The Austin Chronicle

What's Old Is New Again

By Kimberley Jones, August 25, 2010, 4:30pm, Under the Covers

It’s not a perfect fit – Eklektikos’ etymological roots, after all, are ancient Greek, while Austin author Steven Saylor’s bread and butter is the since-fallen Roman empire – but we suspect some common ground will be found when host John Aielli speaks with Saylor on-air in advance of a BookPeople event on Sept. 1.

Saylor, a hugely successful historical novelist who splits his time between Austin and Berkeley, will be promoting his followup to Roma, called Empire, which charts 1,000 bloody years of Roman history that should feel familiar but still fresh. I’ll let Saylor do the explaining:

“As much as this ground has been covered by fiction in the past, I think I manage to shed new light into some dark corners. Of course, readers get to see the burning of Rome and the slaughter of the Christians under Nero, the ash-cloud that fell on Rome after Vesuvius erupted, the spectacular opening games of the Colosseum — but  we also meet Sporus, the eunuch-wife of Nero, whose story has never been told in fiction (the boy was a ringer for Nero's dead wife, and Nero fell for him at first sight; eventually Sporus was castrated and led the rest of his life as a woman, making him one of history's first known transsexuals)...I reveal the ironic twist on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" found in Trajan's policy toward that despised minority, the Christians (yes, a gay emperor decided it was best to tolerate the troublesome, gods-hating Christians, and even allowed them to serve in the military, as long as they weren't too flagrant with their perversity—I couldn't make up this sort of thing)...and over the course of Empire's 600 pages there are many other surprises.”

Saylor will appear on Eklektikos on KUT-FM 90.5 on Wednesday, Sept. 1 (the show runs 9am-noon) and then at BookPeople (603 N. Lamar) at 7pm that night.

Empire: The Novel of Imperial Rome will be published by St. Martin's Press on Aug. 31. For more info about the book, check out Saylor's website here. And while you’re surfing, why not read an interesting personal essay, part of Publishers Weekly’s ongoing “Why I Write” series, here.

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