Author Name: Faith L. Justice
Book Name: Sword of the Gladiatrix
Release Date: May, 2015
Publisher: Raggedy Moon Books
Cover Artist: Todd Engle
Pages or Words: 260 pages, 75,000 words
From the far edges of the Empire, two women come to battle on the hot sands of the arena in Nero’s Rome.
They seek to replace lost friendship, love, and family in each other’s arms; but the Roman arena offers only two futures: the Gate of Life for the victors or the Gate of Death for the losers.
Categories: Fiction, Gay Fiction, Historical, Lesbian Romance, Action/Adventure
Today I’m very lucky to be interviewing Faith L. Justice, author of Sword of the Gladiatrix. Hi Faith, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself, your background, and your current book.
Thanks so much for having me here at Love Bytes. I’m a science geek and history junkie and have been all my life. I knocked around a bit and worked as a lifeguard, paralegal, systems analyst, human resources executive, and college professor before settling into full-time writing. I live in Brooklyn with my family and the required gaggle of cats. For fun, I like to dig in the dirt—my garden and various archaeological sites.
My current book is an action-adventure, lesbian romance set during Nero’s reign. A departure for me. I usually write novels based on real historical women—ones who should be in the history books but aren’t. Sword of the Gladiatrix features two fictional characters from the far ends of the Roman Empire: Afra, scout and beast master to the Queen of Kush; and Cinnia, warrior-bard and companion to Queen Boudica of the British Iceni. Both try to replace lost friendship and love in each other’s arms, but fate intervenes. Before they complete their journeys, I toss in a pair of trained hunting cheetahs, a nasty snake dancing bitch, a natural disaster or two, a neurotic emperor, and several gladiator fights.
Whenever I pitched Sword of the Gladiatrix as my “lesbian gladiator novel,” I encountered raised eyebrows and skeptical snorts. The first question everyone asked: “Were there really lesbian gladiators?” My answer: “Of course!” We know there were females fighting in arenas for a couple of centuries, although far fewer than men. Some had to be lesbian. What really surprised people was the fact of female gladiators. They rarely appear in popular culture. Despite the popularity of Xena Warrior Princess and the myths of the Amazons, they don’t come to mind in the media-soaked imaginings of brutal, bloody, gladiatorial games. Women warriors? Maybe. Women gladiators? No. Yet they are there in classical literature, art, grave markers, and archaeology. All you have to do is look.
How do you feel about e-books vs print books?
As a reader, I like both for different reasons. There is nothing quite like the smell of a good book with leather binding and the feel of heavy stock paper. However, few of us can afford those. Trade and mass paperback fill the gaps with intriguing covers, illustrations, and the ability to flip back and forth to indices or glossaries. E-books win hands-down for convenience. I can change the font size (great when reading and working out). I take mine when commuting and traveling which saves me considerable baggage weight. With the new platforms of tablets and phones they are more convenient than ever.
As a writer, I adore e-books. I can put out a quality product at an affordable price and many more readers will take a chance on a new or lesser known writer. Discoverability is hard in a world where over a million books are published every year. Being able to price your book at less than a latte allows readers to sample your wares with a negligible risk. Currently my sales are about 80% e-books, 20% paper, and a less than .01% audio. (I only have one book in audio, but plan to have them all up in the coming two years.)
What process did you go through to get your first book published?
A torturous one! Fifteen years ago, after researching the process, talking to other authors, and polishing my pitch, I set out to find an agent. Publishers made it clear they were uninterested in unagented material. I pitched Selene of Alexandria at conferences and sent queries to carefully researched prospects, but it was the personal recommendations of other writers who read my work and recommended me to agents that turned the tide. I acquired an experienced agent at a prestigious agency and sat back to write my second novel knowing my first was in good hands. Unfortunately, it wasn’t.
After three years of dodging my phone calls and emailed requests for progress, my agent admitted he had done little except follow-up with the smaller publishers I had already contacted. He wasn’t interested in doing more or taking on my second book, so we parted ways. Having already invested six years in the process with no return, I took a novel-writing break in favor of short stories and non-fiction.
