Emperor: The Blood of Gods is the culmination of more than a decade of writing books. My first novel was Emperor: The Gates of Rome and three more followed on the extraordinary life of Julius Caesar. The series finished when I wrote his death, a strange and bittersweet experience for me. I had reached the end of a project that took six years, which was very satisfying. At the same time, I was losing a character whose thoughts, words and actions had obsessed me for a good slice of my adult life. It felt like a death in the family. I wrote that final scene without an epilogue, or any neat tying-up of loose ends. I wanted it to be abrupt and shocking, as the end of a life often is.
Leaving Rome behind, I went on to write five books on Genghis Khan and his grandson, Kublai Khan. I travelled to Mongolia and immersed myself in a very different world to that of ancient Rome. Yet as I read and researched, I’d come across interesting snippets of information about the aftermath of Caesar’s assassination. There were twenty-three assassins and not one of them died a natural death. I realised there was a story there, one I hoped to tell.
By the time I finished the last Khan novel: Conqueror, I was ready to revisit my old haunts. I began to research the story of the young Octavian, the man who would become Augustus Caesar. To my joy, the story was there. I can hardly describe the pleasure in once again writing scenes set in ancient Rome. It was as if someone had stripped away the intervening years (and my bad back) and made me a young writer once more, tapping and scribbling into my notebooks, lost in the history and the tale. I hope you enjoy the result.
It occurs to me that if the Emperor books find new readers in the future, those wonderful, brave men and women will not know there was a five year gap between the fourth and the fifth. I can’t help wonder if they will spot a change in style. If they do, I hope they like the last one more than all the ones before. All I ever wanted to do was write stories and I’ve been granted the gift of writing one of the greatest. I just wanted to do justice to men like Brutus and Mark Antony, women like Servilia and Cleopatra – and of course, Julius Caesar himself.
Over the years, I’ve received a number of emails pointing out that Julius Caesar was not in fact an Emperor, so the series title doesn’t work. Ah well, I will now say to them, the last book was about Emperor Augustus – and of course I planned it that way all along.