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In 2016, after many inconclusive talks about this project, Manfred and I became stuck. Perhaps we were not able to co-write a historical novel set in Belgian Gaul during the civil wars of Nero’s time. But the scenarios we had been thinking about for a long time were truly splendid, and eventually, we decided to try out of curiosity.

Just as a test, I wrote a flood of notes on the nature of the various characters.


Manfred devoted himself to the settings, the woods of Gaul and the general structure of the story we wanted to tell. The protagonists were easy to find; there were many figures suitable for that role in the classical sources of the first century that tell about the civil wars in the Year of the Four Emperors.

We did not choose historical figures but gave life and appearance to anonymous figures taken from the army and from the undergrowth of officials, merchants and intermediaries that had grown around the administration of Gaul, which had been Romanized for more than a century.
They were non-heroic figures, ordinary people who clash with uncommon problems, such as insurrections, revolts, and looting by troops out of control.
At that point, the novel got out of control, and a trilogy resulted.
Between 2017 and 2018, Manfred and I shared the tasks: he went a couple of times to the Moselle and Saar valleys, places he already knew very well since he was born there, while I did the inspections in the region of ancient Lugdunense Gaul and Germania Superior (now Franche Comtè).
We went with the maps we had prepared for the novel. They bore the Roman names and scribbles in pencil of the events that were to take place in the pages of our trilogy. We also had a map of the streets from Roman times, provided by the association Chroniques de nos Villages Saônois. Recherche et communication sur le Patrimoine des villages de Haute Saône.

Our travels turned into very funny experiences that did not lack local collaboration. Many helped us: the curators of the Musée des Beaux-Arts et d’Archéologie in Besançon, and the inhabitants of the small villages of Ruffey-le-Château and Avrigney-Virey (Haute-Saône, Burgundy-Franche-Comté), who patiently endured the invasion of woods and pastures by strangers (who, like fools, pointed to hills and slopes where there was nothing to see).
The region of ancient Trier, today’s Saar, was full of ideas.
 
The adventure narrated in the novels takes place, in fact, partly along the Moselle Valley and the Saar River. Manfred went a couple of times to see with his eyes some of the places described in the novel, including the villages of Contiomagus (now Pachten), the Fort of Saravus (now Saarbrucken), and several other places mentioned in the story, such as the meadows where the battle between the Lingones rebels and the Roman Empire troops takes place.
The area was already renowned in Roman times for the production of glass and ceramic artifacts and for the metallurgical workshops, which gave us further ideas to enrich the story. The ancient river Saravus (now Saar), the coniferous and deciduous forests, and the valleys and hills of the region are the background of the novel.
 
Even Haute Saone and the surroundings of Besançon, in which parts of the second and third novels of the trilogy take place, did not disappoint us. We easily found the hills, still cloaked in dark and silent woods, necessary for the adventures of the two protagonists and their women.

BEHIND THE SCENES

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