Fall is almost over, but we've got one more new Choices book for you! A Courtesan of Rome makes its debut on November 14th, and we couldn't be more excited for our second work of historical fiction. This time around, you'll fight for vengeance, seek out love, and navigate the treacherous waters of the political scene in Ancient Rome. Before all that, let's check in with the writers...
Set the stage for us. What's the story of A Courtesan of Rome?
JBH: In ancient Rome, courtesans occupied a really unique place in society -- as the only women allowed in many men-only spaces, they were educated, politically active, and influential in a way that wasn't possible for most women at the time. "A Courtesan of Rome" begins as you make your debut as a courtesan during one of the most dangerous and difficult times in history, the rise of Julius Caesar and the beginning of the fall of the Roman Republic.
A daughter of a former chieftain of Gaul, you were captured by Caesar's forces years ago. Now that you've risen to move as an equal among the senators and elite of Rome, you must seek your vengeance on the men who massacred your tribe, search for your scattered family, and perhaps find unexpected love in a city where everyone is an enemy.
A Courtesan of Rome is a step back in history for Choices. What do you think sets A Courtesan of Rome apart from other Choices books? What kind of story are you trying to tell?
JBH: A Courtesan of Rome is a romantic historical epic. While romance is a huge part of the storyline, it takes place on a backdrop of dramatic historical events, giving you a chance to take part in gladiatorial blood sports, religious mystery cults, brutal battles, and Machiavellian political maneuverings... and even shape history in unexpected ways.
I think what really sets "A Courtesan of Rome" apart is the epic scope. The fall of the Roman Republic is one of the most consequential times in all of European history, and the people involved are household names more than two thousand years later! Giving players a window into what it must have been like living in Rome at that time -- and a chance to shape that history in large and small ways -- is extremely gratifying to me as a historical fiction buff.
Jake: In this book, it's not always cut and dried who your friends and enemies are, and we really let you pull the strings in all this political intrigue if you play your cards right. Also, we get to write gladiator fights, and it's sweet. There's something in this book for everyone!
As with any historical book, lots of research is a must! How did you go about tackling research and brainstorming?
JBH: I've had a long-standing interest in Rome (ever since high school Latin club!), so getting to write this book was a dream come true for me. There were definitely a few different historical fiction epics that were big influences on this story, including Manda Scott's "Boudica" series and Kate Quinn's "Mistresses of Rome" series (both set a little later in the Empire), and Robert Harris's absolutely amazing Cicero trilogy which covers this exact time period from the point of view of Caesar's enemy Cicero.
The more moment-to-moment research was sometimes difficult because there is just so much information to sift through. What we think of as "Rome," lasted for over a thousand years, and included an early kingdom, the Republican period we're set in, and many hundreds of years of Empire after. So, it's not always easy to find exactly the information you want!
This means I should probably put the standard historical novelist disclaimer here: While we tried to stick to the broad outline of the important events that happened at this time, the needs of the story always took precedence. So, if there was ever a question of "this character was really married at this time, but we think he would be a really great love interest..." -- we have consistently chosen what will be the most fun for our players, even if that means occasionally playing fast and loose with some historical facts.
Who are you rooting for in this book? Who's your fave character?
JBH: Haha, as a writer, I'm always rooting for my characters to suffer as much as possible, and for players to walk away from a chapter desperate to know how they can possibly survive! My favorite character to write for this book was definitely Marc Antony, who is a really fun combination of puppet master and rule-breaking anarchist. He and the main character start as enemies, but when sparks fly between them, players will have to decide whether or not they want to risk using that sexual tension to manipulate Antony.
Jake: My favorite character to write is probably Sabina. Her character arc throughout the book was really special to me. I feel really lucky to be able to address some more serious topics with her. I hope our fans connect to her struggles and her character.
The people must know. Will we get to date any historical figures?
Jake: There might be one or two, though they're a lot hotter in A Courtesan of Rome than their statues are.
JBH: I guess I just gave that away in the last question! Yes, both Marc Antony and Cassius Longinus (who eventually masterminds the conspiracy to assassinate Caesar) are love interests in the book.
And lastly, any final words for our players about to play A Courtesan of Rome tomorrow?
Jake: Those who are about to read, we salute you.
Check your Choices game tomorrow for A Courtesan of Rome! Winter's nearly here, and that means more of Choices -- you'll need your skills, your wits, and the right people for the job in our next Choices book! We hope you're loving The Elementalists, It Lives Beneath, High School Story: Class Act, and more. Thanks so much for playing!