Guest post and Goodreads giveaway! Innocence and Gold Dust by Frances Webb


After Eutropius' mother dies while giving birth to him, the newborn is raised by a shepherd and his wife. The shepherd castrates the baby to increase his worth and sells him into slavery, where Eutropius eventually becomes part of a young woman's dowry. He develops a close relationship with his new mistress, Sophie, until he is caught pandering and is released from service without financial support. Eutropius' struggle with his lack of social and sexual power translates into lust for political power and wealth. He is determined to overcome his outcast status and concocts devious schemes (switching brides on the Emperor and kidnapping a bishop) to reach a powerful position in society. However, as he works his way up, public outrage over such a high standing for a eunuch threatens to knock him back down again. With physical violence and verbal insults raging against him, is it possible for him to keep everything he has earned?

Guest post:

When I came across a story I absolutely had to tell—while doing research on another novel—I knew my writing life would go in a new direction. This story was about an historical character living in the Fourth Century CE, and my imagination had to fit facts—not something I had ever worried about. But there was no turning back. I was hooked on this story, and it would obviously be told as an historical novel.

Writing an historical novel is like taking the history course I never took. It’s like delving into matter I never dreamed I would be interested in, and it forced me to travel to parts of the world I never had any intention of going to… not Paris, not the Greek Islands, not Ireland, but a place called—back in the Fourth Century—Anatolia. A little research revealed Anatolia was today’s Turkey. Taking this on also required some intense study of early Christianity, which, although I grew up in Sunday School, was not of prime importance to me.

Two steps struck me as being an essential beginning. The first was to go to this Anatolia—in order to soak up the environment and drink in the Roman ruins, which I knew were sure to be there, and the second was to read “The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire”. This second step was a bit boring while the first had been fascinating, but I did do it, although I think much of what was in it was absorbed by osmosis only. That was only the beginning. I now have a library of well over fifty books, some read in their entirety and others in crucial snatches here and there.

My next step, of course, was to start writing, which was how I would find out what made these characters tick, not just the protagonist, a eunuch, but the emperors of the time, the people who raised him and the “non-factual” persona who had to be invented and incorporated into the existing story. I wrote until some factual information had to be incorporated, then stopped and researched. This alternating plan worked well until the very last sentence.

I won’t go into how many drafts this undertaking took, nor to the editing process, but will close by saying that, although Innocence and Gold Dust was published in 2010, it is now having a second life as an audio book. In a sense, it has had a reincarnation, at least for me. I am listening to a reader (an excellent one) whom I don’t know, pour his soul into words, sentences, scenes, which I created, characters whom I gave birth to and a story line, or plot which I designed. But, because of the time lapse and the medium, it is coming to my ears as though for the first time, and I find myself cheering someone on or wondering what will happen next. The experience for me is close to surreal.

Then again, accepting the fact that the writing of this was my original doing, when I hear a sentence that does not ring true, or hear a short sequence of events that don’t quite jibe, or a metaphor that clanks, I cringe. There is nothing I can do about it. The reader, blessedly is correcting for typos and obvious writing mishaps as he goes along, but he cannot do the editing that I should have done. To be fair to myself, these gaffs are few, but they are there. So, even though I have not included the editing process in this Blog, I end with a brief word of advice. One can never do too much of it.

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