Q: What does FAQS mean?
A: FAQS is an acronym for Frequently Asked QuestionS. This is the page where I answer your questions.
Q: Why do you have a sponge-on-a-stick as the splash-page icon for Frequently Asked Questions?
A: Because one of the questions people frequently ask is 'What did the Romans do for toilet paper?'
Q: What did the Romans do for toilet paper?
A: They used a sponge-on-a-stick! For the full story, go HERE.
Q: Why the Romans?
A: Why not the Romans? They had emperors, orators, beast-fighters, charioteers, poets, legionaries, gladiators, philosophers, slave-dealers, pantomime dancers and beautiful slave-girls... And even with all these exotic types, what never ceases to fascinate me is how like them we are. Especially in matters of love, passion and ambition.
Q: So did you always like history in school?
A: No, I thought history was dull. Then, when I was 18 I read a book that changed my life. It was called The Last of the Wine by an English author called Mary Renault, and it was about Classical Greece. It sparked my life-long interest in the Classics (the study of all things Greek and Roman.)
Q: What is the final book in the Roman Mysteries?
A: The final Roman Mystery is called The Man from Pomegranate Street. In this story Flavia and her friends must find out who killed the Emperor Titus. But the biggest mystery is who gets married, and to whom. I am now writing a new "spin-off" series for younger readers called The Roman Mystery Scrolls.
Q: I heard somewhere you were going to write a Young Adult spin-off called 'The Flavian Trilogy'. What has happened to it?
A: The Flavian Trilogy was going to be three books aimed at the young adult market about Miriam's twins - aged 14. I wrote the first book, called Brother of Jackals, but it has been postponed indefinitely. In the spring of 2010 I started working on a spin-off series for younger readers. The main character is an 8-year-old Ostian beggar boy Threptus (left). Readers met him in The Man from Pomegranate Street and also in the final story of The Legionary from Londinium and other Mini Mysteries, which was called "Threptus and the Sacred Chickens". The first two books in the new Roman Mysteries Scrolls are out now. They are called The Sewer Demon and The Poisoned Honey Cake. Still to come: The Thunder Omen and The Two Faced God!
Q: What about The Western Mysteries?
I am also writing a series originally called The Western Mysteries and then changed to The P.K. Pinkerton Mysteries. This series is set in Virginia City, Nevada Territory, during the Silver Boom of the early 1860's. The Western hero is always a loner, so there is just one main character: P.K. 'Pinky' Pinkerton, Private Eye. Pinky (right) is a 12-year-old half-Indian kid. Real historical characters like Sam Clemens (AKA Mark Twain) will rub shoulders with fun made-up characters like Poker Face Jace. You can read more at my new P.K. Pinkerton website and you can follow P.K. Pinkerton on Twitter. The first two books in the series are The Case of the Deadly Desperados and The Case of the Good-looking Corpse. Coming in June 2013: The Case of the Pistol-packing Widow.
Q: Will you be my penpal? ...help me with my homework? ...read my story?
A: Sorry, but I'm too busy to do any of those things. But you can leave messages for me on the Roman Mysteries Facebook Fan Page.
Q: What is the 'sign against evil' that you mention in almost all your books?
A: There were several 'signs against evil' and scholars aren't sure what they all looked like. One sign against evil is to extend your left hand with the palm facing forward, like the satyrs on this tripod. Some people think you could also spit for added protection. Don't try this indoors.
Q: Are they ever going to make movies of your books?
A: I hope so! In the meantime, the BBC has adapted ten of the books to make a TV series. If you live in the UK or Europe you can buy and watch both seasons in the NEW boxed set. There are no plans for the DVD to be released in region 1 format, so fans in North America watch the region 2 DVD on their computers or on an all-regions player.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: The fourth book in my new history mystery series called The P.K. Pinkerton Mysteries!
Q: You have written the final book in the Roman Mysteries series? But what will happen to Flavia, Jonathan, Nubia and Lupus? Will any of them get married? Will any of them die?
A: Some of them get married, but not all. To find out who does and who doesn't, buy The Man from Pomegranate Street. It will answer lots of your questions.
Q: Have you ever written a book aimed at adults? If so, what was it called?
A: I tried to write an adult book once and couldn't do it. But I might try again one day...
Q: What do you look like?
A: I have dark curly hair. Here is a picture of me:
Q: Where were you born?
A: I was born in London, England, but I grew up in America. When I'm in England, I call America 'home' but when I'm in America I call England 'home'.
