrows and skeptical snorts. The first question everyone asked: “Were there really lesbian gladiators?” My answer: “Of course!” We know there were females fighting in arenas for a couple of centuries, although far fewer than men. Some had to be lesbian. What really surprised people was the fact of female gladiators. They rarely appear in popular culture. Despite the popularity of Xena Warrior Princess and the myths of the Amazons, they don’t come to mind in the media-soaked imaginings of brutal, bloody, gladiatorial games. Women warriors? Maybe. Women gladiators? No. Yet they are there in classical literature, art, grave markers, and archaeology. All you have to do is look.
Why do you write?
I love this question. I’ve heard a lot of authors answer, “because I have to.” They have some burning need to write and are unhappy if they can’t. That’s never been the case with me. I came to fiction writing in my middle age. I want to tell stories that people will enjoy. I want to entertain folks and if they learn a little something along the way about unknown women or an interesting point in history, that’s gravy!
Which of your books was the most difficult to write?
The first one, Selene of Alexandria, because I was still learning how to write a novel. I had written several short stories (a couple of which won awards), and tons of non-fiction, but a novel is a big, unwieldy beast the first time you approach one. I started with an outline of the actual historical events, which helps. I wasn’t “writing into the dark” as many authors do who write strictly fiction. It took a year to finish a first draft and two more to produce the finished product—all the time I got better at my craft. Sword of the Gladiatrix is my third book, but is being published before my second Twilight Empress, which should be out this fall or winter.
Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?
I have two main characters who alternate points of view in the book. Afra, my Kushite huntress, is a self-contained, physically imposing young woman who hides deep emotional wounds—primarily loneliness and guilt over a lost love. She’s a bit of an introvert and prefers to spend time with animals—both hunting and training them—than with people. She’s fierce, loyal, honest, and brave.
Cinnia is more bard than warrior. Many of her ancestors, including her father, trained as bards and druids and she shares their gift for having visions. When she meets Afra, she’s in deep spiritual crisis—the Romans defeated her people and she interprets that as a defeat for her gods, leaving her bereft and searching for some reason to live. She’s outgoing, good at languages; open, but prone to depression.
How much research do you do for your books?
Incredible amounts, but it’s one of the most fun parts of writing these books. I’m a research librarian at heart and love tracking down the minutiae of everyday life and bringing different cultures, times, and places to life through my words. Mostly I learn from books and academic papers, but my favorite way of researching is the site visit. I have a dozen books on Pompeii with gorgeous pictures and incredible diagrams, but nothing beats actually walking the streets, seeing the graffiti, and sitting in the seats at the arena where my characters fight. Museums come in a close second and we have world-class ones here in New York. I can study clothing, coins, art, and jewelry from my time period, giving me a mother lode of detail to enrich my stories.
Who designs your covers?
Todd Engle of Engle Creative does all my novels. Isn’t the one for Sword of the Gladiatrix stunning? I designed, and my daughter executed, the designs for my collections of short stories and my non-fiction.
Thank you again for having me. Many hours of great reading to all of you!
About the author:
FAITH L. JUSTICE writes award-winning novels, short stories, and articles in Brooklyn, New York. Her work has appeared in Salon.com, Writer’s Digest, The Copperfield Review, the Circles in the Hair anthology, and many more. She is a frequent contributor to Strange Horizons, Associate Editor for Space and Time Magazine, and co-founded a writer’s workshop many more years ago than she likes to admit. For fun, she digs in the dirt—her garden and various archaeological sites.
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Rafflecopter Prize: Copy of ‘Sword of the Gladiatrix’ by Faith L. Justice