Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Spartacus: Warrior, Slave, Hero-An interview with historical fiction author Ben Kane

Today I'm interviewing historical fiction author Ben Kane. Mr. Kane has carved out a niche for himself as a master of action-oriented ancient Rome-related novels such as The Silver Eagle, The Forgotten Legion, The Road To Rome, and Hannibal: Enemy of Rome.

I interviewed him about his latest novel, Spartacus: The Gladiator  I reviewed the novel yesterday here on Unnecessary Musings.

Please note that there is a giveaway for a copy of Spartacus: The Gladiator (paperback or eBook). Please see the details after the interview.


1) Tell us about your book.

It’s a re-telling of Spartacus’ story. I have stuck to the facts that we know about them, and tried to make the book as gritty and realistic as possible. That means it’s brutal, visceral and dramatic.

2) Spartacus is a man who has received a lot attention throughout the centuries. He's been presented many different ways. Why did you choose to revisit the life of this man? What sort of new facets did you hope to explore?
I chose to tell his story because in my opinion, it’s one of the greatest tales of ancient history. I hoped to bring to Spartacus’ life the passion with which he filled his followers; the hopes he gave them, and to bring to life the drama of the incredible battles that he and his men faced.

3) Tell us a little about your research process.

Fortunately, I had already written a trilogy set just 20 years after Spartacus’ rebellion, so the months of research that had gone into that were invaluable. I had to refresh myself with that knowledge, and read a number of texts about Spartacus. I was also lucky enough to visit Italy, where I travelled to many of the places that Spartacus spent time, including the amphitheater in Capua, Mount Vesuvius and the toe of the Italian boot.

4) Ancient times were pretty rough and made for rough men. In particular, you've presented a rather honest view of the brutalities associated with the army of Spartacus. These fellows didn't always concern themselves with the rights of prisoners, male or female. Many people who have retold the life of Spartacus and the Third Servile War have "cleaned it up" a bit to make it more palatable for modern audiences and present a more easily morally digestible narrative. Did you decide to go the other route just for historical accuracy or for some other reasons?

I did it for historical accuracy. Why pretend that things were ‘nice’ and ‘civilized’ when they clearly weren’t? In my opinion, that is sugar coating history.

5) Historical fiction is always a balance of accuracy and creative license. Are there particular areas you decided to tip the balance more in one way or another?

Since only 4,000 words (that’s ten pages of a novel) survive about Spartacus, I made sure to include virtually every single detail that we know about him into my book. Throughout the rest of the book, I tried to ensure that my facts about the first century BC in general were accurate.

6) What is it about this man who keeps calling out to authors and film makers throughout the decades?

Spartacus’ story is one of the most appealing of all hero tales. A brave man who was wronged and imprisoned, who escaped to freedom, raised an army of slaves and fought against his oppressors. Though he had many victories, he eventually came to grief. What’s not to love about that?

7) Though there was the new show, the Kubrick film based on the Fast novel has a dominant place in many people's picture of Spartacus. Indeed, many scenes and lines from the film have imprinted themselves into the cultural consciousness to the point where they've even been parodied in soda commercials. Was it difficult to escape the shadow of Kubrick and Fast?
That’s a hard one! Yes, probably it was. However, to my advantage, I have the fact that I grew up in a house with no TV, and I only saw the Kubrick film once when I was a boy. I very deliberately avoided watching it in the run up to and during the time I wrote my books. Ditto with the Starz miniseries. In that way, I hope to have created a Spartacus who can stand proudly on his own.

8) You've written a number of novels set in the ancient Roman period. What got you interested in Roman history?

I think it was probably The Eagle of the Ninth, that seminal YA novel by Rosemary Sutcliff that got me interested in Rome first. Although I love history of all periods, Rome has fascinated me since.

9) You have another Spartacus-related novel coming out next year. After that, do you intend to stick with Roman history, or are you going to explore some other historical periods?

I plan to stick with Rome for at least 4 more novels, but then I intend to branch out into the Hundred Years War, between England and France.


Thanks, Ben.

To find out more about Ben and his books visit: www.benkane.net
You can also find him on Twitter: @benkaneauthor and Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/#!/benkanebooks

For those interested in winning a copy of Spartacus: The Gladiator simply leave a comment with a contact e-mail and your preferred format (physical or what type of eBook). I will select a winner at random on July 6th. Please note due to supply-side restrictions this giveaway is only open to US and Canadian entrants.


Lordfriday said...

kingmonday@hotmail.com I would like a Physical Copy, please! :D

Ben Kane said...

Good luck in the giveaway, Lordfriday!

J.A. Beard said...

Congrats, Lordfriday. There were entries on the other Spartacus entry, so I just combined them. I'll be sending you an e-mail shortly.