Q: How old are you?
A: Ancient. (In Roman terms)
Q: When is your birthday?
A: May 24th, 19– wait a minute... very clever!
Q: What school did you go to?
A: I went to Henry M. Gunn High School in Palo Alto, California.
Q: What were your best subjects at school?
A: When I was at primary school my best subject was art.
In high school it was English, because I loved reading.
Q: Did you study Latin at school?
A: No, though I would have loved it. My father was a French teacher and one day I asked him to teach me French. He told me he was too tired from teaching other children all day. I didn't start studying Latin and Greek until I was 19 years old and at University.
Q: Where do you live now?
A: I live in London, in a lovely riverside flat. You can see a picture of my study on the right, (looking a little bit neater than it usually does).
Q: Where do you write?
A: On an Apple Mac in my study (right) which is the spare room of our flat. You can see a picture of it above. I used to carry around little notebooks in case I had a good idea but now I use my iPhone!
Q: Do you have any hobbies?
A: I love walking around London, going to movies and surfing the net.
Q: When you go out, do people recognise you?
A: No, people don't recognise me. I am happy about that because it means I can walk around London and watch people without them knowing who I am.
Q: Do you visit schools?
A: I limit my school events to the months of October and March, and I'm currently taking bookings for October 2013. I charge £250 for a one-hour talk with Q&A and book signing afterwards . Tell your teacher or librarian to look at the bottom of my SCHOOLS page for details.
Q: What sort of family do you have?
A: My husband Richard is English. I have a grown up son named Simon. He lives in Los Angeles with his Australian wife, Brooke, and they have three little boys, Adrian, Jasper and August. Yes, I need to update that picture!
Q: What is your favourite food?
A: I love salads, lemons and chocolate. And that's why I could never live in Roman times: NO CHOCOLATE!
Q: What is your favourite film?
A: Star Wars: A New Hope. My favourite Roman film is A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. My favourite Western is The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. I also love WALL-E, Moonstruck and Blade Runner.
Q: What is your favourite TV show?
A: Buffy the Vampire Slayer because my husband and I were in some crowd scenes in season 4. And because it is one of the funniest, cleverest shows ever written. I also love Monk, Frasier, Scrubs, Dr Quinn Medicine Woman & Caprica.
Q: What kind of music do you like?
A: I like jazz and electronic chillhouse music. You can see some of my favourite albums and artists on my LISTEN page.
Q: What are you listening to right now?
A: The MP3 download of Roman Roads IV-XI by Land Observations on my iPhone. It keeps me mellow while I am travelling to and from school events!
Q: What's your favourite animal?
A: A cheetah on land and a dolphin in the water.
Q: What's your favourite colour?
Q: If you could have dinner with four people from history, who would they be and why?
A: I would love to have dinner with Mark Antony, Cleopatra, Jesus Christ and Mark Twain. I think we would have some very lively and funny discussions.
Q: Is there somewhere you have dreamed of going but never yet been?
A: East Africa, on safari.
Q: Did you write small books in your spare time when you were young?
Q: Who does the drawings on the front of your books?
A: There have been three generations of covers. The first ones I helped design myself. I liked the second generation because they look quite "cinematic". But my favourites are the latest third generation covers, which came out early in 2012. The Assassins of Rome is one of the best of those.
Q: Oh, no! I was collecting the hardbacks in the original covers.
A: Don't worry. All seventeen books in the series have been published in hardback with the original covers designed by Richard Carr, Peter Sutton and Fred van Deelen, so your collection can be complete.
Q: Are the Roman Mysteries published in other countries and languages?
A: So far the books have been published in American, Chinese, Czech, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portugese, Spanish, Taiwanese and Thai. The British versions are sold in America, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the Philippines.
Q: Do you write a title and then plan a story from that or do you plan the story first and then make up the title?
A: Usually the story comes first but sometimes I have to twist the story to work in the title my publisher wants! (e.g. the pirate song in The Pirates of Pompeii)
Q: Do you plan the story first and then write out a draft or do you write off the top of your head and then edit it on the computer?
A: I've learned ALWAYS to do a thorough plan and chapter outline before I start writing! The inspiration comes later! For more on this see my Writing Tips page HERE
Q: Did you always want to be a writer?
A: No. When I was young I wanted to be a mini-skirted ensign on the starship Enterprise and to boldly go where no man has gone before!
'Beam us up, Scotty!'
Q: I just wanted to ask erm, do they REALLY have star trek conventions?????
