I asked Ben if he could write about his experience writing the book, finding an agent, and getting the book to market? What would he tell aspiring writers?
Starting on the path to write The Forgotten Legion, my first published novel, was a little unusual.
From as early as I can remember, I wanted to be a veterinarian. I duly became one, but after more than a decade in the workplace, I was totally disillusioned. Incredibly long hours, the difficulty of finding a practice where I wanted to stay long-term and the nightmare of being ‘on call’ had finally revealed that this was not the life for me.
But what else could I do? The highly trained field of veterinary medicine is such a narrow one that there are precious few options when it comes to changing career. Naive and full of enthusiasm, I rashly decided that I would become a bestselling historical fiction author. I sat down the same night and began writing about a Roman centurion in second century A.D. Britain. I spent two years on that book, spending approximately 10-20 hours a week writing or researching, as well as working full-time as a veterinarian. I spent large amounts of money on textbooks, and many weekends visiting Hadrian's Wall, becoming in the process somewhat of a Roman geek. I went on a residential writing course run by the Arvon Foundation, a charitable organisation in the UK. In short, writing became an obsession. Along with a rather wide stubborn streak, I believe this single-mindedness is one of the reasons for my breakthrough into mainstream publishing.
Needless to say, that first novel is still on the hard drive of my computer. After about two years, thinking it was ready, I sent the first three chapters to a number of agents. From each I received standard refusal letters, all of which include the immortal line: ‘This book is not for us’. I think it means ‘We don't think this book is good enough.’ It was then that luck, or fate, entered my life and I received a personal introduction to an agent. He read my three chapters, gave positive feedback and asked for a meeting. This in itself was a major step in the right direction.
The good news was that a week later, I had been signed up by my agent. To my delight, he reckoned that my writing wasn't too far off the mark to win a publishing deal. The bad news was that I had to write a totally new novel, something with broader scope and much greater public appeal. Some time, and a great deal of idea bashing later, the plot for The Forgotten Legion had emerged into the light. Over the next 18 months, I repeated the process that I had undergone for my first novel, except this time I spent 20-40 hours a week on my computer, all the while working full-time.
When it was done, I paid a freelance professional editor recommended by my agent to go over my manuscript. Her fees, while extremely expensive, were worth every single cent. The proof was in the pudding: when my agent put The Forgotten Legion on the market, six of the largest publishing houses in the UK engaged in a bidding war for it, and it subsequently sold to five countries worldwide.Three pieces of advice to aspiring writers: write every day, get professionals to critique it, and most importantly, never give up!
Romulus and Fabiola are twins, born into slavery, and then later sold; Romulus to gladiator school and Fabiola into prostitution, where she will catch the eye of one of the most powerful men in Rome.
Tarquinius is an Etruscan, a warrior, born enemy of Rome and trained in the forgotten arts of divination. He has a long-foretold destiny that will take him to the ends of the known world.
Brennus is a Gaul whose entire clan was killed in a battle against the Roman army. After being sold as a slave he rises to become one of the most famous and feared gladiators of his day.
In a story that ranges from a Rome riven by corruption, violence, and political enmities to very edges of the empire, The Forgotten Legion is a novel of the most powerful empire in history told from the perspective of the lowest rungs of society.
I am fascinated by stories of Ancient Rome and am excited to be part of the book blog tour for Ben Kane's debut novel, The Forgotten Legion!
The Forgotten Legion differs from most novels of Ancient Rome in that Ben Kane chose conquered people for the lead characters. Through the stories of the Etrucscan Tarquinius and the Gaul Brennus, we share the experience of conquest by Rome. Somehow, Rome's system of conquest allows the strong and skilled to serve Rome. So, Tarquinius and Brennus who had stood out in their own communities, find that their strength and skills still bring them some recognition and respect in their new lives.
Through the experience of the young twin slaves, Romulus and Fabiola, we see what life can be like for the Roman house slaves born and raised in Rome. When their master decides to tear their family apart, he sells Romulus to a gladiator school and Fabiola to a brothel. Forced to survive by their wits, the love that they have for each other and their desire for revenge sustains them.
The Forgotten Legion is riveting. Ben Kane weaves together these different stories - we find romance, action, unexpected twists and opportunities for revenge. The important figures and moments in Rome's history affect our heroes' lives and make for a fascinating and satisfying read! I am looking forward to the next in the series, The Silver Eagle.
ISBN-10: 0312601247 - paperback $14.99
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; 1 edition (January 5, 2010), 544 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher and TLC Book Tours.
About the Author, courtesy of the publisher:
Ben Kane is the author of the critically acclaimed,The Forgotten Legion, and is at work on the concluding volume of this trilogy. He lives in England. Learn more on The Forgotten Legion website at http://www.forgottenlegion.co.uk/