Writing Women in My Ancient History Novels

In Rhea Silvia, Maker of Kings, my current Work-in-Progress novel, I have expanded the role of Rhea Silvia, mother of Romulus and Remus the founders of Rome, so that she becomes the Kingmaker for Numa Pompilius, successor as King of Rome to Romulus.

In Hersilia, Queen of Rome, my current WiP novel, I expand the role of Hersilia, wife of Romulus, to be ruling partner and instigator of certain events reported during his reign.

In Redemption’s Choice, my completely fictional character Saphina becomes embroiled in a government coup in the ancient city of Caere and then an integral participant in the overthrow of Tarquinius Superbus, last king of Rome.

In Valeria’s Honor, my MC Valeria Publicola (quasi-historical) learns the meaning of Honor, and holds to integrity even while believing it costs her heart.

In Nisba’s Revenge, my fictional character, the woman Nisba, commits murder after murder while seeking to kill the one man she holds responsible for the loss of everyone and everything she held dear.

I write historical fiction set in the ancient world of Italy. Two novels are set in the time of Rome’s founding, c 750-720 BC. Two are set in the years Rome’s Republic was born, c 510-500 BC. One is set in the years Sardinia was lost to Carthage and became a Roman province. Three are set during Hannibal’s invasion of Italy after Cannae, c 218-211 BC.

In each of these the Main Character, the protagonist, is a Woman.

She may be mentioned in historical texts, she may be completely fictional.

She may not be strong when she first appears, but spurred by people and circumstances she discovers and embraces and acts with her inner emotional and intellectual (and yes physical) strength.

I don’t write female characters out of some feminist bent. I do absolutely fervently believe that women are too often underestimated, both by men and by themselves; that women are sadly and badly often underrepresented in politics, in business, in society (see earlier comment about women underestimating themselves).

I don’t write female characters to “even up” any score within fiction to-date.

I write female characters where I think a fictional history may benefit from their presence. I write female characters because they are a complex concoction of emotion and dispassion. I write female characters because they provide such a rich mirror of behavior and insight and intuition and action.

I write female characters because they are so much fun.

My name in Footnotes

I am a wordsmith. I respect the power of my words and the words of others. I strive for conciseness, sometimes failing, but I don’t mind terseness or verbosity in others. What I expect and demand from myself and others is that words are carefully presented.

I have and do write both fiction and non-fiction.  My historical fiction short story “The Speech of Hortensia was published in 2013. In 1994 I had a handful of short “science-fiction” stories published. Around 1999 I wrote at least two dozen articles on the history of ancient Egypt, for TourEgypt.net. That site still exists today as do the articles that I (and other contributors) wrote. My topics-carefully researched, with bibliography, while intended for a general readership- included an overview of the Early Pharaohs, Childbirth and Childhood, Tomb-robbers, Abu Simbel, and more. 

About fifteen or so years ago, as I embarked on a research project into the history of Sardinia, I came across an academic website where students and scholars and researchers can upload their work. A feature of that website is that one can receive notifications if one’s name appears in other articles. So I learned that a few of my Egypt articles have become footnotes in academic papers.

That makes me happy, albeit bemused. I hold no degree beyond a Baccalaureate. I always describe myself as an independent researcher. I have never participated in any archaeological or historical projects, never assisted any experts in the field. The history I write is always offered as a synthesis of the work of others, properly attributed thereto.

Just today, while crafting a brief bio for myself in preparation to submit my Sardinia history manuscript for publication, I came across more recent evidence of my work being a footnote. In a book about the culture of Ancient Egypt, published by Oxford University Press, one author of which is Eric Cline, whose name is familiar to me as a well-published scholar of the Near East and ancient Egypt, my name appears as footnotes in a chapter on Childhood.

This discovery fills me with some humility but pride at the same time. I am reminded that our words -casually meant or not- are liable to always echo round and round in the universe.

More specifically, I am energized to polish my Sardinia history manuscript. Who knows where my next footnote might appear!