It Began in Boulder, Colorado

Plato wrote,  “Lying is in general wrong, but it is permissible for the ruling classes to tell ‘white lies’ when it is for the benefit of society.”  [Greek and Roman Classics, by Meyer Reinhold]

In researching my novels which take place during the Roman empire (196-198 so far), I’ve found so many captivating and unexpected “Eureka!” moments like that quote from Plato, that I thought it would be fun to share them with others who are intrigued, but not fanatical, about the stories  commonly known as “history.”

Around twenty-five years ago, in Boulder, Colorado, I started writing a novel.  Every morning I would leave the house at 5:30 a.m., so early that the raccoons were still out searching through garbage cans, and walk three miles to work, arriving two hours before my actual job began.

I worked at JILA, a scientific institute at the University of Colorado.  It’s one of the best in the world, with a governing body of Fellows that includes physicists, chemists, astrophysicists, astronomers, and variations such as physical chemists and chemical physicists, and of course theorists who collaborate with all of them.  A really counter-intuitive thing is that the arrangement is half NIST

Me and two of the grandchildren
Me with Vancouver, BC, grandchildren

(U.S. Dept. of Commerce) and half University!  Administrative duties are divvied up between the two!  It works so well that numerous prestigious awards are common – Nobel Prizes, MacArthur “Genius” awards, Gold Medals, grants, etc.

Best of all, for me, was an atmosphere that allowed me to mold my administrative assistant job to fit me, rather than the other way around.  What a concept!  It was a great place to work.

The university let employees attend classes for free.  One year, I took Latin from a graduate student named Gerald.  The hardest class I ever had, but I loved it!

That class inspired me to find out more about the Romans, and eventually to write The Amulet .  It is about a young girl from Britannia whose actions help determine who will become emperor, Albinus or Septimius (196-197 AD).

I would write for two hours, then work for six or seven.  After work, I’d take the bus home, do the family things (three children and a baby), and then write for another couple of hours or so if I could.

With family traffic swirling around, I’d sketch out the next scenes by pen and paper on the dining room table.  In the morning, I’d take the notes in to transcribe and flesh out on the computer.  It amazes me now that none of the kids suffered from this compulsion of mine.

The book grew and grew until it was finally finished.  I sent it out to a few publishers and a few agents.  In those days before the Internet, big manila envelopes held manuscript pages and SASE envelopes for the inevitable rejection letters.

Discouraged, I put The Amulet away for 25 years until last year.  Gosh, it was embarrassing to read some of the passages I’d been so proud of before.  Not just one but several rewrites later, I sent it off to Elaine, a friend and poet who had also worked at JILA.  She helped enormously by finding things that didn’t fit, by asking questions, and by making suggestions about things like the care of horses and the spinning of wool.

We went back and forth for months until finally I thought The Amulet was ready.  So far, no agent has taken it up, but I’m writing the second book now.

Whatever happens, it’s exciting to keep finding correlations between the Romans and us.    They and the Greeks whose culture and literature they adopted – and adapted – are surprisingly relevant to our time.  Half of the expressions we use every day seem to be quotes from Plato or Sophocles or one of those guys.

I promise that you will enjoy what is coming!

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Author: Victoria Paulsen

I'm writing the second of two YA novels about the Roman empire just before Septimius Severus became emperor, and just after. My background is in theater. At UCLA and Univ. of Colorado, I studied Greek and Roman drama as well as Latin. That was awhile ago. My new research is even more fascinating, thanks to the Internet. I want to share the fun stuff!

5 thoughts on “It Began in Boulder, Colorado”

  1. Writing with 3 children and a baby! And rising before the raccoons are finished their night-time eating — THAT is what it takes to write a book! Well, that and a lot of research and ??? I’m looking forward to learning more. THANKS!

  2. How fascinating – as interesting as the references in our culture that have survived from those ancient times – is your writing journey in Boulder, the rediscovery of the book, and the undertaking of the second book! But I will look forward to more references to that ancient period of time about which I know so darn little!

  3. I never knew you were so talented!!! You never even let on about this even when I came to visit you in Colorado. I would love to read your book!!!

    Authorhouse is a self publishing company who may be able to help you. They have access to all the big online book companies like Amazon and Ebay along with Barns and Noble and many others. You might want to check into that. It does cost an up front fee but what you get with it is totally worth it!!!!….and you don’t have millions of books stacked up in your house waiting for them to be sold.

    I used them in 2007 to help me publish a children’s music book……only thing is….I haven’t finished the revisions as of yet to turn the book in. My book is also copywrited too in 2007…..all included!!!

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