Interview with Letitia Coyne

Published 2019-07-18.
After all my work - I am not in any way gifted at web design - hours and days and weeks of making and tweaking my lovely online bookshop, I have discovered that international postage is so exorbitant I don't feel able to charge readers what it costs to ship books. As expected, the first orders in were for box-sets. The books are priced at $AUS20.00 each, $80 for the Roman set. To send 4 books to Scotland - another $60. To send the set to Czech Republic - another $80. To Pakistan - $50. To the US and Canada - $55. One book to anywhere in the world costs between $15 and $30. Horrific.

Then there are the global restrictions. A number of countries hold printed material at customs. If they deem books unsuitable or a corrupting influence, they can be destroyed by customs or returned at the sender's expense. Import tariffs also apply in some countries. Then there is Australia Post's list of countries deemed to have a postal service too unreliable/not recommended to post to.

I give up. My lovely bookshop is only of use to readers in Australia and New Zealand.

The good news - which I think is bad news because it was something I wanted to avoid - is that Amazon and the long list of distributors associated with it now carry all titles worldwide. You can now buy one or all of the books from a local bookseller. I hope the postage will be cheaper for you. It is not possible to buy signed copies of any of the titles through Amazon as they buy direct from the publisher. I would recommend checking just how much Amazon etc will charge you in post. It is possible that their rates are almost as bad and you might want that messy autograph enough to make it worth your while to deal with me direct. At least you now have the option.

So, in the end, if you have been waiting for a print copy, off you shoot to your local online bookseller and read and scratch and sniff. If you really really want a signed copy or copies, your only option is to contact me at or Facebook. I can order in copies and sign them for you. They are even available in hardback, but I will need to price special orders and postage and quote you for payment through PayPal BEFORE I order them in. I'm so sorry.

But. The books do look lovely and I hope those of you who splash the cash enjoy them.

TOUCHSTONE still carried by Amazon is out of print. The new edition will be available soon. I'll let you know when.

How's it all going? What's news? Is the bookshop up and running? When will the hardcopy be available?
Well, there are four questions in one but they all have the same answer.

The bookshop is almost ready to go live thanks to the wonderful work of my most brilliant colleagues.

The galleys are in my hot little hands now. They're heavy and full of words. Almost real! They'll get a final once-over and then print-Britannia will drop into the world, small but perfectly formed.

I'm going to release them one at a time rather than in one giant plop. Signed copies will be available direct from me. Pre-order if you like, with or without prepayment, via, or wait for the shop to open for ease of checkout.

So that's the news element of these fascinating author interviews done. Now for a few answers to old questions that have arisen over the years.
Historical Fiction can be confusing and you don't give enough explanation to help us out.
Yep. I hear it all the time. What have I done to help?

My brain fires on tangents, so I'll give my typically tangential answer. Every genre has its devotees, and within Historical Fiction each era has its own specialist group of readers. They are typically people who know and love that era. They are familiar with terms associated with the time and they look for them. They are expected. When those terms refer to simple day-to-day items: clothes, ranks, food, travel, fashion etc, I trust any reader who picks up one of my books to have the nous to work it out for themselves from context. Or Google, at a stretch.

I wrote an enormous glossary that sat with the books when they were initially on my own book sites for direct download, and when the stories visited Wattpad briefly, it went with them there too. It still exists - Statistically it didn't get a lot of hits, so I deduced that either most readers understood what they were reading, or they weren't bothered to break stride to check an unfamiliar term.

I tend to assume some familiarity with the historical movement of Rome over its territories in my readers, too. If I wander over times and places that are unfamiliar, again, I assume a stirring of interest in readers that might lead them to research more for themselves. I encourage you all to do it; you might develop the same love I have for this era.

Sliding explanation into the text is not ideal. It can be done, rarely, and with uncommon words or phrases, but I try to avoid it. Just to annoy the annoyed even more, I'll use an example from outside Historical Fiction for the amusement of two groups even more cliquey than History buffs, SciFi readers and Pop Culture Vultures.

"I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die."

I don't have to mention Rutger Hauer or Rick Deckard or Ridley Scott. I don't even need the line itself; I could mention the 'Tears in the Rain' speech and a million readers would know the reference without me quoting. The words are iconic, and their history and their variations are all understood by those who love the genre. But if Roy Batty had decided to include insight into what C-beams are, or where the Tannhäuser Gate is and its relationship to a Wagnerian opera, the perfection of that line would be forever lost. Tears in the rain. It is a question of trusting the audience to follow.

But you Anglicized the names of your characters!

Yes I did. Even those of us who read Roman history for pleasure groan at the names. There were very few names used by the noble classes in Republican and early Imperial Rome. Generation after generation gave their sons their fathers' names. And each man with his praenomen, nomen, cognomen and agnomen could be referred to using various reduced combinations.

By the beginning of the Empire, as the mos maiorum's status slipped, even Roman nobility were shortening the names they used formally. As a result, most people with a passing knowledge of Roman history know Julius Caesar, Augustus, Mark Antony, Sulla, Agrippa, Caligula, Cisero, Brutus and Cassius. But how many could recognize the historical figures given the names Gaius Julius Caesar Germanicus, Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus [aka - Imperator Caesar Divi Filius Augustus, Gaius Octavius Thurinus, Gaius Octavianus, and Octavian], or Gaius Julius Caesar, Gaius Cassius Longinus, Marcus Junius Brutus and Decimus Junius Brutus. It is acceptable, I think, to Anglicize Roman names. It saves a lot of confusion.

