I have a treat for any fans of historical fiction… or indeed anyone who likes history, specifically Spartan or Greek. Or maybe you’ve watched the film 300… anyway, you may want to read ‘The Queen of Sparta‘ by T.S. Chaudhry.
The central tenet of the book poses the question “what if Gorgo,Queen of Sparta played a central role in the Greek resistance to the Persian invasion?”
We were lucky enough to have a Skype conversation with the author T.S. Chaudhry earlier this week, where we asked him more about his book and himself… enjoy!
Tell us a bit about your book ‘The Queen of Sparta’…
However, once the war is over, she faces new challenges from within Sparta.
She tries to save Sparta from itself only to find herself and her son in mortal danger. The only man who can help her is a man who once fought for the Persians against the Spartans. The story is told from the point of view of both these protagonists.
Many great figures from the ancient world make cameo appearances including Alexander the Great and the Athenian poet and playwright, Aeschylus. The story is not limited to Greece either, with sub-plots ranging from ancient Italy to the Indus, and across Eurasia to the edges of Scandinavia. This a story with other stories inside of it, trying to give the reader a taste of culture and politics in the ancient world.
Is it part of a series? Are you planning any more?
Yes. The second novel, currently being written, takes us back eleven or so years to the Battle of Marathon. It is called Fennel Field – a loose translation of the word “Marathon.” It follows the lives of six men and a woman who are caught up in events as they inexorably lead to that momentous battle. Some of the minor characters of The Queen of Sparta will play a more major role in Fennel Field, and vice versa. Two other novels are also planned but I cannot say any more about them at this point.
What inspired you to write the book?
The novel was inspired by the movie “300” in a sort of negative way. The movie was not only historically inaccurate, it was very one-sided, bordering on being racist. The historian Herodotus described how relatively small Greek forces defeated an invasion by two million Persians. However, there are wide gaps in his narrative which raise a lot of questions. Did it take place willy nilly or was there a method behind the madness that was the Greek resistance? I had read Herodotus when I was a teenager and while reading it, I felt I could create a number of scenarios that could explain the Greek victory without changing any of the essential facts, but the most compelling of these scenario was what if this resistance was orchestrated by a woman – by Queen Gorgo of Sparta. And certainly, reading through Herodotus, such a scenario can easily be created without actually changing history in the slightest. Herodotus, time and again, shows Gorgo as brighter than all the men around her and a visionary who could see what others could not. For me this was the very inspiration for this novel.
How did you go about doing the research for the historical contents of the book?
My research was divided in several components divided according to region and culture. The lion’s share of the research, for obvious reasons, was about Greece and, particularly, Sparta. I was fortunate to obtain the support and encouragement of the world’s foremost authorities on ancient Sparta, Professor Paul Cartledge of the University of Cambridge. He was kind enough to read the earlier drafts of the novel to make sure that the story was at least plausible from a strict historical point of view.
Another person who read the first drafts was Professor Barry Strauss of Cornell University another leading academic authority on ancient Greece. I had the privilege of being Professor Strauss’ student when I was an undergraduate. Both these eminent authorities were instrumental in pointing in the right direction in terms of both research and style. Apart from their guidance, I did not stray very far from our primary historical sources on ancient Greece: Herodotus, Thucydides, and to some extent Plutarch. However, the novel was not only about the Greeks; it was also about the Persians, Sakas/Scythians, Etruscans, Romans, Macedonians, and ancient Indians. I was lucky to have lived close to Taxila, an ancient city in Northern Pakistan which once inhabited by Greeks and Macedonians and the ruins offer some very interesting suggestions which were incorporated in the novel. I also travelled to various places to get first-hand information.
The chapter on Rome was actually written in Rome. The sections on the Etruscans were also written in their native Tuscany. Even the one on Byzantium was written in Istanbul and some of the descriptions were authentic ones from these locations.
Who do you think will enjoy reading the book?
The ones who will enjoy these most are those who like reading novels set in ancient Greece, especially fans of the works or Steven Pressfield, Helena P. Schrader, Nicholas Nicastro, and Christian Cameron. Bernard Cornwell readers will also like it as the novel is rich in battle action. The Queen of Sparta will also appeal to military history enthusiasts as well as those who like reading non-fiction about Ancient Greece. Finally, my hope is that fans of the “300” series movies would also read this book, even though the line taken by this novel is very different from that in the two movies.
When is your book available to purchase and from where?
The paperback version of the book will be on the market on 12 December 2014. It is currently available for pre-order on Amazon. It will be available in the UK at Waterstones, Blackwells, Foyles, and John Smith in the UK, and with Barnes and Nobles and other main retailers in the US.