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An interview with Justin Swanton author
of Centurion's Daughter

For more information about this book, click here.

CenturionsDaughterCoverWhat inspired you to write Centurion's Daughter?

      For a long time I've wanted to write a Catholic novel, but the catalyst was a dream I had about ten years ago. I saw Tarunculus in a Roman town, telling the odd passerby that he was the one chosen by Fate to save the empire. No one was taking him seriously. It eventually became part of the last chapter and the rest of the novel was built around it.

The book is obviously very well researched and follows the historical record very closely. Did you have a particular interest in this period of history? If so, what attracted you to it?

     The Fall of Rome is a subject of perennial interest, but beyond that the period is fascinating as it marks the foundation of Christendom: a truly Christian mediaeval society as opposed to the semi-Christianized Roman society that preceded it. The Battle of Soissons was one of the pivotal moments of the western world that helped determine whether that Christian mediaeval society would come into existence in the first place. It was an exciting time in which everything that happened, mattered.

What message do you think Centurion's Daughter has for young people today?

      I don't know if a novel is meant to have a 'message'. To me a novel is ideally a good story with interesting characters that reflects something of the reality of human life. But if one is looking for a message in Centurion's Daughter it could be not to trust in a purely human social order as it is built on sand. Or the sometimes very winding and nearly invisible way Providence guides us. Or to realize that the only thing that really matters in this world is to remain true to God and love those near us.

You are from South Africa. Does Centurion's Daughter say anything to South Africans that may not be picked up by Americans or others in the English speaking world?

      Oh yes! After 1994 the old order changed completely and forever. A lot of what came with the new liberal dispensation has not done the country any good but there is one thing at least that was an improvement: the old stratification of the races was replaced by a much more relaxed rapport between them -- it became easier to behave charitably towards individuals of other races. I think a South African would pick up this theme in the novel even though in other ways the rapport between Frank and Roman was different.

The book includes several outstanding illustrations and this seems to make it a bit of a throw-back to the 1940s and 1950s when these types of books for young adults were prevalent. Where do you think Centurion's Daughter fits in among more modern fiction for young adults?

     One needs to bear in mind that teenagers tend to read books intended for adults, as any school curriculum demonstrates. Centurion's Daughter is not 'written down' to children. I intended it for mature thinking readers, which -- depending on the individual -- can be anything from early teens upwards. I chose to do illustrations as some of the books I most enjoyed as a teen had pictures in them. There seems to be a convention that rules out illustrating books for older readers -- a pity to my mind.

Aemilia is a very deep and intriguing character. As a man, how difficult was it to create a teenaged girl protagonist?

     It's a bit hackneyed but still the truth to say that a writer doesn't create his characters, he merely reports what they do. Aemilia and the other characters really just developed in their own way. Of course one needs raw material, but since like everyone else I interact with men and women of all ages, there was plenty of raw material to draw from. Aemilia is perhaps thoughtful rather than 'deep'. One mentally debates the big questions in one's teens. Aemilia is not an especially great thinker, but the complete overturning of her old settled way of life has forced her to reappraise her assumptions. In doing so she begins to think, and finally act, for herself.

For more information about this book or to place an order, click here.

Posted September 23, 2011.

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