Guest Post & Giveaway : “So What Goes Into Writing Something Historical?” by L.A.Witt

Welcome to the Riptide Publishing/L. A. Witt blog tour for The Left Hand of Calvus, part of the Warriors of Rome collection and available November 5th. The entire collection is available here for pre-order as a group or individually, and all pre-orders enter you in a drawing for a Nook.

Every comment on this blog tour enters you in a drawing for a choice of two eBooks off my backlist (excluding The Left Hand of Calvus) and a $10 Riptide Publishing store credit. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on November 12th, and winners will be announced on November 13th.  Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries.

So What Goes In To Writing Something Historical?

With the release of The Left Hand of Calvus, I’m dipping my toes into the historical genre for the first time. Well, okay, I’ve written steampunk before, set in an actual historical setting, but I took enough liberties with that (being steampunk and all) that I really don’t consider it historical. So we’ll call this my first.

And the first step in that first historical book?

Research. Lots of research.

Lots and lots of research.


No, I didn’t read every book from cover to cover, but some? Yes. And as an aside, I was working on a contemporary western hetero novel at the same time I was researching this one. Just imagine what my dreams were like during that time. Yes, they were that weird. Quite possibly even weirder, because my mind is a very strange place. Trust me. I live here.

I went into the research without much of a story in mind. I knew I wanted to set it in Pompeii, and I knew I wanted to involve gladiators, but beyond that? Nada. The actual story emerged from the scribbles in the margins of my notes: “Left-handed gladiator?”  “Scandal involving politician’s wife?” “Sheisty bastards double-crossing each other?”

The characters crystallized. The outline came together.

Then I watched the film Gladiator, which is always a terrible hardship. I even sat through both seasons of Rome, just to get a feel for the setting. Though Rome and The Left Hand of Calvus are not contemporaneous to each other (one is set in Rome in the first century BC, the other is in Pompeii in the first century AD), much of the setting and cultural details were still relevant, and damn it I just wanted to watch it again. Don’t judge me.

With an outline in hand, not to mention a head full of research (and Joaquin Phoenix and James Purefoy), I sat down in front of a blank Word document and started banging on the keyboard. Naturally, my schedule had been nonstop madness for the previous few months, leaving me with only two weeks to get this thing out of my skull and onto the page, so there was a lot of yelling, panicking, and generally wondering why I do this to myself. The outline changed. The characters rebelled. I ran out of Dr Pepper. A few times, it seemed hopeless. There wasn’t enough caffeine. The characters had run screaming in the opposite direction. The outline was but a shell of its original spreadsheet beauty.

But two weeks later, the book was done. 

My first ever historical, in all its glory. Then it was off to Riptide, where the editorial staff earned the drinks I will be buying them at the next conference. While the editors did their thing, the art department produced this gorgeous piece of cover awesomeness:

And now… now it is finished. After all the reading and the weird dreams and the Rome-viewing and the Dr Pepper famine, I give you: The Left Hand of Calvus, available November 5th as part of the Riptide Publishing Warriors of Rome collection.

Will this be my last historical? No, I don’t think so. In fact, I may even go traipsing back to ancient Rome sometime in the near future.

Stay tuned. 😉


L.A. Witt is an abnormal M/M romance writer who, after three years in Okinawa, Japan, has recently relocated to Omaha, Nebraska, with her husband, two cats, and a three-headed clairvoyant parakeet named Fred. There is some speculation that this move was not actually because of her husband’s military orders, but to help L. A. close in on her arch nemesis, erotica author Lauren Gallagher, who has also recently transferred to Omaha. So, don’t anyone tell Lauren. She’s not getting away this time…

L. A.’s backlist is available on her website, and updates (as well as random thoughts and the odd snarky comment) can be found on her blog or on Twitter (@GallagherWitt).



Former gladiator Saevius is certain fortune’s smiling on him when a Pompeiian politician buys him to be his bodyguard. But then his new master, Laurea Calvus, orders Saevius to discover the gladiator with whom his wife is having an affair. In order to do that, Saevius must return to the arena, training alongside the very men on whom he’s spying. Worse, he’s now under the command of Drusus, a notoriously cruel—and yet strangely intriguing—lanista.

But Saevius’s ruse is the least of his worries. There’s more to the affair than a wife humiliating her prominent husband, and now Saevius is part of a dangerous game between dangerous men. He isn’t the only gladiator out to expose the Lady Verina’s transgressions, and her husband wants more than just the guilty man’s name.

When Saevius learns the truth about the affair, he’s left with no choice but to betray one of his masters: one he’s come to fear, one he’s come to respect, and both of whom could have him killed without repercussion. For the first time in his life, the most dangerous place for this gladiator isn’t the arena.

You can pre-order The Left Hand of Calvus here, and read an excerpt here.