Robert Colton is the author of a mystery series set in Pompeii; here is a link to his website:
Q: What made you interested in doing a mystery series set in Pompeii?
A: I had studied Pompeii and was amazed by the vast amount of information that was known about the last few generations who lived there. Thanks to a strong box that survived the destruction caused by Mt. Vesuvius, decades of important documents were found that provided a wealth of knowledge on who lived in the city and how they conducted their business. What remains of Pompeii is much like a time machine offering a glimpse of the past. The setting seemed ripe for mystery.
Q: What makes the characters in the book series worth reading about?
A: They are varied and unique. Some are fragile on the surface with surprising depths of personal strength, others suffer from their own lack of understanding themselves. My characters are colorful and complex, I start with an obvious cliché and then break them down into people who seem very real.
Q: What is the most challenging thing about writing a mystery story?
A: The most challenging thing is also the most fun, placing the answer to the mystery in plain sight and then misdirecting the reader for a few hundred pages. When the murder is announced, I want my reader to nod their head and think, I should have seen that coming.
Q: Who are some of your writing influences?
A: Robert Graves, his novel I, Claudius started me on a lifelong love of Ancient Rome. Steven Saylor, his mysteries set in Rome are well thought out and highly entertaining. Daphne du Maurier, her novel Rebecca is my favorite book. She tells the slow, winding and suspenseful tale from the point of view of a character who matures and grows right before your eyes.
Q: What kind of day job do you have and what does it entail?
A: I am the Director of Operation for a non-profit organization. I am a bit of a General Factotum seeing that the day to day operations seamlessly happens with an almost invisible touch. I plan events, schedule staff and oversee venders. The job lacks glamor, but I am good with making things happen on time and just the way people envision it.
Q: How does it affect your ability to write?
A: Sometimes I can’t switch gears from work to writing if I have a project or a big event going on, other times I need to leave work at the office and jump straight into my latest manuscript to get away. I can’t quite determine the trigger.
Q: What kind of research did you do for your book?
A: Lots of reading. I have just about every book published on the subject of Pompeii. The most important thing was to make my own map of the city. Most historical fictions are about famous people, and readers already know things about them that they expect to be mentioned. The subject of Pompeii is different, it is about the houses, temples and civic buildings. I have had countless people contact me and tell me that reading the book reminded them of their trip to the city and that my descriptions were like being there again. That has made me really happy.
Q: What have you done to promote your book?
A: I put my first eBook out for free early on, just to get it out there. I tried a few different services that advertised books and then found some pages on Facebook where people gathered to talk about historical fiction. Recently I have done some Facebook ads and started working with a publicist. I am still waiting to dunce onto the magic marketing tool to make me a household name –but I’m not holding my breath.
Q: What made you want to be a write?
A: It was never a choice. I wrote stories as a kid, they weren’t very good, but I have always been writing something. I have an overactive imagination, plot lines are always running through my head. I have to get some of them out on paper just to make room for more thoughts!
Q: If you could visit ancient Pompeii, what would you do first?
A: The same thing I did when I visited modern day Pompeii. I went straight to the home where I placed my main characters. I had looked at a number of photos of the crumbling house, but walking up to it and placing my hand against the 2000 year old brick wall was an incredible feeling. I would love to be able to see what it was really like before Vesuvius transformed Pompeii from a living breathing city into a place of legend and mystery.
Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)