A: Aye, Captain!
Q: What inspired you to be a writer?
A: I love books and reading!
Q: When did you decide that you wanted to become a writer?
A: I've wanted to be a writer off and on throughout my adult life, but about fifteen years ago I really determined to do it. This meant reading lots of books on writing and getting up early to put in an hour of writing a day before I went to work as a teacher.
Q: Did you have a job before you became a writer?
A: I was a Primary School Teacher. I taught Latin, French and art.
Q: Was it hard to find a publisher?
A: Not really. My husband (who has worked on non-fiction books) already had an agent named Teresa. She did all the hard work of sending my book to suitable publishers. In the end Orion bought six books on the strength of the first book. So no, apart from the ten years of getting up early to write every day, it wasn't too hard. Visit my page called How to Get Published.
Q: Did the first book you ever wrote get published?
A: No. It was a novel for young adults called The Scribe. It was about a boy in a monastery in 6th century Byzantium. I also have a non-fiction book and a screenplay gathering dust in a drawer somewhere! I read somewhere that it is usually your fourth book that gets published. That's because you can read as many books as you like, but you don't really learn how to write until you do it.
Q: I want to be a writer, too. Do you have any tips you could give me?
A: I have a whole page of them! Go HERE.
Q: What gave you the idea for the Roman Mysteries?
A: My sister Jennifer gave me the idea, though she claims not to remember it!
It was August, 1999. I was visiting my family in California, talking about a screenplay I was thinking of writing about a Jewish slave-girl in Pompeii. My sister said, 'Why don't you write a book for kids, set in Pompeii?' As soon as she said that, it was as if a giant light bulb went on over my head: GOOD IDEA! I had always loved Nancy Drew mystery stories when I was a little girl and I thought 'Wouldn't it be great to have a girl detective like Nancy, but she lives in ancient Roman times!' I knew my girl detective couldn't be 18 years old like Nancy, because girls could legally get married in Rome from 12 on. That's why I made Flavia ten years old in the first book. Also, because I wanted my books to appeal to boys as well as girls, I thought of giving Flavia three friends, two of whom were boys... After that, the ideas just started pouring into my head.
Q: Why did you choose Lupus to have no tongue?
A: I wanted one of my characters to be disabled in some way. At first I thought he should be deaf, but then I decided to make him a bit 'wild' he would be unable to speak instead. Then it just suddenly came to me that the reason why he couldn't speak was that someone had cut out his tongue. (Something they really did in Roman times.) When I wrote my first book I didn't know how or why his tongue had been cut out, but by book 3, The Pirates of Pompeii, it was 'revealed' to me by my subconscious. I also based Lupus on this two-thousand-year-old fresco of a sad little boy from Pompeii.
Q: Which is your favourite out of all your books that you have written so far?
A: Until recently it was The Pirates of Pompeii, because I had so much fun writing it and because it had pirates, puppies and romance. But now my favourite book is The Man from Pomegranate Street. When I finished it I was euphoric.
Q: Who is your favourite character in your books?
That's a hard question: I guess it would have to be Flavia Gemina, but I love them all, even the villains!
Q: Where do you get your ideas from?
A: From my whole life. Everything. People I've known, movies I've seen, books I've read, dreams I've had. Also from myths and Greek vases and the places I visit. I get ideas listening to jazz and looking at art. Finally, one of my best sources is the wealth of literature by Latin authors who lived during Flavia's time: Pliny the Elder, Pliny the Younger, Statius, Martial, Juvenal, Valerius Flaccus and also the Latin and Greek poetry that an educated Roman boy (and sometimes girl) would have studied: Virgil, Ovid, Catullus, Homer, Apollonius, and Apollodorus. There are lots more!
Q: How do you come up with so many ideas for names, places and especially Scuto, Flavia's dog?
A: That is a brilliant question! Scuto is named after my nephew Nicholas because his nickname used to be 'Scooter'. But scuto also means shield in Latin so it's the perfect name for a watchdog, (even if he's not a brilliant watchdog). And Nipur is named after my other nephew Andrew because his nickname used to be 'Nipper'! Lots of the other names have secret Latin meanings.
Q: I recently heard you speak. Where do you get all those ancient Roman artefacts?
A: Every time I go to a museum, or to a different country to do "research", I try to find a replica Roman artefact. That's why I have so many! If you want to start a collection, one of the best places to start is the British Museum. That's where I got some replica coins, a charioteer clay oil-lamp and a little green Egyptian glass bottle for scented oil and gladiator scrapings! The other objects are from various places, including Roman Glassmakers.