I've dealt with period dialogue vs contemporary dialogue in another question, but there are also anachronisms I chose to use.

The one that comes to mind is 'angel'. By late in the first century, Asia Minor and the Middle east were well incorporated into the Roman Empire. Mithraism [Zoroastrianism] and Judaism, especially, were well known by troops. Jewish mercenaries worked all over the Empire. The Persian religion, Mithraism, was known as 'the cult of the legions'. Worship of the Iranian 'god of the sun, justice, contract, and war' had become integral; the original pre-Helenistic Roman gods were forces, not beings, and so Mithraism suited the generals well. *All* of the early religions had clear concepts of 'beings of perfect light', below gods and above men. Educated Romans spoke Greek and Latin, which applied the words 'angelos/angelus' to this variety of intermediate beings. As a term describing perfect beauty and purity above a man, Angel worked as well then as it does now.

That's enough for now. There are still the questions of sex in the Roman series, and romanticized Celtic religion vs recorded historical evidence, but I'll leave them for another day.

Big hugs for all of you out there - my favourite people in all the world.
Since 2012 you've been promising to release the Roman books in print. Is that ever REALLY going to happen? Will I be able to have my own copy of these books - and others - to hold and sniff?
Yes. The simple answer is yes. At last!

The final dots and crosses, the final artworks and fonts, the final flourishes and folderols are being attended to, even as we speak. There might even be a new title or two among them. All the digital copies of Britannia, Hispania, Caledonia and Petra will remain where they are, free in the wild. You'll still be able to download them for free from great fiction directories like Obooko and Smashwords [and their regular distribution channels].
But ... but FREYA! You took the print version of Touchstone off the shelves almost as soon as it went on sale. Is Freya coming back to us in print?
Yes again!

Touchstone went to print originally at a very bad time, and I can only apologize for that. It's taken a while, but things are looking up again. So, for all of you who took Freya to your hearts, she will ride again in print.

Most of you reading this will know that Touchstone was written in serialized form for 1889 Labs website launch. It was written to meet specific guidelines for chapter length and number and overall word count. It ended as it was intended to end. I did not accidentally leave Freya's fate in your hands. I did not lose interest and just stop writing. And there was never any sequel planned.

Many - most, in fact - of you recognized that and understood her well enough to know why she made her decision, and you wept with and for her. But some readers felt cheated of a happy-ever-after. Others wanted to hope that she could find her way to a different truth, and have asked me many times over the years to give her that chance.

Wuthering Heights, Madam Bovary, Romeo and Juliette, Anna Karenina, Tess of the D'Urbervilles, Gone with the Wind [and you know my devotion to Katy-Scarlett] - I didn't break new ground here. But, I didn't kill her off, either. So why not? Why don't we ride along and see if Freya, Dragan and Lenka can find the happiness they all fought so desperately to hold.

Let's do it! I'll give you all the dates as soon as I have them.
When! What happens next?
Soon. I'll publish the dates for all releases as I get them.

In the meantime, I will be updating my website[s] and making my own little bookshop where you can buy signed copies direct from me. [And some other SUPERB!! authors. More on that later, too.

* - You all have my email address - Got a question? Hit me up.
* - Smashwords has an Author Alert system. Follow me here and hit the Author Alert button.
* - I am always available on Facebook
* - Tell your friends. If you've loved the books so far, spread the love.

Love to all,
There is only one question I have really wanted to answer over all these years: Why don't you understand that historical characters do not use modern language, terminology and speech patterns?!
I used to try sometimes to explain my choice, and I even concurred and softened some of the most antagonizing terms. Mostly, though, I'm not asked why as if it might have been a deliberate choice. Mostly, the question is framed in well-intended advice or less-well-intended criticism or outright abuse.

Many years ago in another life, I wrote Fantasy, and part of the process of transporting the reader from the real world to the fantasy world is the use of a genre-specific type of language. Olde Worlde English as used in Fantasy novels never really existed as spoken communication, it is simply a language that has developed along with the other factors that together combine to form our expectation of a Fantasy novel.

Historical novels, however, are slightly different. Many of them rely for their 'voice', for the 'sound of the time', on novels that are now historical icons, but that were written as contemporary novels. The Austins and the Brontes and the Love Peacocks used the language forms and terminology of their times. Now they're dated and we associate them with the sound of the past. What too often comes out in Historical novels that look back to the iconic writers of history, however, is what I call pseudo-Austin or faux-classical. It is a bungled pretense of recognition. It is a sham that readers buy into because they feel that young people in the past should sound different to young people of today - that they were, in some fundamental way, different to the people of today.

They weren't. Most of the writings we have from the ancient world were the work scholars and they read like scholarly works. They use very formal patterns. Dig out the nearest treatise on the political ramifications of Putin's annexing of Crimea, and imagine writing a contemporary novel where the kids at the park speak in *that* voice.

We do have reasonable evidence of historical slang, of the lower forms of Greek and Latin and Italian and Gaulish from ancient graffiti, and guess what, ordinary people spoke ordinary words in non-traditional forms and with fads and local tones and none of them - not one - put a plum in his mouth and addressed his latest crush as if she'd just slipped off her throne.

So, for all those waiting with bated breath - lol - to know what could possibly have possessed me to think I could write young Romans speaking and acting as if they were any other young people from any other era, there you have it. I wrote them with contemporary dialogue because while they were speaking, they were speaking contemporary dialogue. Love it or hate it. That's it. Love to you all. Lxx **mic drop**
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