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Friday 22 April 2016

S is for...Sower of the Seeds of Dreams

Click Here for a list of other A-Zers
Sower of the Seeds of Dreams

Throughout April I have invited 26 authors who had been selected as Editor's Choice by the Historical Novel Society Indie Reviews
 to help me out with the 2016 A-Z Blog Challenge...

Except to be a little different I interviewed 
their leading Character/s...

Today's Character is from :

HH. Hello! I believe you exist in Bill Page’s novel – what is the title of the book, and would you like to introduce yourself – who are you, what do you do, etc.
My name is Canio and the novel is titled The Sower of the Seeds of Dreams. It is set (mostly) in the year AD 368, in the Roman province of Britannia Prima. I am now the owner of a rather splendid villa (and call myself Aulus Claudius Caninus), but back then I was a soldier with only one given name. I was born in 339, or thereabouts, in a cold city on the banks of the Rhine, to a mother who died when I was very young and a father whose name I never knew (and I’m fairly certain my mother didn’t either). When I was about twelve, in the December of 351, Marcia, my aunt and foster mother, was burnt at the stake for alleged sorcery. So it goes.  

HH. Where and when are you? Are you a real historical person or did your author create you?
Most of Sower takes place in the summer of that year, 368, over the course of a journey I made from the city of Corinium (Cirencester) all the way to a certain lake on the south side of what were then the Great Marshes, in the area now known as South Somerset.
Am I a real historical person? As far as Page is aware, I never existed, but what does he know? I lived in an age from which few documents have survived and the stories of countless lives have been lost forever.  

HH. In a few brief sentences: what is the novel you feature in about?
Sower can be read as a simple adventure story about a man (myself) and a young woman (Vilbia), initially strangers, who journey together through the summer countryside of Late Roman Britain, seeking the lake where a hoard of looted gold is said to have been hidden during the troubled times which followed the barbarian invasions of 367. With us we carry a small figurine of the Underworld goddess Hecate, which the mortally wounded man who told me of the gold insisted should be thrown into the lake. At the time I thought it was nothing more than the delirium of a dying man. I know better now.
On another level though, the events of the story carry the uneasy implication that, from beginning to end, I was being manipulated by something over which I had no control. And as a man who needs to believe that he is in command of his own destiny, the memory of those events haunts me to this day.  

HH.. I “met” my pirate, Jesamiah Acorne on a beach in Dorset, England – how did your author meet up with you? 
I started life as a character in Page’s first novel, The Moon on the Hills. Back then I was second in command to a fellow soldier, Saturninus, who set out to find the man he had dreamed was going to kill him under the next full moon. Eventually Saturninus did indeed track down and kill the man he saw in his dream, only to disappear without trace at an abandoned cemetery near the Severn Estuary on the night of that full moon. And a year later, in that same cemetery, Vilbia… but read the novel (if you can find a copy).

HH. Tell me about one or two of the other characters who feature with you – husband, wife, family? Who are some of the nice characters and who is the nastiest one?
Very well, I shall tell you about Vilbia. When I first met her, in that June of 368, she was the sixteen year old priestess of a little temple dedicated to the goddess of a spring which rises on the edge of the Hills. She had a pale, intelligent face, with abundant dark-copper hair swept up into a tightly coiled bun. I recall someone – it might have been Saturninus – likening her to a young kestrel, fierce and beautiful.
Vilbia, who travelled with me all the way to that lake; Vilbia, who dived down into the dark waters to recover the gold; Vilbia, who I abandoned to her fate when danger threatened.
It wasn’t until some eighteen months later, on a snowy night in January 370, that I saw her again. And although I felt an overwhelming sense of relief (and a degree of absolution from guilt), it was tempered by the realisation that there was now something indefinably different about her.  

HH. What is your favourite scene in the book?
My own favourite scene – among so many, for am I not the hero of Sower? – is when we – myself and Vilbia – were invited to dine at the Villa Aurelius (Low Ham it’s called now), owned by an aristocratic old lady called Aelia Aureliana. It turned out that she was as crazy as a wolf under a full moon, being possessed by the unshakeable belief that she was the reincarnation of Dido, Queen of Carthage.
The triclinium of her villa had once been the bath suite, or so I was told, and the floor was in part covered by a great mosaic showing scenes from the life of Dido, particularly the episode where she was seduced (to put it politely) by Aeneas, prince of Troy, before he sailed off to found Rome. By and by the reason for our invitation emerged: Aelia Aureliana thought (handsome buck that I am) that I was the reincarnation of a long-fled lover, a man who had his wicked way with her in that bath suite some forty years before, and who she convinced herself had been the reincarnation of Aeneas.
Oh Mercury, what fun I had stringing her along, and then pretending to bay at the moon when I thought she wasn’t looking! Vilbia, though, was uneasy, and now I believe I know why: she feared that Aelia Aureliana, mad as she was, had somehow detected that damned Hecate figurine in my belt-pouch.