Q: Which was your favourite book when you were a child?
I loved My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell. And the Nancy Drew mysteries.
Q: What are your favourite books now?
A: My all-time favourite book is probably The Last of the Wine, by Mary Renault, but I still love My Family and Other Animals. True Grit is my fave book at the moment. I also admire the novels of Patrick O'Brian, starting with Master and Commander.
Q: Are the Roman Mysteries published in other countries?
A: Yes! So far the rights have been sold to these countries: America, China, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, Korea, The Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Taiwan and Thailand. The British versions are sold in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and The Philippines.
Q: What tips would you give someone who wants to be a writer?
A: The ONE thing you need to be a writer is... SELF-DISCIPLINE!
You have to start doing it, keep doing it, and never give up!
Q: What inspired you to write books?
A: I always felt a twinge of jealousy when I met people who were writers. Or when I heard that someone was writing a book. One day I realised why: I wanted to be a writer, too! What inspired me was that I love books and stories more than almost anything in the world. What would we do without them?
Q: What was your ambition as a child?
A: When I was 11 I wanted to be an officer on the Starship Enterprise and travel in outer space. (see above) Later I wanted to be an astronomer (so that I could travel in space) but I wasn't good at maths. Later I wanted to study baboons (so I could travel to Africa and live in the bush) but I wasn't good at biology. Later I wanted to study ancient Rome and Greece and I WAS good at learning languages! So that's what I did until I decided to try to become a writer about 15 years ago.
Q: Did anyone help you with the Roman Mysteries?
A: I have lots of experts who help me on the historical details and read over my drafts. (See my CREDITS page) But in the end I do 99% of it myself.
Q: If you could be any of the characters in your books, who would it be?
A: It would be Flavia Gemina, of course! She is the most like me: a bossy know-it-all.
Q: Why did you pick Rome for your books and not somewhere else?
A: I actually picked Ostia, the port of Rome, because would have had lots of fascinating people visiting it and you could embark from there to anywhere in the Roman world. Also I visited Ostia for one afternoon when I was 16 and I never forgot it.
Q: Why did you choose Ostia as the setting for book one?
A: I visited Ostia Antica for one afternoon when I was 16 years old and I thought it was beautiful. I never forgot it, and when I decided to write mysteries set in Roman times I thought my characters should live in Ostia, because it is so beautiful. Also, they could meet interesting people from all over the Roman world and easily sail to other lands.
Q: What parts of The Thieves of Ostia are historically accurate (true)?
A: Almost all the details of Roman life are true. And from the next book on I also introduce real historical figures. However, Flavia and her friends and family are all made up.
Q: How do you choose the title of a book?
A: My first editor Judith and I compromised and made an agreement early on. In each title there would be one 'exciting' word (for her) and one 'classical' word (for me).
Q: Which of your books did you enjoy writing the most? Which one was the hardest to write?
A: The hardest book to write was The Secrets of Vesuvius because I had to get so many historical facts exactly right and also because the opponent was not human, but a volcano! That's the last time I make that mistake! You might be interested to know that I wrote 43 drafts of that book... Well, they say 'Writing is rewriting!'
The book I most enjoyed writing was The Pirates of Pompeii, mainly because I fell in love with the Villa Limona and its inhabitants. The only time I've ever had to be dragged away from my computer was while writing Pirates; I was having so much fun!
Q: Do any of your characters resemble you?
A: I am like Flavia because I like puzzles, codes, and mysteries. Plus I am bossy.
I am like Jonathan because I am Jewish by background but call myself a Christian.
I am like Lupus because I lose my temper and get angry and storm off.
Sadly, I am not much like Nubia, who is gentle, intuitive and loves animals!
Q: How has training as an archaeologist helped you as a writer?
A: An archaeologist looks at physical remains in the ground. I have only ever been on one dig in Shropshire (a Roman British site) and I thought it was pretty boring! (See my blog entry called 'A Career in Ruins' ) I much prefer reading the myths, poems and letters of people who lived in ancient Greece and Rome. Their writings are the main source of my inspiration. That is why I studied Greek, Latin and Hebrew,
Q: What do you do when you get writer's block?
A: I don't actually get writer's block where I run out of ideas, but sometimes my plots are so complicated that I have to fit all the elements together like a puzzle. When this happens, I go for a walk beside the Thames and listen to my iPhone. Somehow the rhythmical forward movement always gives me lots of ideas and I usually have a breakthrough. I also get good ideas when I am half asleep.
