Friday, May 25, 2018

The Deadliest Sport by June Trop (Book Spotlight, Author Interview & Giveaway!)

Because my mother is Roman, I have visited Rome several times and, of course, have been fascinated with the Colosseum. In June Trop's third book in the Miriam bat Isaac Mysteries, which I read and reviewed on Library of Clean Reads, her brother is a gladiator who fought in Rome. I enjoyed this book and interviewed the author (see below) and also included a giveaway!

Book Details:

Book Title: The Deadliest Sport: A Miriam bat Isaac Mystery in Ancient Alexandria
Author: June Trop
Category: Adult fiction, 242 pages
Genre: Mystery, Historical Fiction
Publisher: Black Opal Books
Release date: October 7, 2017
Tour dates: May 14 to 25, 2018
Content Rating: PG (mild religious oriented expletives, such as "Lord," some violent descriptions, such as the corpse, the gladiatorial arena)

Book Description:

Miriam bat Isaac, a budding alchemist in first-century CE Alexandria, welcomes her twin brother Binyamin home to fight his last gladiatorial bout in Alexandria. But when he demands his share of the family money so he can build a school for gladiators in Alexandria, Miriam explains that he forsook his share when he took the gladiatorial oath.

When she refuses to loan him the money for what she feels is a shady and dangerous enterprise, Binyamin becomes furious. Soon after, the will of Amram, Miriam's elderly charge, turns up missing; Amram becomes seriously ill; and the clerk of the public records house is murdered. Could Binyamin really be behind this monstrous scheme? If not he, who could be responsible? And is Miriam slated to be the next victim?

To read reviews, please visit June Trop's page on iRead Book Tours.

Buy the Book:

Watch the Book Trailer:

Interview with June Trop

EI: Welcome to Essentially Italian! Can you describe your book in 20 words or less?

JT: I’ll give it a try: Miriam penetrates a monstrous multilayered scheme and risks her life to expose the mastermind behind it.

EI: Your book is atmospheric, with details that bring the setting to life. How did you go about doing the research for this period in history?

JT: Aside from its being a first-century CE intellectual and cultural melting pot, Alexandria was second only to Rome in its commercial and educational institutions. Accordingly, I found many books about its geography, history, architecture, customs, sports, politics, gardens, and ethnic groups. Having loved learning about the Roman Empire since childhood, I was like a kid in a candy store.

EI: The Deadliest Sport is the third book in your Miriam bat Isaac Mystery Series. What are the challenges to writing a series? What’s the advantage?

JT: One challenge is keeping the stories straight, especially when the titles are similar, all beginning with THE DEADLIEST. And then there’s the question all series writers must wrestle with: Shall I freeze my characters in time or let them mature over the years? The advantage is that when I sit down to write a story, I already know my setting and core characters. They have become friends whom I enjoy visiting again.

EI: Which character was the most difficult to write? The easiest?

JT: All the characters are difficult to write in the beginning because I haven’t yet gotten to know them as more than an outline of traits. But eventually, they become real enough to tell me who they are, what they have to say, and what they want to do.

One special difficulty though is in crafting the antagonist. I try to make this character’s motives, as evil as they might be, understandable so that on some level my readers can sympathize with him.

And good or bad, when I look back, I see that all the characters have a piece of me in them.

EI: What inspired you to base Miriam on the true personage of Maria Hebrea, the legendary founder of Western alchemy?

JT: Alchemy was a capital offense in Roman Alexandria. The little I could learn about Maria Hebrea convinced me that she was a courageous and intrepid pursuer of knowledge. She risked her life to uncover the secrets of the material world that could not only elevate base metals but heal, rejuvenate, and extend human life. What a model of passion and persistence! At the same time, nothing being known of her personal life left me free to invent one for her.

EI: If you could travel back in time, where would you go? Who would you see?

JT: Easy question! I’d go right back to first-century CE, Roman-occupied Alexandria. I know the streets will be smelly, the political realities threatening, and the life expectancy short, but the city will be splendid, the climate perfect, and the intellectual life keen. And yes, there’s that one person I’d love to see, namely Maria Hebrea herself.

EI: What do you want your readers to take away from your series?
JT: Miriam approaches her problems with courage, fair-mindedness, and persistence. At the same time, she tries to overcome her weaknesses, especially her tendency to tell lies. I would like my modern readers to see how these qualities can make them successful.

EI: Any future projects you want to share with us?

JT: The fourth book in the Miriam bat Isaac Series, THE DEADLIEST FEVER, just came out. I am looking forward to hearing how my readers react to this story of a jewel heist in Ephesus. And I am working on the “penultimate draft” of my fifth book, THE DEADLIEST THIEF, a novella about one of the three thieves who escape to Alexandria.

EI: Thank you so much for joining us and telling us more about you and your writing!

Meet the Author:

June Trop and her twin sister Gail wrote their first story, "The Steam Shavel [sic]," when they were six years old growing up in rural New Jersey. They sold it to their brother Everett for two cents.

"I don't remember how I spent my share," June says. "You could buy a fistful of candy for a penny in those days, but ever since then, I wanted to be a writer."

As an award-winning middle school science teacher, June used storytelling to capture her students' imagination and interest in scientific concepts. Years later as a professor of teacher education, she focused her research on the practical knowledge teachers construct and communicate through storytelling. Her first book, From Lesson Plans to Power Struggles (Corwin Press, 2009), is based on the stories new teachers told about their first classroom experiences.

Now associate professor emerita at the State University of New York at New Paltz, she devotes her time to writing The Miriam bat Isaac Mystery Series. Her heroine is based on the personage of Maria Hebrea, the legendary founder of Western alchemy, who developed the concepts and apparatus alchemists and chemists would use for 1500 years.

June lives with her husband Paul Zuckerman in New Paltz, where she is breathlessly recording her plucky heroine's next life-or-death exploit.

Connect with the Author: Website ~ Facebook ~ Pinterest

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Ends June 2, 2018

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