You’ve come by for a very exciting exclusive interview with Top Bestselling Author Ben Kane! You’ll be pleased you did; please share it with anyone else that might find it interesting! We’re talking about his Spartacus series, Roman culture and how it compares to today, his upcoming writing plans and so much more.
To read my review of Spartacus: Rebellion – his current release (and the second book in the series), click HERE!
Be sure to check out the GIVEAWAY of a hard copy of Spartacus: Rebellion and a paperback of the first book, Spartacus: Gladiator. Details at the end of the interview! Enjoy!
Ben Kane: Hello, Erin, and thank you for the warm welcome. I’m fine, although madly busy – I’ve got a virtual book tour running in the U.S. at the moment, clearly, and I’m trying to get back in the driving seat writing my current novel.
Erin Al-Mehairi: You do seem like a very busy writer! Have to keep those fans happy! ha! Let’s have a seat, grab some coffee or a drink of your choice, and get started!
Q: I know you spent several years abroad, after spending a previous few months along the ancient Silk Road, and this sparked your interest in Roman military pursuits. I am assuming this was your inspiration for all your books, but what specifically inspired you to write about Spartacus?
A: To be fair, I’ve been interested in Rome and all things Roman since my childhood, when I read the iconic children’s novel, The Eagle of the Ninth, by Rosemary Sutcliff. Anyone who hasn’t read that, please go and buy it now! Even after 58 years, it’s still a work of genius.
Q: What makes you so curious about ancient Roman practices? How much of their culture still holds with us today (internationally – I am in the US, you are in the UK – but they impacted many cultures)?
A: I’m not sure. There are lots of ancient civilisations out there – Egyptian, Greek, Persian, Chinese, Indian etc. but Rome has always fascinated me. Rome’s influence is still with us – more than most people even realise. From language – think ‘Capitol’, ‘Senators’, ‘decimation’ to government – ‘the Senate’ and the basis of so many laws, Rome is still with every day.
Q: What are the character traits of Spartacus you most like? Most despise? How challenging was it to develop his character for fiction? And how much of it is fact?
A: His leadership and charisma must have been incredible for so many men and women to have followed him. Those qualities I admire greatly. I don’t think I despise the man for his ruthlessness – he must have allowed many atrocities to be committed by his men – but then that’s how the Romans had treated him and his followers. He gave as good as he got, and I can’t blame him for that.
It was a challenge to develop his character, partly because of his fame, and partly because there have been two such iconic depictions of him – in Kubrick’s classic movie, and in the recent TV series, Blood and Sand.
Q: Did you feel a desire or need to be true to the on-screen movies or TV featuring Spartacus, or in the words of Fleetwood Mac, did you just “go your own way?” Why or why not? Do you feel you accomplished what you wanted?
A: Absolutely not! The depictions in both the film and the TV series use some of the knowledge that we have of Spartacus, but they also veer into the realm of fantasy. I had only seen the Kubrick film once as a boy, and I avoided watching Blood and Sand until I’d written both my books, specifically so that the Spartacus in my books was my Spartacus. I do think I accomplished that, yes.
Q: Besides spending time at various locations, which you can feel free to discuss as well, how did you conduct your research? Were there hard finds? What made it easy? What made it challenging?
A: Before becoming a writer, I would often visit archaeological sites and museums, just out of interest. Now it’s my job, I feel like a kid who’s been given the keys to the toy store. I went to Italy twice to research Spartacus’ campaign against Rome, and I visited an awful lot of the places he would have been or fought in. Despite the passage of time, and the lack of archaeological remains, I found the experience very moving. The worst part was standing on the Via Appia Antica, the original road that ran into Rome – and where some of the 6,000 crucifixes would have stood after the final battle.
Q: Why do you feel readers connect with your story so much? What thrills them about Spartacus?
A: Because Spartacus’ story connects with us all. It’s the story of a man wronged, who refused to lie down and be beaten. Despite devastating odds against him, he fought for himself and those he held dear, and he died for his cause. That’s a great story in anyone’s book.
Photo of statue of Spartacus, from: http://www.biography.com/people/spartacus-9489885
Q: What kinds of feedback do you get from readers about Spartacus?
A: Overwhelmingly positive, thankfully! I am especially proud when people tell me that they cried at the end of Rebellion. I did, when writing it, so I know I’ve hit the bull’s eye when readers do too.
Q: Working as a Veterinarian, but then turning your hobby into a writing career, which one do you feel has fulfilled you more? Obviously you are passionate about all you do.
A: Writing. Writing. Writing. It’s by far my greatest passion. By the time I gave up veterinary medicine, after 16 years, I’d had a bellyful of it. In the UK, it’s commonly regarded as one of the ‘best’ jobs, but it isn’t all it’s supposed to be, I can tell you. The animals are great, but running a small business with high running costs and high staff turnover is like trying to push mud up a hill.
Q: Do you still consider history to be your biggest hobby? What other time periods and places do you want to discover or do you take an interest in?
A: Yes, I do, very much so. I have lots of interest in many other times, from the Middle Ages right up to the modern day. After I finish the novel I’m currently writing, I am going to start on a new series set during the Hundred Years’ War between England and France. That book will be called Crécy.
Q: You’ve had busy careers, and have a growing family, how do you find time for writing?
A: I have not worked as a veterinarian for more than 4 years now. However, I have even less time to write now that I am very successful. Between writing, replying to fan emails, participating in social media and doing events, I hardly know where I am a lot of the time!
Q: I noticed you are participating in a Romani Walk! Can you tell us a little about what that is, what it’s raising money for, and how you are involved? I noticed you’re even wearing authentic type Roman clothing! Very cool!
