Interview with Philip Matyszak on The Servant of Aphrodite

Interview by Thomas A. Timmes

Thomas A. Timmes for UNRV: Today we have the distinct pleasure to interview noted author and historian Philip M. Matyszak about his latest book A Servant of Aphrodite.

UNRV: By all accounts your first novel The Gold of Tolosa, published Sep 2013, and its protagonist, Lucius Panderius, was very well received. Since then youíve published, at least, four books, but we havenít heard a peep from Lucius. That is until 2015 when Lucius reappears in The Servant of Aphrodite. Will readers have to wait another two years for another book starring Lucius?
Philip M. Matyszak aka Maty: Yep, 2017 is the next scheduled novel Ė provisionally entitled 'The Blood-Red Sunset'. That's where I take a leaf from your book, and send Lucius to war for a final reckoning against the Cimbri. Each novel takes a heck of researching, planning and re-re-writing, which partly explains the time-span. I'm also doing a two-book history of Sparta between now and the end of 2017 as well as a more general history of ancient Greece, so the plan is for two books a year over the next two years, with the last of these the third in the Panderius series.

UNRV: The Servant of Aphrodite has more twist and unexpected turns than Lombard Street in San Francisco. Do you draw your inspiration for suspense from other authors or does it come naturally to you?
Maty: Well, maybe not naturally. While writing a chapter I spend a lot of time pondering it, and trying various 'what if' scenarios. If I come up with a twist that particularly appeals to me, I put that in. Often this involves re-writing a chunk of what has gone before, which is one reason why the novels take so long.

UNRV: Readers of The Servant of Aphrodite will enjoy the unique feeling of actually walking the ancient streets and back alleys of Rome with Lucius as their tour guide. Having written Ancient Rome on 5 Denarii a Day, you must be intimately acquainted with the busy streets and ancient buildings of Rome. Did you acquire this familiarity by actually pounding the pavement?
Maty: Definitely. If you have to pound pavements, I heartily recommend those of Rome. I speak enough Italian to get by, and the corner shops, boutiques, and coffee shops make the research a pleasure. (Cafe ristretto, anyone?) However, there's also a bookcase of archaeological journals and books such as Platner's superb guide to help. Panderius' brothel, by the way, is now a large government building.

UNRV: Lucius is not only an exceptionally able soldier, but also an incredibly clever businessman. Surprisingly, he is also a world-class chef. Can we assume that you also know your way around a kitchen?
Maty: Cooking is one of my few interests apart from ancient history, and I love to combine the two. Several of the recipes in the book were taste-tested by myself, including the home-made mustard sauce though with fennel standing in for the now-extinct silphium.

UNRV: History claims that Gaius Marius supposedly died of a fever and not as predicted by his soothsayer and Priestess Momina. Is there more to this?
Maty: There is. Since Momina was laying the groundwork of a Panderius novel several installments hence, we shall leave it at that for now!

UNRV: Okay, I have to know the answer to this question. Where did Lucius stash the gold he stole from Tolosa?
Maty: The Gold is mostly gone. It has become a large number of property investments, scattered around the Roman world under a variety of aliases and fake business names. There's a housing development in Ephesus, for example and several latifundia in southern Italy. Also several vineyards (naturally) and olive groves in Africa. More has been transmuted into precious stones for easily converted portable assets. Much of the rest is now pepper. (Yes, pepper. In Panderius' day one ounce of pepper was worth a pound of gold.)

UNRV: Thank you Maty for entertaining these questions, and best of luck with The Servant of Aphrodite, which is destined to please many readers.
Maty: Thank you

Thomas A. Timmes is the author of the Legio XVII series. Tom earned military and civilian awards including the Medal for Exceptional Civilian Service, the Defense Superior Service Medal, Combat Infantrymanís Badge, holds a Masterís Degree in History, and is a member of the National History Honor Society. His newest book, Legio XVII: The Eagle Strikes, is due out this spring.

Philip Matyszak is a British non-fiction author, primarily of historical works relating to ancient Rome and Greece. Matyszak has a doctorate in Roman history from St John's College, Oxford. In addition to being a professional author, he also teaches ancient history for Madingley Hall Institute of Continuing Education, Cambridge University.

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