Today we sit down for a chat with John of the John, Lord Chamberlain, Byzantine Mystery series by Mary Reed and Eric Mayer.
What was your life like before your author started pulling your strings?
A quiet one! After I left the life of a mercenary I expected to begin farming in a rural area of Greece, but then I fell in with a troupe of peripatetic performers whose main act was a recreation of bull dancing. I never anticipated visiting Constantinople, much less achieving the high office I eventually occupied.
What’s the one trait you like most about yourself?
I am loyal. It was this that led to my leaving exile in Greece to go to Rome to help Felix, an old friend and newly minted general, who asked me for assistance with a pressing but unspecified difficulty. We both knew leaving exile without Emperor Justinian's permission was likely to lead to my execution, but still I had to go to Felix's aid. He would have done the same for me.
What do you like least about yourself?
Although I control it better now, I have not yet completely conquered the black rage I feel over emasculation and being sold as a slave.
What is the strangest thing your author has had you do or had happen to you?
Among many strange events my authors introduced into my life, events that spring to mind was when they sent myself, my wife Cornelia, and an elderly servant who invited himself along to Egypt to investigate why sheep were committing suicide. At one point this led to my reluctantly taking part in a street performance presenting a glimpse of the life of Empress Theodora, not to mention making the acquaintance of a purveyor of faux cat mummies who bred his own material and a second remarkable individual, a diminutive magician. A complete fraud, the latter's act brought him to Constantinople to perform for the imperial couple. Despite his impudent patter and snake fitted with an obviously counterfeit human head act he kept his own head. My authors chronicled our adventures in Six For Gold.
Do you argue with your authors? If so, what do you argue about?
My authors have no time to argue with me because they argue with each other!
What is your greatest fear?
That my Cornelia will die and I must live on alone.
What makes you happy?
Sitting with her in the ruins of a temple on the edge of my estate overlooking the sea.
If you could rewrite a part of your story, what would it be? Why?
I would be a free man living on a small estate in Greece. It was after my enslavement and subsequent freedom I began my journey to holding the office of Lord Chamberlain. Incidentally, I first met Felix while I was still a slave. We were ordered by Emperor Justinian to investigate a particularly delicate matter involving a murder in broad daylight in the Great Church in Constantinople. My authors chronicled that adventure in Four For A Boy.
Of the other characters in your book, which one bugs you the most? Why?
Clementia, Felix's latest mistress. She continually demonstrates she thinks I am willing to replace him in her affections and further, I have come to believe, she is not always to be trusted to tell the truth, which is vital in any investigation.
Of the other characters in your book, which one would you love to trade places with? Why?
If it were possible, I would drop a few decades and trade places with Viteric, the young soldier escorting me around Rome. At the same time, as was naturally to be expected in the circumstances, he is keeping an eye on what I was doing and reporting back to Diogenes, the general in charge of the city garrison. I would describe Viteric as a good fighter, brave, intelligent, observant, quick-acting, in short the sort of man worth his weight in gold in a battle.
Tell us a little something about your authors. Where can readers find her website/blog?
My authors have been writing about my life for some years now. An Empire For Ravens is the latest installment, and will appear in October from Poisoned Pen Press. Their website may be viewed here and their blog, largely devoted to reviews of Golden Age novels, here.
What's next for you?
I was hoping for a less eventful life, but it appears this is not likely, given my authors are hinting at further eventful times, so I suppose I shall find out what they have in store for me when everyone else does!
An Empire For Ravens
Emperor Justinian's former Lord Chamberlain John receives a letter from his longtime comrade Felix asking for help, and, placing loyalty to a friend above his own safety, risks defying imperial edict by leaving his exile in Greece for Italy, where Felix is serving under General Diogenes in fighting for Rome against the besieging Goths.
John's covert entrance into Rome is ambushed, driving him deep into ancient catacombs before he exits into the heart of the city. Arrested, John learns that Felix is missing. Sent to lodge at Felix's quarters, John finds the household in disarray, evidence that Felix has taken a questionable lover and run up his usual debts, not to mention someone is rifling supplies. Then a young woman servant, also missing, is found dead. John has many mysteries to solve before Diogenes' courier to Justinian can return and prompt John's immediate execution.