A: Around Christmas last year, I decided to walk the length of Hadrian’s Wall in full Roman military kit, including hobnailed boots. I wanted to get fitter, to get a couple of friends to come, and to raise money for charity. Anthony Riches and Russell Whitfield were crazy enough to agree, and the idea became reality. I decided to raise money for two charities: Combat Stress, which helps veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Medecins sans Frontieres (Doctors without Borders) which sends medical staff into conflict zones or areas of natural disaster all over the world.
The walk itself was amazing; we had good weather for nearly all of the 74 miles, which was very lucky; we met so many amazing people, and by the end of it (and three months fund-raising), we had raised nearly £16,000 / $25,000 – not a bad amount of money. Roll on the Romani Walk 2014!
Q: You have such a humanitarian spirit yourself. Do you feel that with all the horrors of combat and military expedition in ancient history that there ever was any humanitarian effort made on the part of anyone? Or do you feel that it something that has grown, so to speak, on current humanity?
A: The latter. I think that 2,000 years ago, life was short, sharp and brutal. There may have been individuals who tried to help others, but it wasn’t done on an organized basis. Legionary veterans, for example, may have received land and a sum of money after their time, but I doubt very much whether crippled veterans who had to leave the army early received a thing.
Q: What writers helped mentor or inspired your writing? How have you tried to perfect your craft?
A: Rosemary Sutcliff (see above). Michael Scott Rohan, sadly little-known author of the fantasy trilogy The Winter of the World. David Gemmell. Guy Gavriel Kay. J.R.R. Tolkien.
Q: When you became a Top Ten Bestselling Author, how did the outlook change for you in regards to your writing? What does that feeling “FEEL” like and do you feel more or less pressure to produce?
A: It was one of the most amazing days of my life when it first happened. Euphoric! The outlook for my writing suddenly improved vastly. I have been able to command much larger advances as a result, which has made a huge financial difference to my life and that of my young family. I feel more pressure to produce now, but that’s OK, because it goes with the territory.
Q: What have been your biggest challenges and as well, your biggest successes?
A: Challenge: having to re-write 25% of my second novel, twice! (I had a very tough editor.) Success: writing both Spartacus novels in 12 months flat.
Q: What types of books do you like to read yourself? Do you have any recommendations for your readers?
A: I still adore historical fiction, although I do read some contemporary fiction as well. One of my favorite writers around at the moment is Christian Cameron – who writes amazing stories set in ancient Greece. For Roman fans, check out the little-known novel The Boat of Fate by Keith Roberts. (And ignore the cover – it’s an awesome read!)
Q: Will there be more to the Spartacus series and/or what else do you have planned for the future in regards to writing?
A: There may be another Spartacus book in a few years – about his boyhood and early adulthood. At the moment, I am writing the third in a series about Hannibal and the Second Punic War, the first of which comes out Stateside next year. Next, as I mentioned, I will write Crécy. There are plenty more ideas in my head too!
Q: Any upcoming travels in mind for you now? Where and why?
A: Not for a while. I spent a week in Sicily in March, researching for my current work in progress, Hannibal: Clouds of War, so that will have to do me for the moment.
Q: Where can readers connect with you?
Erin: Thank you so much, Ben, for stopping by my site. I am honored to have been able to discuss your life and books with you. You’ve had much success, but I wish you much more.
Ben: Thank you, Erin, for chatting with me, and for your good wishes. I hope to visit you again!
The giveaway is for one hardcover copy of Spartacus: Rebellion AND one paperback of Spartacus the Gladiator. Open to US and Canada ONLY. Please leave your name and email with a comments in the comment section below, or on one of my Facebook links to the post. Or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Check out www.facebook.com/HookofaBook and “like” it for an +2 extra entry and/or follow this blog for another +1 entry. Please enter by 11:59 p.m. EST 2 weeks from the date of this post.
Spartacus: Rebellion Synopsis~
Spartacus has already done the impossible—not only has he escaped from slavery, he and his seconds have created a mighty slave army that has challenged Rome and defeated the armies of three praetors, two consuls, and one proconsul. On the plain of the River Po, in modern Northern Italy, Spartacus has defeated Gaius Cassius Longinus, proconsul and general of an army of two legions. Now the road home lies before them—to Thrace for Spartacus, and to Gaul for his seconds-in-command, Castus and Gannicus.
But storm clouds are gathering on the horizon. One of Spartacus’s most powerful generals has defected, taking his men with him. Back in Rome, the immensely rich Marcus Licinius Crassus is gathering an unheard-of Army. The Senate has given Crassus an army made up of ten legions and the authority to do whatever it takes to end the slave rebellion once and for all.
Meanwhile, Spartacus wants to lead his men over the Alps and home, but his two seconds have a different plan. They want to march on Rome itself and bring the Republic to its knees. Rebellion has become war. War to the death.
Author Ben Kane, Biography~
Ben Kane was born in Kenya and raised there and in Ireland. He qualified as a veterinary surgeon from University College Dublin, and worked in Ireland and the UK for several years. After that he travelled the world extensively, indulging his passion for seeing the world and learning more about ancient history. Seven continents and more than 65 countries later, he decided to settle down, for a while at least.
While working in Northumberland in 2001/2, his love of ancient history was fuelled by visits to Hadrian’s Wall. He naïvely decided to write bestselling Roman novels, a plan which came to fruition after several years of working full time at two jobs – being a vet and writing. Retrospectively, this was an unsurprising development, because since his childhood, Ben has been fascinated by Rome, and particularly, its armies. He now lives in North Somerset with his wife and family, where he has sensibly given up veterinary medicine to write full time.
To find out more about Ben and his books visit www.benkane.net.
Link to Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/spartacusrebellionvirtualtour/
Twitter Hashtag: #SpartacusRebellionTour