Kathi Macias, Susan Wales
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In the 3rd century, pampered Roman princess Valeria falls in love with Mauritius, captain of the Theban Legion. She sends him off to battle, where he suffers under the schemes of a notorious pagan general with an ambition for power and a lust for Valeria. In a scene based on true events, the evil Galerius kills Mauritius and his entire legion for their Christian faith. And in a shocking turn of events, the grieving Valeria is forced to become Galerius' wife against her will. Never has a marriage been set up for such failure. Valeria loathes her new husband, but he seems to undergo a change of heart, adopting a child for her and giving her power and authority, and even love. She struggles with the commitment she knows she must keep, and the love she knows she will never find again.
Kathi Macias is an Angel-award winning writer who has authored or co-authored thirty books, including the bestselling devotional A Moment A Day, the popular Matthews mystery novels, and the Extreme Devotion series scheduled for 2010-2011 release. She is a popular speaker at churches, women’s clubs and retreats, and writers’ conferences, and has appeared on numerous radio and TV programs. She also hosts the international blogtalkradio program “Write the Vision” for The International Christian Network (www.THEICN.com) and is a regular online contributor to Crosswalk.com, The Christian Pulse, and Churchmouse.
Favorite Verse: Deuteronomy 8:1: “Every commandment which I command you TODAY (emphasis mine) you must be careful to observe, that you may live and multiply and go in and possess the land.”
Our Interview with Kathi Macias
Please tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m a Southern California girl, born and raised, though I spent a few years in Texas, Colorado, and Washington. I’m married to my junior/senior high school sweetheart, Al, whom I’ve known since we were six years old. I told him in the eighth grade that I would be a writer one day, and he always reminds me that I’m one of the few people he knows who actually knew what they wanted to be and did it. We now live in a little unincorporated community called Homeland (midway between LA and San Diego), and my 89-year-old mother lives with us. In our spare time (which isn’t much!) Al and I like to ride his Harley—hence, my “road name” of Easy Writer.
What is your favorite Bible verse and why?
I have so many, but if I have to pick one I suppose it would be Deuteronomy 8:1: “Every commandment which I command you TODAY (emphasis mine) you must be careful to observe, that you may live and multiply and go in and possess the land.” That one verse boils down the Christian walk to a manageable one-day-at-a-time command, while its promises extend to ourselves and our family/loved ones. What an encouragement!
What inspired the concept for writing Valeria's Cross?
I think Susan and I had separate “aha” moments on this book. First, I was reading Foxe’s Book of Martyrs (not for the first time, but for some time it was the first time I noticed this particular story) and read about the Theban Legion—6600 valiant warriors in the Roman Army who were all Christians. Though they were loyal to Rome, their first allegiance was to Christ, and when Rome demanded that they make sacrifices to the pagan gods of Rome, they refused and were martyred—all 6600 of them! I was fascinated and couldn’t imagine why someone hadn’t spring-boarded off that story before! Shortly after that Susan and I were out having lunch somewhere and I mentioned it to her and how I thought it should be a novel. She got excited because that era is one she has studied extensively. It was her idea to interweave Valeria’s life with that of the Theban Legion, and before you knew it, we were off and running!
How did you choose the setting for your story?
The setting was actually chosen for us because it’s based in historical fact. We took a bit of literary license, of course, but Susan knows the area well and was able to realistically place our characters there and bring it to life.
Is any part of Valeria's Cross factual?
Absolutely! The story of the Theban Legion is widely believed to be true, and there is even a monument to them in France. As for Princess Valeria, she truly was the daughter of the Emperor Diocletian, who mercilessly persecuted Christians. Some historians believe that Valeria and her mother became Christians, so it was an easy twist to intertwine Valeria’s life with that of the leader of the Theban Legion, bringing in a poignant love story to pull the rest of the historical facts together.
How closely is Valeria's Cross based on real history?
Relatively close, as I mentioned in the previous answer, but Susan skillfully tweaked some of the timing and settings to make the two stories mesh.
How long did Valeria's Cross take you to complete?
We talked about it for some time and worked on the proposal for a few months, but once it was contracted, I believe we finished it in about six months—which was amazing, considering we each had other demanding projects as well as family emergencies to deal with during that time. But somehow God enabled us to redeem the time and pull it together by the deadline.
What is the symbolism for the title Valeria's Cross?
I love that part! Of course the cross represents the fact that Valeria became a Christian in a time when it was very dangerous to do so. It also represents the fact that though she was a princess who lived in luxury, her life was not her own. Her major life decisions were often made for her, and she simply had to bear it. Finally, her beloved Mauritius wore a heavy gold cross around his neck to symbolize his faith, and that comes into play throughout the story—but I won’t go into detail so I don’t spoil the outcome.
