Interview with Gregory Ness

Tell us about some of the key characters in The Sword of Agrippa.
Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa: A young teenage engineer serving in the Roman army under Julius Caesar is transformed by a trip to the Great Library of Alexandria. What he learns from a slave priestess will help transform Rome from a war-torn republic into a vast empire.

Roy Swenson: A controversial biologist banned from the USA because of his controversial experiments is in Prague on his search for dark energy.

Jude Obah: Born in the failed state of Biafra, Jude is a disfigured shaman reincarnated from Prague in the Dark Ages, where he was tortured to death for his religious convictions.

Samia: A bastard child of Ptolemy 12, Samia was educated by priests in Memphis before being admitted with Cleopatra to a rigorous curriculum at the Great Library of Alexandria. She becomes Agrippa's teacher and lover as they struggle to reconcile their passions with the interests of their two respective empires.

Dr. Mike Hammer: A Harvard-educated ethno-botanist, Hammer's experiences with ayahuasca and other plants gives him perspectives on mankind's original spiritual impulses. As a member of the research team, he thinks that the pineal gland could be an ideal dark energy sensor.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
1) The Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell; 2) The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov; 3) Red and Black by Stendhal; 4) The Magus by John Fowles; and 5) Aleph by Paulo Coelho. All of them produced a new perspective, a new way of looking at the world.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
Lived first few years of my childhood in East Pakistan, before it became Bangladesh. We lived in a small hamlet called Kaptai, surrounded by jungle and the Chakma hill people. I had been around the world four times before I was six years old. I think that early, profound frame of reference cause me to be curious about world history, economic development and tech.
Have you taken ayahuasca, mushrooms or other psychedelics?
No. I even tend to avoid alcohol and caffeine, because it can interfere with sleep patterns. I have friends who have experimented and I've certainly read a few books on "The Medicine" as well as DMT. My curiosity was driven by lucid dream experiences. which I was trying to understand. I doubt I'll ever experiment unless they're legalized and regulated.
What's the story behind your latest book?
In the near future people's opinions become so polarized that innovation slows to a crawl. Everyone is in a camp and the internet is being used to keep "certaintists" in various camps in line. A scientist challenges the status quo and is forced into exile. His dreams take him back to the Great Library of Alexandria, before it was torched by religious zealots. He is a young Roman engineer (Marcus Agrippa) who will grow up to help build the Roman Empire. Both lives are intertwined by dreams and hallucinations. Because of torture, drugs and sex this novel is recommended for 18+ readers.
What are you working on next?
Pantheon, The sequel. Specifically a scene where Cleopatra is being tortured personally by Octavian and a highly trusted Praetorian, before her suicide is faked. Octavian wants all of the gold hidden in Egypt and he thinks she knows where most of it is hidden.
What influenced The Sword of Agrippa?
The notion that perhaps we know very little about science, spirituality and the very nature of life. Once you take an energy-centric view of the universe, it becomes boundless from a time and space perspective. Great fodder for a novel IMHO.
How did you approach the cover design?
I wanted to show a scientist at the center of the Pantheon. I'm asking the question: Will we replace the past certainty promised by religious deities with a new generation of scientists who have convinced us that they have now figured everything out?
Describe your desk
Cluttered. Stacks of books, papers, business cards surrounding a PC, pictures of family with miniature statues: Buddha and Leonardo Da Vinci, an obelisk and a globe made from stone.
What do you read for pleasure?
Most everything except romance or Gothic novels. I especially enjoy authors with great academic credentials who "push the envelope" with ideas that could be 5-10 years ahead of the status quo.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
The sheer pleasure of trying something new combined with several years of lucid dreams that my imagination was able to convert into a pair of stories.
When did you first start writing?
I started a novel in grad school about some elitist slackers living in Austin Texas. I never finished it. I started The Sword of Agrippa about three years ago, after being advised to write as therapy for years of vivid dreams, many of which were disturbing.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes. It was called "Meeting Fast Women at Cheap Hamburger Joints" and was about my experience as a janitor and cashier at a regional hamburger chain. I wrote it for a college creative writing course.

At the part of the story when the young 17 year old burger slinger entered a car with two 20-somethings (after the restaurant closed) I tore the paper, to make it look like someone had censored offensive content. That device worked as the stories from the class had been on display before the professor graded them.

He thought someone tore the paper. He had called me to his office to apologize for someone trashing my work. Then I told him about my creative device...

It was supposed to be a seven page paper. It was 3+ pages. The teacher gave me an "A" for creativity.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Published 2015-01-09.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.