Today I’m happy to feature an interview with debut novelist Lew McIntyre. Besides my usual desire to support indie writers, I was intrigued by the unique premise of this historical novel and had to know more.
ABOUT THE BOOK
The Eagle and the Dragon takes the reader on an epic journey of thousands of miles by sea and land across three continents. When Senator Aulus Aemilius Galba is tapped to lead the first Roman mission to China, he anticipates an easy path to fame and fortune. Gaius Lucullus sees a bright military future, but his reluctant centurion Antonius Aristides would rather be somewhere else. Translators Marcia Lucia and her brother Marcus were taken from their village in China to serve the Han court, abused and despised, hiding a horrible secret. A notorious Arab pirate, with a Roman price on his head and crucifixion in his future, shadows the entourage, seeking the wealthy prize of their treasure-laden ships. But Fate has other plans for these unlikely companions, sending them together on a journey that will take them thousands of miles by sea and land across the tapestry of the mysterious worlds at the close of the first century. From the storm-tossed Indian Ocean to the opulent Hanaean court, from the wild grassy steppes north of China to the forbidding peaks of the Pamir Mountains of Bactria, they fight for their lives, hoping to find the road that will lead them back to Rome.
What was your biggest inspiration for writing a work of historical fiction that hasn’t seen much representation?
My current work in progress actually began in 1995 while reading an historical book, The Ancient Mariners, by Lionel Casson, which described the Romans reaching the court of China around 166 AD. Apparently the emperors even knew each other’s names, indicating previous contact. This set my imagination ablaze when I learned from other sources that this definitely was not the first such expedition. I set out to write a short vignette on how two Roman soldiers, part of my fictional expedition in 100 AD, would find life in China so different in culture from their homeland. From that few pages was born The Eagle and the Dragon: A Novel of Rome and China. That same book, and others, gave me a grasp of the complex network of trading routes that spanned the Indian Ocean in that era, the sophisticated ships they built, and complex social, cultural and linguistic problems they would have to solve, and that kept the firing burning… basically at every step of the way, I had to ask myself, “Now what problems would I encounter doing that?” This was quickly followed by “Now how in the hell would I solve those problems with just first century tools at my disposal?” As I wrote this novel, it often seemed at times that I was taking dictation from my characters! It was a labor of love twenty years in the making. When I was finished, I read Rome and the Distant East: Trade Routes to the ancient lands of Arabia, India and China, by Raoul McLaughlin, which I read after I completed my work; he stated that the 166 AD mission was to seek the alliance of China with Rome against Parthia, modern day Iran and Iraq! This verified what I had hinted at was one far-fetched objective of my fictional mission, to determine if that could be a possibility, or if perhaps Rome should settle their differences with Parthia and ally with them against Han China! Continue reading