Q: Do you know any other children's writers?
A: Since the first book was published in September of 2001, I have met Mark Haddon, Francesca Simon, Morris Gleitzman, Anne Fine, Philip Pullman, Marcus Sedgwick, Terence Blacker, Richard Brassey, Quentin Blake, Celia Rees, Melvin Burgess, Eoin Colfer, Chris D'Lacey, Tim Bowler, Geraldine McCaughrean, Gillian Cross, Jeremy Strong, The Two Steves (Barlow & Skidmore), Avi, Kevin Crossley-Holland, Louise Rennison, Michael Morpurgo, Sally Gardner, Lauren St John, Zizou, Garth Nix, Justin Somper, Malorie Blackman, Anthony Horowitz and Jacqueline Wilson! I have never met J.K.Rowling or Roald Dahl. But I have become friends with Cliff McNish, (author of the Doomspell Trilogy), Robert Muchamore, (author of the CHERUB series), and Sophie McKenzie, (who wrote Girl, Missing).
Q: How long does it take you to write a book?
A: 6 months on average.
Q: Have you got any special ambitions?
A: Yes I have always wanted an Oscar.
Q: Have you won any awards?
A: In April 2009, I won the Classical Association Award. It is awarded for 'a significant contribution to the public understanding of Classics'. See? My books are educational as well as fun!
Q: Please can you send me a list of the other books you have written?
A: The only other books I have written apart from the Roman Mysteries (see the bottom of this page) is the first book of my new Western Mysteries series, The Case of the Deadly Desperados.
Q: 'A dramatic end to the series!' Does that mean there will be no more Roman Mysteries?
I think after 17 mysteries and a dozen mini-mysteries Flavia and her friends have earned a break, don't you? But I plan to write until I drop... Other projects beckon. Some Roman, some not.
The ENTIRE Roman Mysteries series:
I The Thieves of Ostia - the friends meet and solve their first mystery
II The Secrets of Vesuvius - a riddle and danger as Vesuvius erupts
III The Pirates of Pompeii - who's taking children from the refugee camp?
IV The Assassins of Rome - Jonathan's search takes him to Rome
V The Dolphins of Laurentum - sunken treasure and Lupus's past
VI The Twelve Tasks of Flavia Gemina - romance and mystery in and around Ostia
VII The Enemies of Jupiter - plague and fire in Rome, early AD 80
VIII The Gladiators from Capua - opening of the Colosseum, AD 80
IX The Colossus of Rhodes - the four friends take a cruise in May...
X The Fugitive from Corinth - then pursue a fugitive around Greece
XI The Sirens of Surrentum - the Bay of Naples for poison & decadence
XII The Charioteer of Delphi - a famous racehorse goes missing
The Code of Romulus - a World Book Day booklet (now a collector's item)
The First Roman Mysteries Quiz Book
XIII The Slave-girl from Jerusalem - courtroom drama in Ostia
Trimalchio's Feast and other Mini-Mysteries - a collection of short stories
The Second Roman Mysteries Quiz Book
XIV The Beggar of Volubilis - a caravan across North Africa
From Ostia to Alexandria with Flavia Gemina (a Travel Guide)
XV The Scribes from Alexandria - Egypt and Nubia in Roman times
XVI The Prophet from Ephesus - the four go to Asia Minor (Turkey)
XVII The Man from Pomegranate Street - who killed Titus & whom does Flavia marry?
The First Roman Mysteries Omnibus (new edition)
The Legionary from Londinium and other Mini-Mysteries
THE ROMAN MYSTERIES TREASURY
Roman Mysteries TV series Season One DVD
Roman Mysteries TV series Season Two DVD
Roman Mysteries Box Set; Seasons 1 & 2 DVD
THE ROMAN MYSTERY SCROLLS (for 7+)
I The Sewer Demon - Threptus the ex-beggar boy must overcome a creature from below
II The Poisoned Honey Cake - Threptus gets in trouble when he steals a cake from an altar
III The Thunder Omen - During the Saturnalia, Threptus and Floridius try to rig the omens
also by Caroline Lawrence:
THE WESTERN MYSTERIES (for 9+)
1. The Case of the Deadly Desperados, the first in Caroline's Western Mystery series
2. The Case of the Good-looking Corpse, private eye P.K. Pinkerton looks for a killer
*the Sirens of Surrentums, although carefully written for children, contains some Adult Themes