Russell Whitfield and 'A Year of Ravens'

Russell WhitfieldToday, I have a  special guest, Russell Whitfield, a true friend of Roma Nova who endorsed INCEPTIO and AURELIA.  Russ’s first novel, Gladiatrix, was published in 2008 by Myrmidon Books. The sequel, Roma Victrix, continued the adventures of Lysandra, the Spartan gladiatrix. The third, Imperatrix, released this year, is just simply a tour de force.

Now, you may remember A Day of Fire six stories about the eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79 which he co-wrote as a highly successful collaborative novel with a group of other historical authors. Well, they’re doing a second one, this time about the Boudican revolt in Britain 60/61 AD, called A Year of Ravens.

Britannia: land of mist and magic clinging to the western edge of the Roman Empire. A red-haired queen named Boudica led her people in a desperate rebellion against the might of Rome, an epic struggle destined to consume heroes and cowards, young and old, Roman and Briton . . . and these are their stories.

  • A calculating queen foresees the fires of rebellion in a king’s death 
  • A neglected slave girl seizes her own courage as Boudica calls for war
  • An idealistic tribune finds manhood in a brutal baptism of blood and slaughter
  • A death-haunted Druid challenges the gods themselves to ensure victory for his people
  • A conflicted young warrior finds himself torn between loyalties to tribe and to Rome
  • An old champion struggles for everlasting glory in the final battle against the legions
  • A pair of fiery princesses fight to salvage the pieces of their mother’s dream as the ravens circle. 

A novel in seven parts, overlapping stories of warriors and peacemakers, queens and slaves, Romans and Britons who cross paths during Boudica’s epic rebellion. But who will survive to see the dawn of a new Britannia, and who will fall to feed the ravens?

A Year of Ravens coverThe authors – E. Knight, Ruth Downie, Stephanie Dray, Russell Whitfield, SJA Turney, Kate Quinn and Vicky Alvear Shecter – have all agreed to be guests on this blog over the next few weeks and give their personal take on writing a collaborative project. What a feast!

Today, we’re starting with Russell. The questions will be gentle – no hint of a Roman vigiles punishment officer to carry out the interrogation!

Why does Boudica have an enduring attraction and why did you choose it as the focus for this book?
I think because she’s a woman who kicks serious arse. All the way back to the Ancient Greeks and the Amazons, there’s a fascination with women who step outside of their supposed norm and assume the mantle of the warrior. Hers is the story of the mouse that roared – taking on the Romans and very nearly making them pull out of Britannia is an epic tale in and of itself. As a Romanophile, it’s a strange one for me too, because Boudica is a symbol of British resistance – so I’m a bit torn!

Were the group of authors self-selected or chosen? And how did you find working together?
I was asked to participate in this by Ben Kane and it was a huge honour to be invited as I’m a fan of all the other authors (it’s a small world this writing lark). How’s it been? Great – I know that we’re supposed to say that it was all seamless with no issues – but it really was like that. To be honest, the story that I got to write (about Agricola) was pretty self-contained so there was only a bit of plot crossover, whereas I know many of the other authors were meticulous in getting everything spot on as they referenced each other’s stories. I have to say that this was the most fun though; reading other people’s version of a character that you’d worked on was a great thrill. It was great fun – I loved every moment of this project (well, apart from the editing, cos no one likes that!). No, it was full of ace and awesome.

What do you think is in it for the reader having such a diversity of author styles?
Good question. I hope that people will like it because each story has its own voice. The point of the piece was to show the conflict from many different perspectives so the styles of the writers of course reflect that. The main thing is that Kate Quinn – editor-in-chief and potential member of the Justice League (cos she’s that much of a superheroine) ensured that – crucially – the events flowed well and that the i’s were dotted, t’s were crossed and the piece wasn’t just a bunch of short stories. Not that there’s anything wrong with short stories, but “A Year of Ravens” needed to read and feel like a novel. Thanks to Kate, it does – she chaperoned us all through the hard parts.

The thing is, Kate and all the other writers on this project are amazingly talented people – all writing the same story. It might be a different approach, but these guys are so good that I would imagine that any reader will just get caught up and swept along with it.

Will there be another book focusing on a different event?
I certainly hope so. As I say, this was a huge honour and pleasure for me to be involved in… if there is another one in the future and I’m lucky enough to be invited on board, I’d be there with bells on.

Thank you, Russell!

Publication date is 17 November, but you can pre-order from Amazon UK and Amazon US now.

I’ve been lucky enough to have read a pre-publication copy and will let you know my thoughts later in the series!

Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers, INCEPTIO, PERFIDITAS and SUCCESSIO. The fourth book, AURELIA, is now out.

Find out more about Roma Nova, its origins, stories and heroines…

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>




This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.