Dido and Aeneas:
4th century mosaic from Low Ham Roman villa
 (Somerset County Museum, Taunton)
HH. What is your least favourite scene? Maybe a frightening or sad moment that your author wrote.
That at least is easy (although I could wish it wasn’t). We were at the lake and Vilbia was still in the water, diving to retrieve the last of the hacked-up pieces of gold dishes, flagons and the like, which I was busily stuffing into Antares’ saddlebags. Then I caught sight of them – seven or eight men, army deserters I reckoned – coming out of the woodland between the road and the lake. What happened next seems now like the imperfectly remembered fragments of a terrible dream.
Vilbia was swimming rapidly back towards the edge of the lake when suddenly, with no knowledge of how I got there, I found myself sitting up in Antares’ saddle, staring down at all that lovely, seductive yellow gold. Faintly, as if from far away, I heard Vilbia scream my name, and looking back I saw her standing at the edge of the lake, wild-eyed, her wet dark-copper hair clinging to her shoulders. I remember thinking that I had never before seen her looking so beautiful.
But that gold was whispering to me, whispering inside my head of all the good things that it could buy. And then my feet were kicking savagely into Antares’ flanks and I was riding away, on and on until many blurred and unremembered miles separated me from that lake.
Was it some exhalation of evil which came out of that bloodstained gold and possessed me, or was it the baleful influence of the Hecate figurine? I suspect it was the latter, but I’ll never know for sure – never be certain that it was nothing but my own all-consuming hunger for the good life which made me do what I did.

HH. What are you most proud of about your author?
Proud? Ha! Listen: he takes an age to draft the novels, and even longer on endless re-writes. He spends a small fortune on getting them published, and then, to cap it all, he’s absolutely useless at selling the damned things. So considerable quantities of them – which could have spread my fame to the world – have ended up being pulped to reduce storage costs.

Master Bill Page
HH. Has your author written other books about you? If not, about other characters? How do you feel about your author going off with someone else?
The Sower of the Seeds of Dreams was the second novel to feature myself. The first, as already mentioned, was The Moon on the Hills. The third is One Summer in Arcadia (shortlisted for the 2016 HNS Indie Award, no less).
Now the owner of a large villa situated in a sheltered coomb in the North Cotswolds (bought with that looted gold), life is good. I have a beautiful mistress, a vineyard and an invitation to the homecoming party about to be given by Antoninus, heir to the finest villa north of Corinium (Chedworth).

And then, riding up the coomb out of the golden light of the setting sun, comes a government agent called Macrinius Lunaris. It seems that he is planning to blackmail me into helping him to destroy Antoninus, whose brother, now dead, had maimed and humiliated him. Oh, and my mistress, Trifosa, might once have been Antoninus’s lover. So the good life is about to become both complicated and dangerous.

HH. As a character if you could travel to a time and place different from your own fictional setting where and when would you go?
The place: Somewhere where winter never comes, where late autumn merges seamlessly into early spring, where frost and ice and extreme heat are all alike unknown, where the rain is gentle and warm and just sufficient to keep the grass green and the cool streams flowing.
The time: Some time in your not-too-distant past, perhaps, when the world was (relatively) at peace, less crowded than today yet still with fresh water at the turn of a tap, electric light, gas heating, flush toilets, sewers, etc. Not what you expected, perhaps? Ah, but you should try living in a world where life, for all but the lucky (or cunning, like myself) few, was always brutally hard, and in winter was endlessly cold and dark, wet, hungry and foul-smelling. 
One thing though: in the emptier, wider, lonelier world of the late fourth century men could more readily believe – for good or ill – that the old gods and goddesses still walked the earth. Myself I never believed they existed, not any of them – except perhaps Hecate, and that reluctantly and for reasons which go way back into my childhood in that cold city beside the Rhine.  

Ruins of Spoonley Wood Roman villa, 
near Winchcombe, Gloucestershire (Arcadia)
Now, where can readers of this A-Z Challenge find out more about you and your author? 
Master Page’s website (containing links to Matador and Amazon) is:

Here is the company we will be keeping on this 
A-Z Blog Challenge!

