Wisdom from a Wordsmith – Episode 2

Carol Ashby

Focusing on life in the Roman Empire

Over the past few months, I have enjoyed meeting other authors online.  I have learned so much from all of them!  When I have time, I like to read and review other authors’ works, become a fellow author’s ARC or beta reader, and join launch teams.  I grow as a writer myself while helping another to have a stronger voice in the highly competitive world of authoring. 

One opportunity I jumped at was to get an ARC copy of Carol Ashby’s More than Honor because I find the ancient Roman Empire fascinating.  This book gave me such a taste of what Rome was like for Christians in the early church. 

I have enjoyed seeing Carol’s witty online presence as well.  My first interactions with her were when she jokingly posted two alternative book covers and asked readers which they preferred.  Of course, I pretended that lady readers would find the studly Playmobil hero sooo attractive. 

Here is my online interview with Carol.  I hope you enjoy learning more about Carol Ashby, and that you will give her novels a try.  You will find them a great mix of romance, mystery, suspense, and history!

What inspired you to become an author? What led to you writing about the ancient Roman world?

I started writing historical fiction in September, 2013. I’d been thinking for several weeks about the parallels between the persecution of Christians going on in the Middle East as ISIS took over the region and the way Rome tried to rid itself of Christians because they wouldn’t take part in the state religion.

The last Friday in September, the outline of the plot that became Blind Ambition came to me, and I started writing. That became the second book in the series. I’d written (and rewritten!) three books (Blind Ambition, The Legacy, and Forgiven) by late 2015. They share some characters, but they can all be read stand-alone. I make sure that’s true of every book I write, so any of them could have been published first. Forgiven was set in Galilee, so when I learned Ben Hur would be released as a new movie in the summer of 2016, I figured the interest in Roman-occupied Israel from movie fans might make them want to read a book from that time and place.

What are some discoveries you have made while researching Roman times that you found surprising and fascinating?

I worked for years in scientific research, so I love doing the research to get the details right. Confession of a bookaholic: I have over a hundred books by academic authors on different aspects of Roman history so I can get the details right. (Maybe it’s because I couldn’t resist getting them when they were so inexpensive used.) I decided to share what I learn in a Roman history website at carolashby.com, and I made it PG-13 or cleaner (hard for some Roman topics!) so it would be suitable for teachers and teens to use. So, the list of discoveries would be WAY longer than you want, but here’s one that amazed me.

The head of the Roman family unit was the paterfamilias. He was the oldest male, and as long as he lived, his sons and daughters (kids or grown, married or unmarried), his sons’ children, and all the family property (people, land, businesses, cash…you name it) belonged to him. His grown children owned nothing; it was all his to do with as he wanted. He could kill his child without legal penalty. He could sell them into slavery. He had to give his permission for every newborn to live and grow up in the family. If he didn’t, it would be taken away and exposed in a public place to die or be picked up by someone who wanted a free slave. The absolute power of the man heading the family is at the center of some of my stories.

What is some of your advice for students who may be considering a career in writing?

First there’s the writing part of the career. It’s important to develop your writing skills and to never assume you can’t improve more. You need to study the “craft” and learn how the best writers who are selling lots of novels in your genre are writing today. The marketable style now is very different from the classical style of the great writers we read in English class. I had to totally rewrite my first three novels after learning I wrote in the classical instead of the modern style.

Always be open to learning how to write better and work at it steadily to improve everything you write. Take webinars. Read writing blogs. Join writers’ Facebook groups and take part in the conversations. Attend conferences to learn more and to meet fellow writers. Build relationships with a few writers (online or in person) who will help you improve, as you help them. Having good critique partners is invaluable. Negative feedback is what helps us all see where we can improve.

Then there’s the practical part. It is very hard to make a living as a writer. You’ll need a day job or maybe a spouse to provide a steady income. I started writing before I retired. I write full time now, but I don’t have to make a living with it, which lets me write what I feel God calls me to write.

That last point is key for Christian writers: Pray a lot and ask God to guide you to write what He wants you to write. When you do, you’ll be a “successful” writer, no matter how many books you sell, even if there’s only one person who truly needs to read what you wrote.

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