Thursday, April 14, 2011

So, My Next Book Will Be…

Yes, it’s official. I’ve come to terms with my publisher, Doubleday and Anchor Books, for a new book contract. I sold them on a proposal that - for one book, at least - returns me to straight historical fiction in the vein of Pride of Carthage. It seems I can’t help but be drawn to writing about enemies of Rome. In this case, my subject will be the slave rebellion lead by the gladiator Spartacus.

You might ask, “Spartacus: The Novel? Really?”

To which I’d say, “Yep.”

Honestly, I’d be interested in writing about this event for a long time. As with any terrific subject, writers and filmmakers have touched on the Spartacus story in various ways over the years. I hope to give my own spin on it, one that uses the full potential of a novel to capture both the large-scale drama of it and also create intimate fictional portraits that bring it to life. I’m itching to get back into the gritty, brutal, beautiful terrain on ancient Italia. I sense a long research trip coming up…

It’s early days yet and the actual writing is yet to be done, but here’s a bit of what I wrote in my proposal…

“Spartacus. You know the name, but how much do you really know about his rebellion? It’s great stuff, ripe two thousand years after the fact for a grand retelling. Spartacus was a gladiator that led a slave uprising that shook Rome between 73-71 BCE. He escaped his brutal imprisonment with a small band armed only with kitchen knives and simple weapons. Within a year, tens of thousands had broken their chains and joined him. For three years he ranged up and down the Italian peninsula, defeating every army Rome threw at him, winning allies and followers all the way. He was eventually defeated, but the reasons why have more to do with insurmountable odds and with the follies of others than with any mistakes on Spartacus’ part. There’s a reason his name and story has lived on. His is a terrific tale, and I’d like to tell it for our times.

Like
Pride of Carthage, my Spartacus novel will be an epic about an inspired enemy of Rome, told through a variety of points of view that capture the complexity of the entire conflict. Like Hannibal, Spartacus commanded with panache and deadly skill, drawing a vast host of followers and racking up victory after victory in the process. And, like Hannibal, his actual exploits may be best brought to life with a rigorous historical novel, one that combines the amazing but incomplete historical record with a novelist’s embellishment.

Spartacus’ story has three components that convince me to embark on this journey. 1) A larger than life, mythic persona that’s rooted in a real life, personal story. 2) Panoramic battles that pit charismatic underdogs against a vastly powerful oppressor, complete with twists and turns of fate that match every inspired victory with hair-pulling betrayals to balance them. 3) A foundation in social, economic, political issues that continues to have resonance and relevance two millennia later.

Various groups have mythologized Spartacus in various ways over the years, but none of them have done it like I would. What I love about his story is how tangible the tension is between his personal objectives and the larger drama that his inspired actions put him at the center of. The inner conflict is evidenced in the historical record. On one hand he wanted nothing more than to flee the nightmare of gladiatorial slavery and return to his rugged, Thracian homeland (Bulgaria). On the other hand, he couldn’t escape the effects of his brilliant leadership. His oratory skills and personal charisma made him a magnet that drew thousands upon thousands to him, all of them looking for freedom, for justice, and for revenge...”


So that, friends, is a big part of what I’m going to be working on the coming year. Just between us, though, it’s not the only thing. I’ve got more than one thing cooking these days, and that has me very excited. I’ll report on more when I can...

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7 Comments:

Blogger Kate Elliott said...

Congrats. That's a very exciting project.

Also, your proposal is excellent -- that's difficult to do well.

2:55 AM  
Blogger A. Hartman Adams said...

This is a great choice for you, David. Gibbon's novel was among your first recommendations for must-reads for me, and I can't wait to see your take on it! Congratulations!

7:03 AM  
Anonymous Shawn Crawford said...

David,
Cool news! I really look forward to reading this--as well as the new Acacia novel.

Shawn

3:21 PM  
Blogger David Anthony Durham said...

Kate, Allison, Shawn,

Thanks so much. The sale happened quite quickly, really. I'm sort of still catching up with the sudden green light!

11:38 AM  
Blogger Mary Robinette Kowal said...

Congratulations! I look forward to reading it.

12:32 PM  
Blogger David Anthony Durham said...

Thanks, Mary! I look forward to writing it!

8:18 AM  
Blogger Kat Howard said...

That sounds wonderful! I look forward to reading it. Also, please someday do a tutorial on how to write a kick as proposal. That one was great.

5:47 PM  

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