Christian Historical Fiction Author, Carol Ashby

Carol Ashby, author

This week please welcome Carol Ashby to the blog.

Welcome Carol, and thank you for agreeing to tell us about Carol Ashby, author. It might interest readers to know that the ‘featured image’ on this blog is from Carol’s website and provided by Walters Museum in Baltimore, Maryland.

Carol’s novels are set in the time of the Roman Empire. A little later in time than the Apostle John series, but about people living with the challenge of death for their faith.

A little of my history will put how I write in perspective.

I have a Ph.D. in chemistry and worked in research for many years. You could say I’ve been a professional writer almost all my life since being a scientist means writing many technical journal articles about your research. That background makes me obsessive for getting the details of my time period correct. It also equips me to pull information from books by history professors and use it to make my stories as historically accurate as I possibly can.

Most historical fiction writers try hard to get their history right, but some time periods are easier than others. Fortunately, the Roman Empire has been a popular topic for a long time, and there’s lots of information available. I now have more than six dozen books by experts in Roman history. (Yes, I’m a bookaholic, but what writer isn’t?)

To make my characters behave like “real” people true to their own time, I study everyday things like normal household activities, food preparation, clothing and uniforms, and medical practice in the Roman world. It can be very dangerous to be in my novels, and I actually use the translation of the 8 volumes on Roman medicine written by Celsus during the reigns of Augustus and Tiberius.

Sketch of Roman man in toga

We history buffs love sharing the details of our favorite eras. I’ve turned my research into a Roman history website. You will find the link at the end of the post.

 I try to add something new every week. Some topics include slavery, adoption, and why you’d really want to be a Roman citizen if you were charged with a crime. I’m working on an article on medicine right now.

Did you know the Romans did cataract surgery?

Books by Carol Ashby

The novels of the Light in the Empire series are set in different provinces of the Roman empire at its peak, between AD 114 and 122.

Two are published now, and four more will be releasing during the next two years.

The first, Forgiven, is set in Judea where a family of Messianic Jews whose son was killed by a Roman soldier care for an injured Roman officer after his own brother tries to murder him to inherit more of the family fortune

The second, Blind Ambition, is set in Germania where a German Christian risks having her whole family executed for their faith when she finds a Roman officer left for dead by robbers and takes her enemy home to care for him.

These stories are about people who struggle to live out their love for Jesus when the desires of their hearts or the demands of their culture are pulling them in another direction. Sound like a contemporary problem?

If your own experience is anything like mine, I bet you’ve experienced that struggle yourself.

But there’s nothing more exhilarating than seeing a friend you care about who didn’t even have God on her/his radar begin to ask questions about life and eternity. That’s a unifying theme in all my novels. Each one is a story of hope about human love and spiritual transformation, a story about how our faithfulness can inspire another to open his or her heart to God.

What got me started writing Roman?

From the safety of living the US, I’ve been watching and praying for my Christian brothers and sisters in other parts of the world who risk everything and sometimes pay the ultimate price when they stay true to the faith. I couldn’t miss the parallel between their lives and those of early Christians during the time of Roman persecution. A few months before I retired, God put it on my heart to start writing stories about people living their faith in dangerous times.

As a follower of Jesus working as a scientist, I’ve had many opportunities to share with my friends why I believe. It’s those years of honest conversation with friends and colleagues that guide how my characters approach their lives. The believers know why they believe, and it isn’t just because they grew up in a culture influenced by Christian teaching. My characters who are not Christians at the beginning of each story ask the same questions I’ve been asked by friends. They wrestle with the intellectual and emotional questions that confront them when they see how a genuine believer lives out what Jesus taught in a time when that might get them executed by the Roman state.

When I talk with someone about my faith, it has nothing to do with trying to prove I’m right and they’re wrong. It’s because I want to share the most wonderful thing any human can experience. It’s because I’ve seen how God loves me more than I can even imagine, even though I can never be good enough on my own to earn the right to be in the presence of all that’s perfect and holy. He loves me enough to take human form and be tortured to death on a Roman cross for my sin to give me an escape route from the death I deserve to life with Him.

God isn’t some fairytale figure made up to comfort or scare us.

If that were the case, my scientific training would have “cured” me of belief before I even got my undergraduate degree. But it was my first biochemistry class that guaranteed I would believe in God, whether it was culturally popular or not.

Paper and pencil cartoon

Give me 5 minutes with paper and pencil, and I can show you some simple facts of molecular biology and the easy math that lets you calculate the probability of getting heads or tails when you flip a coin. That’s all I need to prove it’s statistically impossible for life to have accidentally started. Once the math and science convince you there was a designer, how could a person not start asking questions about who that designer is, does he want you to know him, and what is he willing to do so you can?

My stories are about selfish ambition, envy, greed, hatred, love, painful loss, and world-view transformation set in the Roman world at the peak of the Empire. But nothing has really changed between then and now except our technology. God still loves us and wants a loving relationship with each of us. The mental and emotional struggle that can keep someone from accepting that hasn’t changed one bit in 2000 years.

I love writing stories where someone struggles through the swamp in the valley to reach the bright sunshine of the mountaintop beyond. The beauty of writing historical fiction is having a setting that’s enough different from our own daily experience that it’s easier to set aside our cultural conditioning to consider what we believe and how we might want to live as we enjoy a compelling story

Carol, thank you so much for sharing your writing, and yourself.

It has been an honor and a privilege to hear from you.

Now… if you want to explore Carol’s website and enjoy the benefit of her research here is the link to get there. (You will find links to buy her books there also.)

http://www.carolashby.com

Enjoy,

Susan

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