Stittsville author, John W. Egan, has released his second novel of the Gaspunk series – The Roman Sky. His first novel in the series released in December 2020, ‘Empire’s Gate’, outsold, in two months, all of his other books published over the last five years. At the Ottawa Library, ‘holds’ by people wanting to read the book kept it off of the shelf for almost a year. John’s reputation as an incredible author who pens novels bursting with history and intrigue, draws his audience into each story – leaving his readers awaiting his next novel – ‘Empire’s Shield’.
With the success of his first novel, work on the sequel – ‘Empire’s Shield’ – began quickly. John tells Stittsville Central, “I had started working on another novel last January when I saw the sales for the first book of this series, Empire’s Gate, take off. So I began working on its sequel, this novel, Empire’s Shield, in March and finished it in November. It took longer to write than I had hoped due to the usual distractions of life.”
John added, “The series began as a short story six years ago. I took it to the Conference on Canadian Content in Speculative Arts and Literature, held each year in Ottawa, for a Blue Pencil session with the award-winning author Edward Willett to review and edit. He gave me great feedback and encouraged me to turn this short story into a novel. The novel grew into a series.”
The series is an alternative history of the sixth century Roman Empire. The empire in this world has airships as it picked up on a demonstration of a sky lantern that was missed in our own history. ‘Empire’s Shield’ begins a year after the battle of Dara and the end of the first book, ‘Empire’s Gate’.
The series continues to follow Cillian, a new tent group commander, who seeks his destiny in an Airborne Legion when he must turn a mix of veterans and recruits into a team and learn to lead them while there is time. But what started out as a peaceful spring on a quiet frontier is about to change.
The inspiration to write this series came from a footnote in a history book John said. “The Roman Sky series was inspired by a footnote in a history book. In 233 CE, a Roman merchant returned from China and demonstrated a sky lantern – a small paper-and-candle hot air balloon – to Emperor Alexander Severus. The merchant had seen the Chinese General Kongming use sky lanterns to signal his armies. Nothing came of the demonstration, but I wondered what if someone had paid attention and turned sky lanterns into airships the way Europeans later turned firecrackers into cannons. So I created a world where the Romans developed airships and set this series in the 6th century empire of Emperor Justinian that is united, pagan, and prosperous due to the presence of airships over 300 years.
“The Romans had the technology to build airships that I describe. They even had taxi metres and a steam engine 2,000 years ago. To create this alternative world, I studied the 6th century Roman Empire: how they dressed, what they ate, and what they believed, as well as how the Romans managed an empire. I even bought a recurve bow to ensure I had its details right as that weapon features in every story of the series. I also contacted academics who study the 6th century on certain points in the stories, or how I change them. I relocated the battle of Dara in the first book to where I thought it made sense as the historical accounts left the Romans no room to manoeuvre or withdraw. It turned out that a professor at Oxford had visited the site and had found evidence that supported where I had relocated the battle in Empire’s Gate. History imitating fiction? And while the main characters of the series are fictional, many of the other characters exist in our history as do many of the events in which they are caught up.
“While the airships catch one’s attention, the story is about a young man, Cillian, trying to negotiate the tugs and shoves of family, friends, and life. As the son of a retired Centurion, Cillian is obliged to serve in the Roman Army. As the son of a Goth Healer, Cillian is exposed to two cultures that are in conflict. As he rises in rank, Cillian is exposed to the ambitions, prejudices, and conflicts of those around him and of the wealthy and powerful. I even draw upon my own career and exposure to war for realistic details and reactions. The series follows how Cillian meets these challenges in his career and personal life over sixteen years, a novel per year.”
Released at the end of December, Empire’s Shield is available both as a paperback or an e-Book. Amazon sells the paperback edition and eBook for its Kobo reader. Chapters, Barnes & Noble, Apple, and other booksellers have copies that can be read on their readers. Or one can go to Smashwords and pick out the edition that suits your reader. The Ottawa Public Library should have a paperback copy of ‘Empire’s Shield’ available in a month or two.
John released his first novel in the Gaspunk series – The Roman Sky, ‘Empire’s Gate‘ in December 2020. John has also written the historical fiction novels – the ‘Winter of 1813-beyond 1812’ and ‘Angel & Mercy-The Ceasefire War’ and has co-written with Bakar Mansaray, an author in his own right, ‘Angel & Mercy-The Ebola War‘. He is currently writing another historical fiction novel ‘Spring of 1813’ in follow-up to ‘Winter of 1813-beyond 1812’.