Interview with Nick Brown

UNRV Hello Nick, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got interested in Roman history?
Nick Brown : Hi, I’m a teacher by trade. I taught history and English for a decade before becoming a full-time writer. My degree is actually in modern history and it was only when I began to consider writing historical fiction that I focused on the Romans. I knew very little about the era and had to educate myself quickly – largely through reading a hell of a lot of textbooks.

UNRV When did you first have the idea of your main character "Cassius Corbulo", and base a novel around him? And why did you choose the 3rd century AD?
Nick Brown : I knew I didn’t want a sword-swinging ‘hard man’; and in the case of ‘The Siege’ the whole point of the story is how the young intelligence officer uses brains rather than brawn to organize the garrison. I discovered the research about the frumentarii/’grain men’ quite early on and realized that the plot possibilities for a Roman ‘agent’ were huge. So far Cassius and co. have hunted missing artefacts, solved murders and - in the next book - take on a counterfeiting gang. I chose the third century mainly because it seemed like an eventful and compelling period; and I narrowed the focus to the era of Aurelian because he was such an influential leader.

UNRV: What aspect of the Roman period do you like best/worst?
Nick Brown: : It might be the same thing: the great inequalities in terms of wealth, power and status. They often seem alien but they provide great dramatic opportunities.

UNRV: Who is the most underrated person from Antiquity and why?
Nick Brown: Queen Zenobia of Palmyra might be one. She virtually toppled the eastern Empire but is far less well known than Cleopatra or Boudicca.

UNRV: If you could meet one person of the Roman Empire, who would it be and what would you ask?
Nick Brown: It would probably have to be Aurelian. Having studied the period of his rule so closely, it would be fascinating to ask him about all the different main events: taking on all the usurpers, his religious beliefs, the currency issues and his rebuilding of the capital’s walls.

UNRV: If you had to live in Antiquity where and when would you like it to have been?
Nick Brown:I’m not religious but to have been in Roman Palestine during the time of Christ would have been incredible – just to know what really happened!

UNRV: What lost Classical work would you like to have survived and why?
Nick Brown: The remainder of Pliny the Elder’s works – his historical, biographical and military texts. Not just for the historical value but some of the inevitable exaggerations and inventions he would have thrown in.

UNRV: What aspect of Roman history would you like to flush out with the Cloaca Maxima (i.e. get rid of)?
Nick Brown: Nothing; I think you have to take the rough with the smooth. (Actually, in my latest book it’s the heroes themselves who get flushed into the sewers.)

UNRV: What do you think is the most important aspect of Antiquity that has survived?
Nick Brown: Very tough question. Perhaps the images of fellow humans we have; whether it be Trajan’s column, portraits of Egyptian women or gladiators etched on pots – we can learn so much. .

UNRV: When you open your fridge we would be surprised to see...?
Nick Brown: … quite a bit of vodka. My wife’s Polish!

UNRV: The title of your biography would be....?
Nick Brown: ‘Fair Enough’ – my favourite phrase.

UNRV: We have a section on our forum called Quintus Libri..., where we list 5 key books on certain topics. Any topic you would like to share with us?
Nick Brown: Well, sure. How about the topic of "Daily Life in Ancient Rome? ? See my post on the forum!

UNRV: What are your plans for the future?
Nick Brown: I’m currently working on book six in the ‘Agent of Rome’ series and I’d like to do a few more. I also enjoy writing sci-fi so watch this space.

UNRV:: Thank you so much for your time!
Nick Brown: You’re welcome. This has been fun.

Nick Brown is the British author of the Agent of Rome series. Nick was born in Norwich in 1974. A keen reader from a young age, he graduated from Enid Blyton to Douglas Hill and JRR Tolkien, and from there to Ian Fleming, Tom Clancy and Michael Crichton. After three years studying in Brighton, he travelled to Nepal where he worked at an orphanage and trekked to Mount Everest. After qualifying as a history teacher in 2000, he worked for five years in England before taking up a post at an international school in Warsaw.

The fourth in the Agent of Rome series, The Black Stone, was released last summer. Hodder & Stoughton will publish two more in the series between 2015 and 2016. Also available are the ebook short stories Death This Day, The Eleventh Hour and The Flames of Cyzicus.

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