Empress of Rome: Den of Wolves is the debut novel for Luke Devenish. It is 44 BC and the rival powers of Rome are driving the republic to a violent end. A soothsayer foretells that the young Tiberius Nero, if he is wed to his cousin, the darkly beautiful Livia Drusilla, will sire four kings of Rome. Fuelled by ambition, Livia devotes her life to fulfilling the prophecy. No crime is too great when destiny beckons. So begins a murderous saga of sex, corruption and obsession at the dawning of the age of emperors. Narrated by the 100-year-old slave Iphicles, DEN OF WOLVES brings to life the great women of imperial Rome - Livia, Julia, Antonia and Agrippina - women who relied on their ambition, instincts and cunning to prosper.
Luke has kindly agreed to join us and answer five quick questions.
What's one thing we may not know about Luke Devenish?
When I was sixteen I won the 2nd Annual (and last ever) Channel Seven/Western Mail Young Writer's Award back in Perth, where I grew up. It was a big deal. I entered with a play I wrote called 'Murder is Gauche', which was a juvenile piss-take on all things Christie. Clearly it was a very slim field that year because I won first prize, which was a trip to Sydney to attend a two week course at Film School. Photographers coming to my school was something of a tip-off regarding my win before the actual announcement was made - as was the sight of the normally austere Deputy Principal Mr Hopkins nearly wetting himself with excitement. No one EVER won ANYTHING at my school, so I was latched onto as a poster boy. On the day of the prize giving ceremony I assembled with the other place-getters and all our proud parents and teachers at Curtin University. This award was such a big deal that then Premier Brian Burke was coming along to make a speech and give out certificates. At least, he was coming along in theory... The minutes turned into hours and the Premier still hadn't shown up. But I didn't care. I just sat in the front row in a grinning daze. Finally Burkie burst into the hall, gasping and puffing, swathed by his cronies. He made a very hasty and somewhat incoherent speech and then shook my hand for the photographers. His grip was rather moist - like a fresh baked muffin. Then he was out of there at light speed and it was all over. I went off to Sydney and had a marvellous time, even though the Film School was in North Ryde and I never saw the Harbour Bridge until the taxi took me back to the airport. I was so terminally adolescent that I never wrote anybody any thank you letters for the kindness that was shown to me. What an ingrate! Not long after that, the Young Writer's Award folded. Not long after that, the Western Mail folded. And just a few short years after THAT, Premier Brian Burke himself folded in a welter of ignominy and scandal. The moral to all this is that if any writer feels they are but weak and insignificant, think again. My juvenile writing and adolescent thoughtlessness combined to bring down a newspaper and a government. Makes you wonder, doesn't it?
What television show would you like to make a guest appearance on?
Well, 'Mornings with Kerry-Anne', obviously. People tell me she she plays champagne binge drinking games with you afterwards. And if you're really lucky you get to join her in a chorus of 'I Am What I Am'. It's the promise of that sort of thing that got me into this writing game.
What's your greatest sporting moment?
I'm a past master of quiet and dignified suffering in the name of humiliation and so many such moments have been enjoyed upon the sporting field. I can't catch, can't throw, I run like a girl and I deserved all the rocks that were chucked at me by disgusted school mates during my formative years. In primary school I got myself seconded into the so-called 'chess club' on Friday afternoons just so I could get out of it. I had mixed success - I can't play chess for nuts either. In Year Eight I developed tendinitis in my Achilles heel (God knows how) and rejoiced when it got me out of footy and cricket. I kept up that fake limp for six months. When I was in Year Eleven a very good friend was made captain of the red faction for our school swimming carnival. The backstroke lacked competitors so she thought it'd be funny to put me in it. I'd never swum backstroke in my life but was too nice to let her down. Not only did I come last in the event, but I came last in the next race too - they started it while I was still in the pool. All of these things hardened my character nicely, thanks. Ideal for anyone who writes for a living.
What's your ideal holiday destination?
Well, my other half and I had a very jolly couple of weeks in Amsterdam a couple of years ago and we would go back there at the drop of a hat. We had a hotel room with big, wide windows where you could sit on the sill and look down on the Herengracht canal for lots of people watching, Netherlands style. We were there in high summer when it doesn't get dark until midnight and then gets light again at 4.00am, so we lost all sense of time. Amsterdam is a very beautiful city and we did a lot of walking, eating and art consuming - which is a passion we share. We were NOT there for sleaze, but half way through the holiday we discovered the difference between those delightful establishments called Coffee Houses and those equally delightful dens of iniquity called Coffee Shops. In the former you get coffee and cakes. In the latter you get hydroponically grown products with names like 'Scud Missile' and 'AK47'. "When in Amsterdam..." we naively cried as we bought some. Then we cried again - like babies, really - when our consumption of this product caused us to lose all sense of reason and direction in our efforts to find the hotel when all the canals now looked the same and, what's more, everyone wanted to kill us. NEVER. AGAIN. Or at least until our next visit, when we probably will have recovered to some extent.
How many comments to this blog post would I need to have you read and comment on my first thriller, The Interrogator?
Oh, probably none. I like the cut of your jib already, JJ. Just TRY to stop me commenting.
Thanks, Luke. Please check Luke's website for all of the details of Empress of Rome: Den of Wolves.
If you enjoyed this interview, why not have a look at my other interviews with Will Lavender, Kelly Curtis, Lisa Unger, JA Konrath, Laura Benedict and Ed Lynskey.