Friday, June 7, 2013

Interview with Ben Kane, Author of Spartacus: Rebellion

As part of the Spartacus: Rebellion Virtual Book Tour, I interviewed author Ben Kane about the second book in his epic series.

Q: Ben, welcome back to Fresh-scraped Vellum! Last June, you were kind enough to give me an interview on your first book in the series, Spartacus: The Gladiator. Had you already finished Spartacus: Rebellion by the time the first book was published?

Hello, and thank you for having me! To answer your question, not quite – I finished Rebellion about a month after the first book came out in the UK. (So I had finished it before it came out Stateside, yes.)

Q: Spartacus is faced with some hard choices in this book. Now that you’ve finished Spartacus: Rebellion, what is your view of Spartacus as a man and a leader?

I have even more admiration for him than I did previously. He freed himself from slavery, forged an army from what were effectively civilians, and then beat the Romans up and down Italy for two years. He led the largest slave rebellion in history, and could have escaped if he’d wanted to. Ultimately, his story is a tragic one, which makes me like it even more.

Q: How fun was it to turn historical giants like Marcus Licinius Crassus and Gaius Julius Caesar into characters in this novel?

A bit intimidating, as it always is. I do prefer writing the parts of lesser, fictional characters, partly because no one can criticize them. Having said that, here I am having written about Spartacus from his point of view! However, both men had featured in my first novel, The Forgotten Legion, so I had an already formed opinion about them both.

Q: Crassus, who takes the lead in attempting to defeat Spartacus and his rebellion, is one of the more significant figures in Roman history. Did your view of Crassus change or become more defined while researching and writing this novel?

Yes, I grew to respect him more than I had when I wrote my first book (it’s not giving away too much to let readers know that he died in that novel, partly because of his poorly executed campaign into Parthia). To defeat Spartacus, he had to have been a resourceful and determined leader, with good tactical ability.

Q: One of my favorite scenes in the novel involved Spartacus and Carbo sneaking into Rome in an attempt to kill Crassus. What inspired that scene?

It was the middle of the novel, and I was dreading the end, which we all know about. I wanted to imagine a possibility, however slender, that Spartacus might have assassinated Crassus – and what might have happened then?

Q: The characters of Gannicus and Castus play fairly big roles as antagonists among Spartacus’ army. Were they real historical figures, and if so, what has been written about them in historical sources?

Yes, they were both real men, as was Oenomaus, who was in the first Spartacus book. In fact they are the only four names that we know of the original gladiators who escaped the ludus in Capua. There are only a few references to them – bear in mind that only 4,000 words survive about Spartacus ― and I’ve used just about everything that we know. They broke out with Spartacus, but they broke away near the end of the rebellion, and were killed with all their men. I made up the antagonism between them and Spartacus, because it seemed natural, and was a good way of increasing the plot tension.

Q: How significant do you believe Spartacus and his rebellion ultimately were to Roman history?

Very. He and his men were still being remembered hundreds of years later. Mark Antony was branded a new Spartacus when he threatened the Republic with his armies. Slaves were regarded with more suspicion after the rebellion, and politicians took to using gladiators as their muscle. There was even one instance of gladiators being used to train legionaries.

Thanks, Ben, for the interview, and best of luck with the new book!

And for those who missed yesterday's post, you can read my review of Spartacus: Rebellion here.

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