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How I Came To Write My Novel ‘Spartacus: The Gladiator’, by Ben Kane

It’s a funny thing but the idea for writing about Spartacus came about by chance. In March 2009, I was talking with my agent about ideas for books. I had already set my mind upon a trilogy (now a tetralogy) set during the second (Punic) war between Carthage and Rome, but we were talking about other possibilities as well. I won’t mention many of them, because I haven’t written the books yet, but Spartacus came up. It sounds naïve but it was as if someone had switched a light bulb on in my head. I had watched the famous Kubrick movie once as a boy and it had made a great impression on me. (I should add that we didn’t have a TV when I was growing up or I am sure that I would have seen it more than once!) I had cause to read about Spartacus in the previous few years. As many of you know, Marcus Licinius Crassus was the man who put down Spartacus’s rebellion in 71 BC. He is also a character in my first novel, The Forgotten Legion. That day, the plan for a set of novels about Carthage and Rome won out, but the idea didn’t go away.

In early 2010, I started hearing a lot of news about an upcoming TV miniseries called Spartacus: Blood and Sand, starring a then little-known Australian actor called Andy Whitfield*. This made me start thinking about writing Spartacus’s story all over again. I did some more research on him, and became even more enamoured of his achievements, and amazed by how close he had come to getting away. He was someone who was subjected to a great injustice, and he didn’t take it laying down. Instead, he fought back ― shaking the mighty Roman Republic to its core in the process. Although the reasons for Spartacus’s fame have quite modern roots (he was resurrected as a symbol of the small man’s fight against oppression in the 18th and 19th centuries), his name is one of the most well-known from ancient times. Thrilled, I went as far as writing the plotline for a novel and submitting it to my UK publishers. Sadly, but perhaps sensibly, they were keen that I concentrate on my other novels. I went back to work, finishing the novel Hannibal: Enemy of Rome.

The itch to write Spartacus became a lot worse over the subsequent months, however, and I kept badgering my publishers. I am pleased to say that eventually, they gave in! I started writing Spartacus’s story in mid-December 2010, and I had it finished by mid-June 2011. The story just burst out of me. At about 145,000 words (the normal length of my novels is about 100,000 words) I knew there was no way this amazing man’s story would fit into one volume. Cap in hand, I went back to my publisher and they were quick to agree to a second book. The first volume immediately became Spartacus: The Gladiator, while I named the second Spartacus: Rebellion. That book also took me little more than 6 months to write. In all, I lived, breathed and dreamed Spartacus for more than a year. It was the most amazing experience, and I was very sad to end the story. I actually dreaded writing the final battle (most people know what happens, but I won’t mention it just in case), but when the time came the writing flowed so well. Working up to 16 hours a day, I wrote more than 15,000 words in 8 days. By the end, I was totally drained, but it had been a fantastic experience. It is my sincere hope that readers will get as much enjoyment out of reading the books as I did in writing them.

*Andy was a mesmerising actor who totally made the role of Spartacus his own. Tragically, he died before the rest of the series could be made.


Ben Kane’s author website:

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United Kingdom (and beyond)


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Spartacus: The GladiatorSpartacus: RebellionThe Road to Rome (Forgotten Legion Chronicles)Hannibal: Enemy of Rome     The Leopard Sword (Empire)Beat the Drums SlowlyThe Sultan's Wife

Writing Historical Novels

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