Monday, April 06, 2015

Interview with T.S. Chaudhry, author of 'The Queen of Sparta'



T. S. Chaudhry was born in Karachi, Pakistan. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University, a master’s degree from Harvard University, and a PhD from the University of Cambridge. Formerly a Pakistani diplomat, Chaudhry currently works for the United Nations on peace and security issues in Africa.

THE QUEEN OF SPARTA is Chaudhry’s first novel. He came up with the idea to write a story about Queen Gorgo being the architect of the Greek resistance against the Persian invasion while reading Herodotus for his A-Level examination in England several decades ago. “As a lover of history, or a ‘history-buff,’ I have always enjoyed reading both fiction and nonfiction about this period.”

Chaudhry is currently working on a “prequel” to THE QUEEN OF SPARTA based on events leading up to the Battle of Marathon, called Fennel Field.

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About the Book:

Title: The Queen of Sparta
Author: T.S. Chaudhry
Publisher: Top Hat Books
Pages: 383
Genre: Historical Fiction
Format: Paperback/Kindle 

Author T.S. Chaudhry offers a new spin on Spartan history in his novel, THE QUEEN OF SPARTA. In the book, Queen Gorgo, the wife of the courageous Spartan leader, Leonidas, surreptitiously organizes the Greek resistance against the invasion of the mighty Persian king, Xerxes, and his massive army. Although founded on the writings of historian, Herodotus, Chaudhry’s revision of the 480 B.C. invasion challenges readers to imagine the brilliant and politically savvy Queen Gorgo as the Spartan leader who wielded her power with stealth and cunning to end the Persian occupation of Greece.
Gorgo devises a strategy using espionage and diplomacy, in addition to Sparta’s military might, to defeat the Persians and drive them out of Greece. During the last battle of the war, Prince Sherzada, a Saka, is captured while fighting on the Persian side. He is imprisoned by Gorgo, who has vowed to kill him. However, an unexpected alliance blooms between Gorgo and Sherzada, based on common perceptions and a shared dark secret. As allies, the queen and prince face new dangers from within Sparta that threaten the safety of Gorgo and her young son, the king.
As the story progresses, Queen Gorgo must choose between confronting the reactionary forces within Sparta directly or saving her life and the life of her child.
THE QUEEN OF SPARTA begins on the Banks of Indus, and takes the reader through time and space to Greece, Tuscany, Rome, and the Baltic coast of northern Europe and attempts to link some of the main cultures of that time period. “In the novel, I tried to present the conflict through the eyes of two protagonists,” Chaudhry states. “The Greek viewpoint is presented through Queen Gorgo, and the opposing one is represented by Prince Sherzada, who becomes her prisoner. The whole story is also a deliberate attempt to confuse ‘the possession’ of history because, actually, history belongs to all of us.”
THE QUEEN OF SPARTA informs the reader about the politics of ancient Greece in the 5th Century, B.C. and about Sparta, its people, and its culture; the book also describes what made the Spartans great while sharing the flaws and contradictions within their society. Chaudhry notes that “fiction is art immitating life. That is how I see the relationship between historical fiction and history. History has wonderful stories to tell. And it gets more wonderful the further in the past you go where evidence is sparse, but the realm of creativity is rich. I love to find out how things happened the way they did. Ancient history provides us with a rich variety of potential answers that are always fun to explore.”
The author’s goal in writing THE QUEEN OF SPARTA was to share the message that “one must stand for one’s principles, for what one believes to be right, even in the face of overwhelming opposition.”

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Q: Welcome to The Writer's Life, T.S.  Can you tell us how long you’ve been writing and how your journey led to writing your latest book, The Queen of Sparta?

A: Thank you for having me here. The Queen of Sparta is my first book. I had the idea when I was a teenager while reading the works of the historian Herodotus.

Q: I love your title…can you tell us why you chose it?

A: It is quite obvious, actually. The story is about a Queen of Sparta.

Q: Why did you believe your book should be published?

A: The period I am writing about has been covered extensively in both fiction and film – the 300 series being the latest. However, so there is an overwhelming focus on a small part of the Persian invasion of Greece – mostly around the battle of Thermopylae - to the detriment of the bigger picture. In my novel, I do cover the Persian invasion in its entirety but I also situate in a broader historical and political context and describe not only that war but also the aftermath and how a remarkable woman at the center of it all has to make some pretty tough choices. It is a story that, I believe, is worth telling.

Q: We all know that publishers can’t do all of the publicity and that some lies on the author.  What has your publisher done so far to publicize the book and what have you done?

A: Publishers have access to publicity resources which authors don’t. While I know my publishers have done a lot on both sides of the Atlantic to spread the word, I have sought the very high quality assistance of the Barrett Company in the US, as well as Authoramp in the UK. In addition, I maintain a pretty active facebook page https://www.facebook.com/thequeenofsparta through which I have been in able to attract a large number of fans.

Q: What book on the market can it compare to?  How is it different?  What makes your book special?

A: The Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield is my main competition and it is indeed an impressive novel.  Like others, however, Mr. Pressfield focuses on the Battle of Thermopylae. Mine does describe the battle but situates that event in a broader historical framework. It also, unlike this book and similar works, does not tell the story only from the Spartan point of view, but also from the point of view of those who are on their side and those who fought against them. And at the center of this war and politics, is not a macho man, it is a brilliant young woman who uses her brains to solve problems. And that is why this book is special.

Q: Open to a random page in your book.  Can you tell us what is happening?

A: We reach the last page of Chapter Nine. A decisive battle is about to begin between the Greeks and the Persians on the plains of Plataea. Queen Gorgo, back in Sparta, is not sure whether in spite of her best efforts to guide the commanders, if the Greeks will prevail. As a last ditch contingency, she calls up the reservists, mostly old me and young boys. In case, the Greeks fail at Plataea it will be up to these soldiers to defend Sparta. So she rouses them with a speech:

   “My uncles and my nephews, Sparta has no walls because you, her warriors, are her walls. Sparta’s boundaries are undefined because these your spear-points define her borders. So when the Barbarians come, let them find nothing but death on the frontiers of Sparta!”

With this she sends them into battle. As they march off in the darkness, she does not know how many of these would return alive, if any at all. If they do not, Sparta’s fate would be sealed forever.

Q: Do you plan subsequent books?

A: The next book is called Fennel Field – the translation of the Greek word for “Marathon.” It is a ‘prequel.’ It describes the series of events leading up to the Battle of Marathon which took place a decade earlier and how the lives of half a dozen people are inexorably caught up in these momentous events.
  
Q: Do you have any final words?

A: Its been a pleasure being here.




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