Note: This blog post is specifically about my series, The Last Roman. And it contains spoilers. So if you are reading the series or plan to read the series, I would skip this blog post until after you finish.
That is probably the question I get the most when talking to readers. To be 100% honest, I don’t have a great answer. Maybe writing this blog will help with that! Who knows, it’s worth a try. But first we have…
The premise for my story (a Roman soldier who attended the crucifixion of Christ becoming immortal) is not original. There is a series that was written in the 1970s by Barry Sadler called “Casca”. I believe there are 50+ booked in the series, many written after Barry’s death. Although the premise of my trilogy is the same, the plot and cast of characters are much different. I did not know about the Casca series when I started my book in 1998, but I did learn about it ten or so years later. Obviously. I felt the series was unique enough to continue. I have received feedback from readers of the Casca series that they have enjoyed my take on the eternal Roman.
It was not one single thing, and the concept morphed over time. There are multiple inspirations for the series, and Marcus in particular.
The first and most obvious is Highlander. The amazing, and yes cheesy, movie from 1986 starring Sean Connery and Christopher Lambert. Who can forget the iconic line, “There can be only one!” The soundtrack is amazing (Queen). We shall overlook Lambert’s questionable acting chops, and we do not acknowledge or discuss any of the sequels. But honestly, is there a better way to explore history than through the eyes of an immortal protagonist?
The second is a bit more obscure. There is a movie called The Seventh Sign from 1988. Not a great film (15% on Rotten Tomatoes), but inspiration comes in strange places. The movie starred Demi Moore and Michael Biehn (side note, Biehn plays two of my favorite movie characters. Corporal Hicks from Aliens and John Connor in Terminator, but I digress). There is an immortal character in that movie named Cartaphilus (hint, he may show up in future installments). He was the inspiration for Marcus, though Cartaphilus was the antagonist in this movie.
The final inspiration is a smashup of my favorite characters in books and films. They include:
Over twenty years, the story changed a number of times. I always had Marcus and Thomas as friends, then frenemies. But how the story played out, how book one ended and the pace of the writing changed significantly.
When first completed, book one was around 110,00 words. In comparison, the published version is closer to 75,000 words. I am sure my audiobook company wished I had kept the original word count (they sell based on hours of audio). An interesting contrast to bookstores, which tend to frown on large books as they take up extra shelf space.
I think the biggest difference between my original manuscript and my published work is pacing. Like many unseasoned writers, I was verbose and overly descriptive. Often taking time to describe rooms, sunsets, a road, etc. As many of my readers will attest, I have shed that style for a much faster-paced, approach. I provide details when needed, but try and let the reader participate through their imagination. Seems to work, so far.
Other changes. Sam was originally “Justin” and Cormac did not exist. Angels appeared in book one (versus book three).
There was a “rapture” type moment at the end of book one, which was cool, but meant the rest of the series would take place in a dystopian world (like after the “snap” in Avengers). I didn’t want that to become the main story, so I shifted the narrative to a more personal conflict between Marcus and Thomas.
Thomas changed the most. At first, he was the typical snide, arrogant and evil villain. But that did not resonate with me as I developed his back story, so he morphed into a reluctant antagonist. Many have expressed he is their favorite character and for sure he deserves more short stories (and possibly a novella).
Sam incorporates characteristics of my daughter and is probably the easiest character to write (besides Marcus). Isabella is the hardest. I think she has the greatest opportunity to thrive in stand-alone prequels. And maybe even a sequel.
I will publish a novella called Insurrection in late February. It will be set around the Roman siege of Jerusalem in 70 CE.
Hammer of God is a full prequel and will launch in late spring. Set in the early 700s, it chronicles the rise of Charles Martel (aka Charles the Hammer) and may find some characters exploring the Viking homelands.
I do have plans for a sequel, but nothing concrete yet. That would be late 2023 or early 2024.
Lastly, I have several completely different series in development. One is more sci-fi, and the other is a supernatural thriller. No timeline set for either. I do have some short stories that I plan to publish that are not related to the trilogy, and those will be available free to members of the newsletter.