Do you have a favorite character in Valeria's Cross? Why?
Besides Valeria, of course, I adored her mother, Prisca. What a brave woman! She taught a lot to her only daughter, understanding Valeria’s need to outgrow her youthful foolishness and be strong if she were going to survive all that lay ahead of her. The two women are nearly inseparable throughout the book.
How much research did Valeria's Cross take?
Enormous amounts! Of course, because Susan was already well versed in this era of history and had visited many of the settings for the story, she was better able to come up with the information necessary to write the book than I would ever have been on my own. Susan was most definitely the primary researcher on this project.
What was the most interesting fact that you learned while writing Valeria's Cross?
Because I was not familiar with details of this historical period (beyond what I’d seen in movies or read in other books), I learned a lot about the way the very rich lived in those days—and yet how very little of a woman’s life actually belonged to her. I truly hadn’t thought of that before, and it was a humbling eye-opener to me.
What are some of the challenges you face as an author?
For me it’s not having enough time to develop all the ideas I’d like to see become books. I’m overflowing with what I consider “good ideas,” but I have to stop and isolate the “best ideas” and then pursue them with passion. Then, of course, I must balance the writing demands with marketing, which has become such an important part of our job description in the last decade. Above all, my challenge is to keep my time with the Lord and my family above what I spend on my work.
What aspects of being a writer do you enjoy the most?
I adore writing, though I’m not thrilled with research—one of the reasons Susan and I were such a good match on this project. I’m just a word person, period, so anything to do with the actual writing/editing/rewriting of a book is something I thoroughly enjoy.
What writing clubs or organizations do you belong to?
I’m a member of and serve as spiritual adviser to CAN (Christian Authors Network); AWSA (Advanced Writers/Speakers Association); ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers); ICFW (International Christian Fiction Writers); CWFI (Christian Writers Fellowship, Intl.); The Christian PEN (Proofreaders/Editors Network); OCCWF (Orange County Christian Writers Fellowship; The Writers View.
What were your favorite books as a child?
I adored Little Women by Louise May Alcott, and a series called The Boxcar Children. But overall, I just loved to read anything I could get my hands on. I was a regular at the library!
What is your writing style? (Do you outline? Write “by-the-seat-of-your-pants? Or somewhere in-between?)
It depends a lot on the type of writing I’m doing. I’m a bit more meticulous with nonfiction, coming close to outlining before I write. But fiction? I have a very brief and basic synopsis to go by, and that’s it. I basically know where I want to start and where I want to end up; everything in the middle surprises me as it unfolds.
Do your characters begin to take on a life of their own as you write?
Absolutely! I have to arm wrestle them at times to make them behave. They have a tendency to want to run off and do their own thing, but I remind them (and myself) that I’m in charge. On occasion, though, they’ve actually strayed off and done something I liked, so I find a way to work it into the story.
What other new projects do you have on the horizon?
In addition to the final two books of my four-book Extreme Devotion series with New Hope Publishers, which will release in the next few months, I’m working on a three-book fiction series for New Hope on the topic of human trafficking. I also have a lot of other ideas percolating on the back burner, so who knows what may boil over and turn into something?
Who was the person who influenced you the most with your writing?
There were many, I’m sure, but I remember my high school creative writing teacher, Bob Ferris, who encouraged me to pursue what he said was my “God-given talent and responsibility” to write. I wasn’t a Christian at the time, so I really appreciated his caring enough to speak that truth into my life.
What message would you like your readers to take from Valeria's Cross?
The original title of the book was “First Allegiance” because that was the theme of the Theban Legion’s life and story, and it carried over to Valeria as well. Therefore, the message I’d like readers to carry away in their hearts is that regardless of what we own or do or achieve in this world, we must always hold it at arm’s length, ready to lay it down for the One who holds first place in our heart—whatever the cost.
What is your greatest achievement?
Being ambushed by Jesus Christ on a Friday afternoon on July 5, 1974. I’ve never been the same.
What is your goal or mission as a writer?
To be obedient to what God calls me to do/say/write today. That’s our measure of success. If we sell some books or sing some songs or love some people along the way, that’s a bonus and a gift from our Lord. But above all else, at the end of the day I want to be found faithful.
What do you do to get away from it all?
My husband and I take off on the Harley for short escapes, or we head for a day at the beach. When we have more time we rent a cabin in the mountains or jump on a plane and head for our favorite place in the world—Hawaii. In fact, that’s sounding pretty good to me right now!!!