By Michelle Miles
Today, I’d like to introduce you to someone who is near and dear to my heart. She’s a tough ol’ gal and she can kick just about any man’s butt. She’s muscular and buff and carries many a scar from her journey.
I’m talking about my heroine, Elena. She’s my gladiatrix in my book from DCL Publications, Phoenix Fire.
When I started out with the book, I wanted her world to be authentic to who she was and the struggles she’d gone through. I wrote a long backstory that wouldn’t make it into the book but would give me insight into her character. There were certain things I knew: she fought to live another day, hoping she could someday earn her freedom and knowing it may never happen.
I set out to create this world by researching Ancient Rome and the gladiators. They were heralded. They were heroic. They were larger than life. Yes, most were men. But there were women, too. And not very many of them. They were thrown into the arena as punishment for some crime they committed, entertainment for Citizens and Senators alike.
It fascinated me.
For the story, I put myself in Elena’s shoes (sandals) and imagined what it would be like to live like that. It sucked, quite frankly. To step into the arena, wondering if would be your last day to live. I couldn’t imagine being in a world like that, though I did imagine it. I used every fear I had about dying and put it into Elena. I had to figure out how to write fight scenes with swords, scimitars, tridents, and all manner of weapons. When I wrote Elena’s fight scenes, I wrote them as her.
Here’s a sneak peek:
After participating in the Games for years, Elena could no longer smell the familiar reek of blood and death and rot. She could no longer hear the death noises of men and beasts slaughtering each other. The screams of defiance. The splish of blood against sword. Being inside the arena was like home—and hell.
"Elena, look out!"
Heart pounding, she whirled in time to block the sword. Holding it two-handed, her muscles contracted to ward off the attack. Fatigue had slowed her reaction, turning her limbs into sweat-soaked noodles. The seedy-looking fellow grinned, showing off decaying yellow stumps of teeth.
Their swords clashed and he threw all his weight behind his, pushing her backward. Energy failing, she stumbled, giving him enough opportunity for his stumpy fingers to latch onto her throat and squeeze.
And then later, when Elena is remembering her hatred for the Emperor and how she’d ended up in the arena:
“But aside from all that, you have raw talent,” he continued. “In time, I believe you could be one of the best. You will begin training at once and be put into the Games as soon as possible.”
“If you wish to live, then you’ll learn how to kill your opponent quickly.” He gave her an icy stare. He meant every word. That thin-lipped smile appeared again as his steely gaze moved over her. “Or…you can choose to stay here in the palace and serve me.”
She knew all too well, even at her tender age, what he meant. Fury bubbled in her throat, sending hot pinpricks through her. That was the moment she first discovered how to shove Fear and Anger into the black void in which she kept them locked. The black void that eventually took shape as her vault. The vault where she kept unwanted things.
Elena personifies her fear and hatred and shoves them away. Until the day the black void nearly overtakes her when she learns she has to fight her lover to the death in the arena.
Here’s the blurb for Phoenix Fire:
Kill, or be killed.
Elena is Hixyl’s most heralded gladiatrix, catching the Emperor’s eye with her unspoiled beauty and fiery temper. Determined to let no man have her, he forces her into a life of unwanted accolades—for slaughter in the Games. With independence out of reach, Elena knows each day could be her last.
Cassius Antonius is a former general hired by an underground secret order to assassinate the Emperor. When he refuses, they take away the only thing precious to him—his freedom. Forced into servitude, he meets Elena and manipulates her into helping him, forming a shaky alliance and a searing romance.
The two become unwitting pawns in the struggle to save Hixyl from the Emperor’s tyranny. But plans spin out of control with the discovery of their secret tryst, and for their ultimate act of betrayal, the Emperor demands one last entertainment—to be pitted against each other in the Games in a fight to the death.
I hope you enjoy the story!
Michelle Miles writes contemporary, paranormal and fantasy romance and is published with Samhain Publishing, Cobblestone Press, Ellora’s Cave and DCL Publishing. To learn more about her and her books, you can visit her website at http://www.michellemiles.net.