Then self-publishing hit its stride. I edited and put out an anthology of SF/F/H stories to test the waters. Print on demand became reasonably priced and, when Amazon came out with the Kindle, I joined the boom. I had my first book professionally edited, the cover professionally designed, and put it out to see if I had any future in novels. Readers’ and reviewers’ responses were wonderful with a 4.2 average rating on Amazon and a 3.8 average rating on Goodreads. That gave me the confidence to continue writing novels.
How do you find or make time to write?
Writing is my job, so I treat it like one. I get up, feed the cats and myself, and am at my writing computer by 10 am. I write (new words only—no rewriting!) until 1. Not all new writing is on novels. I have short stories, reviews, blog posts, free-lance articles, etc. I’m trying to up my time on novel writing, however, because I have so many ideas. I also fiercely protect these three hours—no phones, no internet, no family. Afternoons are for miscellaneous publishing projects: rewriting, proofing, marketing, interior layout, and research. I try to knock off by six. Sometimes I write on the weekends if I’m on a roll, but with the nice weather, I spend more time gardening than in my office.
Name one person who you feel supported you outside of your family members?
I’m extremely lucky to have a whole group of people. Twenty-five years ago, we took a class on Science Fiction and Fantasy writing from Ellen Datlow and thirteen of us decided to form a writer’s workshop when the class ended. It took us a year to come up with a name—Circles in the Hair. Over the years a few dropped out and new members joined. They’ve read everything I’ve written, given critiques and encouragement, and I always praise them to the skies in my acknowledgements. We don’t meet in person as often—several have moved out of the city, but we still send our stuff out electronically for feedback. I can honestly say that I wouldn’t be here with CITH.
What are some story ideas you hope to tackle in the future?
I’ve started a sequel to Sword of the Gladiatrix which is titled Song of the Gladiatrix. I hope to finish the first draft this summer and get it out next year. I have several books set in the fifth century about the Theodosian women, a remarkable collection of females who ruled the Roman Empire during its twilight. The first Twilight Empress will be out this fall. I have the first draft of the Dawn Empress done and starting the rewrite process. The third is untitled and I have about a quarter of the first draft finished. There’s also a novella and a couple of short stories related to that era. I’d dearly love to get back to Selene—she’s been out there begging for a sequel or two, while I played with my gladiatrixes. There’s also a seventeenth century family saga I’d like to tackle and a collection of shorts based on my own families’ immigration to the colonies…so many books, so little time!
Thank you again for hosting me today. Many hours of great reading to you all.
He smells of sour sweat, as do I. I’ve already fought once today, tested fate, and won. The gold sand that Nero favors in the arena still crusts my hair and rasps the skin under my sweat-soaked breast band. I will go again before the ravenous crowds to satisfy their bloodlust. For what? An emperor’s whim? The crowd’s passing fancy? A sacrifice to their gods?
I swallow the bitter gall that surges into my mouth.
Across the room, another slave straps armor on Cinnia, my beloved. She looks at me with pride in her eyes and a brief smile on her lips. We said our goodbyes last night, clasped breast to breast, thigh to thigh, a stolen moment before being sent to our lonely cells. My heart beats an irregular rhythm.
My love. Light to my dark. Fire to my ice.
Cinnia is goddess-given to me; from a land of mists and forests, so different from my country of desert and blistering sun. Without her, I would be dead. Without me, so would she. We have suffered, struggled, lived, and loved. Now we go out upon the sands of the great arena to die. One by her lover’s hands, the other by her own.
It is not the life or death I chose for myself, but it is the one the gods gave me.
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FAITH L. JUSTICE writes award-winning novels, short stories, and articles in Brooklyn, New York. Her work has appeared in Salon.com, Writer’s Digest, The Copperfield Review, the Circles in the Hair anthology, and many more. She is a frequent contributor to Strange Horizons, Associate Editor for Space and Time Magazine, and co-founded a writer’s workshop many more years ago than she likes to admit. For fun, she digs in the dirt—her garden and various archaeological sites.
Author website: https://www.faithljustice.com
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