Monday, December 25, 2017

Interview with writer and novelist Ray Gleason

Writer and novelist Ray Gleason is here and we’re chatting about his new historical fiction, The Swabian Affair.

Ray Gleason is a medieval scholar and the popular author of the novels, A Grunt Speaks: A Devil’s Dictionary of Vietnam Infantry Terms, The Violent Season, and the Gaius Marius Chronicle, a series of historical fiction novels set in the late Roman Republic.

His first book, A Grunt Speaks: A Devil’s Dictionary of Vietnam Infantry Terms, reflects his experience as an infantryman and ranger in Vietnam through an exploration of the jargon used by American infantrymen during the Vietnam war. A Grunt Speaks was recently featured in the NPR quiz show, Says You.

Ray continued his advocacy of Vietnam veterans in his novel, The Violent Season. In this book, Ray presents the stories of what he calls the “lost generation of the 1960’s” – not the anti-war protestors and the Woodstock crowd – but the thousands of young Americans – men and women – who answered the call to duty in the jungles of southeast Asia and on the home-front.

Ray’s latest project, the Gaius Marius Chronicle, is the fictitious memoir of a retired Roman soldier, Gaius Marius Insubrecus, who served Caesar and his heir, Octavius, throughout the Gallic campaigns and in the Roman civil wars. The first novel of the series, The Gabinian Affair, was released by Morgan James Fiction in October 2015. Book two, The Helvetian Affair, was released in May 2016. The third book, The Swabian Affair, hit bookshelves in March 2017. A fourth novel, The Mystery of the Dead Centurion, is expected in late 2017.

Ray received an MA and Ph.D. from Northwestern University where he teaches Medieval Literature. He received a BA in History and English from Hunter College in New York. Ray also teaches writing at Purdue.

Ray is a decorated, retired, army Ranger officer, who served three combat tours in Vietnam. He recently retired from the Culver Academies where he developed and taught courses in leadership ethics.

Ray swaps his time between Chicago and northern Indiana with his wife, Jan Peyser, an award-winning silversmith jeweler, and the author of The Opera Cat.

Welcome, Ray. Please tell us about your current release.
The Gaius Marius Chronicle is the memoir of a retired Roman soldier, Gaius Marius Insubrecus, a legionary who served Caesar during his wars in Gaul and in the Roman civil wars, and who then supported Caesar’s heir, Octavius, in his struggle against Caesar’s assassins and against Antony and Cleopatra.

The Swabian Affair, the third book of the Gaius Marius Chronicle, tells the story of Caesar’s march to the Rhine with a mutinous Roman army, depleted and exhausted from its battle against the Helvetians. Caesar must defeat a mystic, warrior-king, before he leads a full-scale Germanic invasion of Gaul. Insubrecus must prevent a war from breaking out between Caesar’s Gallic allies while protecting himself from the murderous vengeance of a Roman assassin.

What inspired you to write this book?
I’ve become curious about the lives of my characters.

Excerpt from The Swabian Affair:
I realized I was revealing too much to Grennadios, so I changed the subject. “What do you know of a Roman merchant named Marcus Metius?”

“Metius!” Grennadios snorted. “Metius is no merchant … he is iktismustela … a rat-eater …he would trade his mother’s honor for a clipped drachma … he trades in information … he works for whomever will pay … he serves only himself.”

“Do you know anything about a Roman who travels with him?” I asked. “A thug named Bulla.”

I thought I saw Grennadios’ eyes widen, then he shuttered. “That one? That one has no … no psyche … no life force in him …he is the bringer of death … that one you stay away from, phile mou.”

Stay away from him … if only I could.

What exciting story are you working on next?
The Mystery of the Murdered Centurion … The narrative of the chronicle goes forward in time to Insubrecus after he retires from the army and is the Urban Prefect of Milan. Someone dumps the dead body of a murdered Roman officer in the town forum, right under the newly installed statue of Augustus. Insubrecus must find the murderer to protect himself and his family from possible political repercussions from Rome.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Depends … I became a credible fiction writer, at least in my own mind, when I published The Violent Season.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
Can write “full time”; the ability to write credible text is limited. At times, I can only sustain productive writing for a couple of hours; at other times, I look up and wonder where the day has gone. My other hobbies are teaching, medieval culture, research, police work, red wine, BBC shows and the cats.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Chaos! Unlike most fictional portrayals of soldiers and detectives, my characters do have neither the benefit of historical hindsight nor the ability to shut down the rest of their lives when faced with a problem. They make decisions on what they know and how much time they’re afforded for investigation. Sometimes they get things right; sometimes … not so much.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Let’s see … I had my cowboy period … Hopalong Cassidy, mostly; then my cop period, because my uncles on NYPD were my heroes; I studied for the Catholic ministry for four years; when I found myself in Nam, I just wanted to survive; after Nam, I had kids, so my goal was taking care of my family and being a god father.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
The credibility of fiction is more demanding than the credibility of reality.

Thanks for being here today, Ray. All the best with your writing.

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