Heather Domin, author of The Soldier of Raetia
Please tell readers about yourself and your background.
My name is Heather Domin – I'm a writer, reader, and fan girl who prefers the more all-inclusive "nerd". I'm 33 years old, and I live in Florida with my husband and two cats. I have a degree in History that I used to fill my bookshelves and a minor in German that I use to sing along with Wir Sind Helden lyrics. I was an introverted kid who started reading at two and wrote my first story at five; I didn't do much except those two things until I found the internet at 19, at which point I realized there were other nerds like me out there who might want to read some of this stuff. Imagine my surprise when they did. Nowadays I hang out at LiveJournal and review books for the Historical Novel Society, but writing will always own the top spot in my nerd heart.
The Soldier of Raetia is your most recent release. Please tell us about the story.
The Soldier of Raetia is the story of a young Roman named Dardanus who applies for military sponsorship with a legion general named Valerian. Dardanus has a lot to learn about what it means to be a soldier, and at first glance, Valerian seems to be the least willing candidate to teach him. But a bond forms between them that neither could have imagined, and as the legion moves out to the northern frontier, battles and betrayals will prove just how deeply Dardanus and Valerian have changed each other's lives – and hearts – forever.
This book was a labor of love in every way: it was my first novel-length piece, my first foray into the world of Serious Authors, and my first time writing under my real name. It took six years to finish, mostly because I kept stopping to do stuff like travel and get married; it became my security blanket, and when the time came it was just as hard to let go of. It's not an easy novel to categorize, which has hindered its readership, but those who take to it tend to do so pretty strongly. I love my story, and if someone else does too, that's my highest goal as a writer.
What are greatest strengths and weaknesses of the character Valerian?
His loyalty is definitely his greatest strength. He would do anything for the men who serve under him, and they know it. For him it's not about politics or rhetoric – it's about protecting the innocent and making wrong things right. He's no softie, though; mess with his legion and he will end you without batting an eye. Stubbornness is his biggest weakness – it's cliché, I know, but it's a good cliché. He's buried his emotions for so long that he's forgotten how to feel his own desires; he has these definitions of what's appropriate and what's not, and he refuses to let go of his death grip on them. His sense of honor is his blessing and his curse.
How would you like readers to view the character of Dardanus?
I want them to root for him, and I want them to like him. I guess I have the second one covered, as a reviewer said once that he's "too likeable" and is therefore a Gary Stu. I don't think he's perfect – he's naïve, he's maudlin, and he's too easily shaken until the legion hardens him up and helps him find the man inside. He's all emotion where Valerian is all logic. He's a kid at the crossroads – he's had one dream his whole life, and now that he's got it, it's not what he thought it would be; but maybe, just maybe, it might be something a thousand times better. I don't think it's too hard for a reader to relate to that. I'd say that's what I want for Dardanus.
What inspired you to write about Roman legionary training and life?
Ancient Rome has fascinated me since I was a little girl. I started out as a fan of Greek mythology, but as I learned more about the ancient world, I found myself drawn to Rome. I love how it parallels my own culture as an American, both good and bad, and the lessons to be learned from that. I've always loved tales of battle, and there's something about the ancient armies that thrills me. Yes, it's a romanticized vision, and no, I don't feel bad about that. It's an archetype, an ideal. A band of brothers who give their lives to each other in service to a higher cause. I wanted to write a story about two men falling in love, and I wanted to write a story about a Roman legion, so I thought, hey, why not do both in the same novel? Why not indeed.
The brotherhood and comradeship is very evident in your story. Did you have any difficulties writing in a male POV?
I didn't think about it too much, actually. I was more concerned with not letting my sociopolitical beliefs color my characters than of making them "feminine". In a way I felt freer to express emotion – a man is admired for crying that Single Manly Tear where a woman is dismissed as weepy; men are allowed to feel rage while women are deemed hysterical. I just wrote what felt natural to the story. To me it's more about culture than gender, but I guess I've always been in touch with my masculine side.
If I were to peek at your bookshelves, what would I likely find?
The 25-cent fruits of many, many Friends of the Library sales. All my history and Classics from college. A bunch of German textbooks. Lots and lots of historical fiction, some sci-fi, some horror, some classics. My collection of Star Trek Pocket paperbacks. Very few hardcovers. A library I curse every time I move house and bless every time I sit in my chair with a cup of tea on a Sunday morning.
What’s next for you?
I began prep work for the sequel to The Soldier of Raetia while I was still revising the manuscript. Unfortunately, a sad event in my personal life threw me off this path for over a year. I think I've come to terms with things now enough to begin work on the first draft, which is titled Heirs of Fortune. I don't intend to take six years to finish this time. I've got two other novels in completely different genres (a medieval bio-novel and a contemporary paranormal) that I've poked at over the years, but it's not their time yet. In the meantime, I'm reading a lot and reviewing a little, having fun with my LJ, and enjoying everything I write from blog posts to Twitter updates.
Please provide your website and blogs where readers can learn more about you. Also, let readers know where The Soldier of Raetia is available in bound print and ebook formats.
Writing blog: http://teacake421.livejournal.com/
SoR trade paperback: http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/the-soldier-of-raetia/12287950
SoR at Kindle Store: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004KNWHV8
SoR PDF ebook: http://www.lulu.com/product/file-download/the-soldier-of-raetia/12287951
Any closing thoughts you would like to share.
I know my book is a genre straddler – some romance fans will get bored waiting for the good stuff to start, and some historical adventure fans will be put off by the sexual content. I've always subscribed to the old saying, "write the kind of book you would want to read"; that's what I did with The Soldier of Raetia, and that's what I plan to keep on doing. I'm not out to change the world – I just want to tell you a story. I believe there are people out there who will respond to what I write; connecting with them and giving them what I have to offer is my only goal as a writer.
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