Friday, March 6, 2015

GUEST POST: J.F. Ridgley--Author of Red Fury Revolt

I'm thrilled to have J.F. Ridgley, the Author of Red Fury Revolt as a guest blogger today, talking about the process of writing historical fiction (a subject near and dear to my heart.)

Writing Historical Fiction is not a “walk in the park.”

Writing historical fiction is more of a learning quest. Upon writing the first draft of Red Fury Revolt, I had the Roman legion coming into the Iceni village and taking over the people’s huts, imprisoning Boudica and her two daughters in a hut with an escape tunnel. And yes they did escape. It was a fantastic scene. However totally wrong.

First, Roman legions didn’t camp in a village. Each night, they built a marching camp with an encircling ditch, dirt berm, and perfect rows of tents inside. That was the beginning point of my learning details of Rome’s powerful force, as complicated as understanding the details of the U.S. Marine Corp.

The first draft of Red Fury Revolt began eighteen years ago. It started out with the discovery of the magnificent Iceni queen Boudica, or most commonly known as Boudicca or Boudicea. I discovered a book by Graham Webster titled Boudica where Mr. Webster explains why why he changed the spelling of her name because no one on this island could write at this time, so no one knew for certain how her name was spelled. When the History Channel began referring to her as Boudica, I decided to go with Mr. Webster’s spelling.

Okay I’m searching through Boudica’s history and discover a young Roman named Gnaeus Julius Agricola who was present in Britannia when the queen was flogged and her daughters raped. During Boudica’s revolt, Julius became the consul/governor’s second-in-command, or as I had his title as his lacticlavius. This is a misspelling because, as one of the wonderful Roman reactors told me, it’s laticlavius. These reenactors were and are amazing with their knowledge and with keeping me straight.

Gnaeus Julius Agricola started and, after many tours here, ended his career in Britannia. After his time as laticlavius, Julius returned to be commander/legate of the XX Legion. Then he returned again four more times as consul/governor. My thought was why? Research said Britannia was NOT Rome’s most profitable province. Besides, it’s cold, rainy weather was not a favorite of many in command. So why did Julius Agricola spend 90% of his career here?

That was my author’s inspiration to changing my story from Boudica’s to his story. Why did Julius return? My answer resulted in my Agricola series, which addresses why he chose to return to take the legions farther than any consul ever did, including Hadrian and Antonius. Then he was recalled to Rome to die at the age of 53. Some say he was murdered by Domitian Caesar. But no one knows that for sure either. Again, as an author, I have to say no.

My advantage and greatest resource was the great historian Tacitus who was his son-in-law and wrote Julius’s biography. However with all Tacitus’s adoration of his father-in-law, Tacitus never mentioned Julius’s daughter by name. His wife! Not in anything he wrote. I looked and asked everywhere and everyone I could find on her name. His daughter had to be a character in her father’s story…right? So, what was her name? NO ONE KNOWS.

So I had to pull on what I had learned of Rome’s customs. The ‘name game’ in Rome is a nightmare for any author. Sons carry their father’s name exactly. Gnaeus Julius Agricola’s sons’ names would have been Gnaeus Julius Agricola, even if he had ten sons. Daughters’ names followed in the feminine form of his name. So, all of Julius’s daughters name would be Julia. And daughters’ were prima, secunda and so on, meaning the girls were named Julia Prima and Julia Secunda.

The name game doesn’t stop there.  Only the personal family may use the first name only of a family member.  Common folk had to use the full name- Gnaeus Julius Agricola, or, Julius Agricola. Julius’s wife and mother referred to Julius as Gnaeus. 

And as a writer, how do you keep these kids clear, dear readers? So I named his daughter Julia, and everyone referred to Julius by Julius, including his mother and future wife. If I didn’t do that, my readers would be banging my book on the wall.

This is the adventure I love of writing historical fiction as well as the challenge of sticking as close to the discovered facts as I can. I never know where I’m going to land or what I’m going to do. But I do love writing in ancient Rome.

Links :

Cornelius Tacitus

Graham Webster  Boudica


Book one of my Agricola series

 London’s statue to Boudica
 Roman officer with his legions


For a chance to win a copy of Red Fury Revolt or other great prizes, visit the HFVBT host site here.


Red Fury Revolt Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, March 2
Spotlight at The Maiden’s Court
Tuesday, March 3
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Friday, March 6
Guest Post at The Reading World
Saturday, March 7
Review at Book Nerd
Spotlight at Curiouser and Curiouser
Sunday, March 8
Review & Excerpt at A Virtual Hobby Store and Coffee Haus
Monday, March 9
Interview at A Virtual Hobby Store and Coffee Haus
Tuesday, March 10
Interview & Excerpt at Becky on Books
Wednesday, March 11
Review at Deal Sharing Aunt
Thursday, March 12
Interview at Curling Up With A Good Book
Friday, March 13
Review at Genre Queen
Review at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book
Guest Post at Just One More Chapter



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