Interview: Lindsay Powell
happy to have Lindsay Powell as my guest today. Thank you for joining me on my website.
Author Lindsay Powell
Lindsay, can you tell us about yourself and your background?
for your invitation, Jess. Starting at the very beginning, I was born in Cardiff, Wales and went to a high school in the city.
I studied a range of subjects and found history, economics, Latin, French and German very much to my liking. From there I
went to the University of Aston in Birmingham (England, not Alabama!) where I graduated in management and international marketing.
Though working full-time in a busy commercial environment, and moving to the USA in 1997, I never lost my interest in ancient
As for writing, while I lived in the UK, I joined the world-famous re-enactment society, The Ermine
Street Guard, and contributed several articles to its magazine, Exercitus. Only much later did I start writing in earnest,
What books have you written, and what are their genres? What audience
are they aimed at?
My genre is non-fiction – that is narrative, fact-based history and biography.
I write for a reader who demands more than a superficial treatment of the subject, but who also wants all the details and
nuance in a more readable format than found in academic or technical publications. In other words, my goal is to present a
meticulously researched book written in an accessible style.
To date I have written seven books.
For Pen and Sword Books:
EAGER FOR GLORY: The Untold Story of Drusus
the Elder, Conqueror of Germania, with a foreword by Graham Sumner
GERMANICUS: The Magnificent Life and Mysterious Death of Rome’s Most Popular General, with
a foreword by Philip Matyszak
Right-Hand Man of Caesar Augustus, with a foreword by Steven Saylor
AUGUSTUS AT WAR: The Struggle for the Pax Augusta, with a foreword by Karl Galinsky
For Osprey Publishing:
COMBAT: Roman Soldier versus Germanic Warrior,
1st Century AD, illustrated by Peter Dennis
The Bar Kokhba War AD 132–136, the last Jewish revolt against Imperial Rome, illustrated by Peter Dennis
I have also self-published a collection of my blogs as ALL THINGS UNDER THE SUN: How Modern Ideas Are Really Ancient.
(It was just as well I did: GoDaddy killed the blogging app I used to publish my articles and they have been offline ever
Additionally, I am news editor for both Ancient History and Ancient Warfare magazines, so my reports
appear in every issue. Occasionally I also write longer pieces. I contributed an article on the Battle of Idistaviso for issue
of AW XII-5, and one on Antinous in AH in issue 20.
Lindsay Powell Books
Lindsay Powell Book Trailers
you to write what you did?
I wrote articles for Exercitus over several years on a variety of subjects –
mutiny, record-keeping, religion, among others. It was fun researching the subjects and explaining my findings to fellow guard
members – a community of well-informed, well-read people eager for new, fact-based insights – but crucially in
an accessible style. Years later I began writing a novel set in the Alpine and German Wars of Nero Claudius Drusus. It was
a struggle. There was no history book I could turn to that covered the period (15-9 BC) in the depth I needed to build the
timeline, to flesh out the characters and their backstories. In doing the research I found I was laying the ground work for
a non-fiction book. I approached several publishers and Pen and Sword offered me a contract. I got my lucky break and haven’t
What do you find the hardest about writing? The easiest?
For me the easiest, and most enjoyable part
of the process is doing the research. I like becoming the ‘historical detective’, going in search of answers to
questions, following the leads, meeting subject matter experts, making sense of the evidence and assembling it into a compelling
narrative. The hardest part is knowing when to stop the research and get on with the writing – and then recognising
when the project is complete.
Where do you get your writing
For me it starts with the people I write about and the times they lived in. They are
all fascinating individuals, many of whom have been largely overlooked by historians. Their stories are often unknown to the
general reader. There is usually a deeper mystery in their lives, which I try to explain. In the case of Marcus Agrippa, I
was drawn by the conundrum of why he sublimated his ambition and copious talents to serve his friend Augustus exclusively
– even giving his sons up for adoption while he was still alive. Amazingly, there had not been a biography about him
in English in 80 years, which was my opportunity! With Augustus at War I sought to understand how a man given to bouts of
sickness during battle, and known to be a second-rate field commander, could beat his opponents and go on to double the size
of the dominions of the Roman People. My insight was that modern historians have seriously underestimated Augustus as a military
commander and manager of war; that too was my opportunity.
do you want readers to take away?
Real history is fun! Truth really is stranger than fiction. (OK,
that’s two messages).
What’s next for you after?
Right now, I am writing a new book for Pen and Sword. It explores in much more detail the Bar Kokhba War of AD 132-136,
which I first discussed in my short book for Osprey. The titanic struggle between Emperor Hadrian and rebel leader-cum messiah
Shim’on ben Koseba is less well known than the Jewish War of AD 66-73. Yet it was, arguably, of greater consequence
for both Romans and Jews. The causes of the conflict and the course of the war are utterly fascinating – and hotly debated
by scholars. After that I am back with the Julio-Claudian family, writing a new biography of Tiberius Caesar – a man
who history has cast as a villain, rightly or wrongly.
How can we follow or contact you?
My website is www.Lindsay-Powell.com. I use social media and can also be found on Twitter as @Lindsay_Powell and on Facebook.
Where can readers buy your books?
The publishers’ own websites sell my
books, of course, but they can be ordered where all good books are sold – Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Blackwell’s,
BookPeople, Foyles, Heffer’s, Powell’s and Waterstones to name a few.
Thank you very much, Lindsay.
You’re most welcome, Jess. And I wish you great success
with your own writing.
Teaching at the University of Texas at Austin, OLLI NOVA: Meet the Caesars, Fall 2018.
(Last two attachments, Lindsay Powell Lecturing - Photo credits: John Theodore).
My March guest blogger will be Author, Meghan Holloway.
Until next time, Salve Atque Vale! Hail and Farewell!
Jess Steven Hughes