A 1st  Friday - Aurelia  - Alison Morton
B 2nd Saturday  - Bloodie Bones - Lucienne Boyce
C 4th Monday - Man in the Canary Waistcoat Susan Grossey
D 5th Tuesday - Dubh-Linn  - James Nelson
F 7th Thursday - Fortune’s Fool- David Blixt
H 9th Saturday - The Love Letter of John Henry Holliday) - Mary Fancher
K 13th Wednesday - Khamsin- Inge Borg
L 14th Thursday - Luck Bringer   - Nick Brown
N 16th Saturday - A Newfound Land  - Anna Belfrage
O 18th Monday - Out Of Time  - Loretta Livingstone
P 19th Tuesday  - Pirate Code  - Helen Hollick
Q 20th Wednesday - To Be A Queen – Annie Whitehead
R 21st Thursday  - The Spirit Room - Marschel Paul
U 25th Monday  - A Just And Upright Man - John Lynch
X 28th Thursday – The FlaX flower – AmandaMaclean

So call back tomorrow 
To meet the next exciting Character! 
(unless it is Sunday - in which case, I'll have something different 

but just as interesting !)


  1. Great! Shared to 1k followers - smiles -

    1. Thank you, Caz. Now I must find out what in Hades' name Pinterest is.

    2. Don't worry about it Bill! Its one of the many social media sites that gobble up your time!

  2. These sound great. Bill, what were the inspirations for your books. Did you become interested in this period in history when you were at school or did it come later. The image on the cover is one of my favourites. I remember loving Rosemary Sutcliffe's book Eagle of the Ninth as a child. It was a lot more interesting than the way we were taught Latin!

    1. Hopefully Bill will reply soon.

    2. Thank you, Victoria. One inspiration for my books were the landscapes of the North Cotswolds and the realisation that, long ago in those same landscapes, before the muddy Saxons came, there existed echoes of the exotic civilisations which had their roots in that Ancient World lapped by the Mediterranean Sea.
      I have read several of Rosemary Sutcliff's novels, although I feel that it was perhaps her misfortune to be labelled a children's author, which prevented her from exploring the adult themes which the novels sometimes raise.
      Another inspiration was the fourth century coins (which I once hunted by eye in the wintry Cotswold fields) and the stories behind the long-dead faces which they portrayed.

    3. How fantastic to pick up coins in the fields - I used to pick up broken clay pipes on my grandfather's fields in Norfolk Not quite so interesting!

    4. It was fantastic, even though the great majority of the coins were badly worn and/or corroded by decades of artificial fertilizers. It was strange to hold in my hand a coin that, over sixteen hundred years ago, had been minted in Trier, or Lyons or Arles, or somewhere even further afield, and then made its way northwards, passing through innumerable hands, only to be lost in what was to become a remote and muddy Cotswold field. What stories those little scraps of copper alloy could have told.

  3. Canio, methinks you are too hard on your author; after all, indie publishing — and writing for that matter — require perseverance and are not for the faint of heart. ;)

    1. I'll drink to that Alexandra!

    2. Alexandra, my wretched scribe replies that, no matter how hard he perseveres (or so he claims), it is the selling of the novels in an overcrowded market that he finds so damnably difficult. I will try flogging the wretch (and the novels) harder.

  4. I bet, Canio, you are apt to take the credit for your author's third novel being Shortlisted for 2016! Careful, for his pen might just get even with you despite your splendid villa and calling yourself grandly Aulus Claudius Caninus from now on.

    1. Thanks for dropping by Inge!

    2. Funny you should say that, Inge. I have a strong suspicion that in his fourth instalment of my biography (just started) my miserable scribe is planning to make several rather unpleasant chickens come home to roost (and do other things which chickens do) upon my person.

  5. I think the selling is the thing we all find hardest, Bill. And we all get tarred with the "vanity-publishing" brush. I wrote about this at:

    1. Hello Steve. I have read your article and it is so very true - indeed "How many more books on the Tudors can we take?" (not to mention front covers depicting headless ladies in pretty frocks). But even with a "Shortlisted for the 2016 Historical Novel Society Indie Award" sticker attached I still find it difficult/impossible to get shops to stock my latest novel - even seemingly ideal locations like Chedworth Villa, where the novel is partly set. I am coming to the conclusion that direct sales to the public may be my best bet, but venues are limited.

  6. Bill, you are so lucky to be living in an area that provides so much on-the-spot relics, ruins, locations and landscape that evokes Roman Britain--and also to have the talent to bring it all to life. Keep reaching out to readers and surely they'll appreciate Canio and his complex adventures.

    1. Hello Cheryl. Sadly, I don't live in the Cotswolds but in the flat(ter) lands of South Worcestershire, although I can at least see the distant blue line of those Hills (when it's not raining). As for Canio, masochism dictates that I shall write a further novel.
      Incidentally, congratulations on getting 5 good reviews on Amazon for Murder at Cirey - the cover is particularly eye-catching.


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