Delicatus: from slave to empress in Imperial Rome

(Nero and Sporus Book 1)

About the Book

The historian Suetonius tells us that the Emperor Nero emasculated and married his slave Sporus, the spitting image of murdered Empress Poppaea. But history has more tidbits about Sporus, who went from “puer delicatus” to Empress to one Emperor and concubine to another, and ended up being sentenced to play the Earth-Goddess in the arena.

World Fantasy Award winner S.P. Somtow weaves a vivid adventure about one of the most colorful personalities in ancient Rome. Delicatus, the first volume in a trilogy, speaks of Sporus, from his enslavement by pirates in a remote corner of the Empire to his meeting with the great satirist Petronius and the woman to whom he bears a striking resemblance, the beautiful Poppaea with her manipulative plans to seduce the Emperor Nero and become Divine Empress.

About the Author

Once referred to by the International Herald Tribune as “the most well-known expatriate Thai in the world,” Somtow Sucharitkul is no longer an expatriate, since he has returned to Thailand after five decades of wandering the world. He is best known as an award-winning novelist and a composer of operas.

Born in Bangkok, Somtow grew up in Europe and was educated at Eton and Cambridge. His first career was in music and in the 1970s he acquired a reputation as a revolutionary composer, the first to combine Thai and Western instruments in radical new sonorities. Conditions in the arts in the region at the time proved so traumatic for the young composer that he suffered a major burnout, emigrated to the United States, and reinvented himself as a novelist.

Qn 1: Can you tell us more about your book What is it about?

In school, reading an obscure reference in one of Alexander Pope’s satires to a character named “Sporus” piqued my interest about this character who’s really mostly a footnote in biographies of the Emperor Nero. I thought about doing a book about Sporus for decades and now in my old age I’ve finally pulled him out of the chaos in of my subconscious. It seems to me that there are dozens of brilliant books set in this era of history, from “Quo Vadis” on, but none from the worm’s eye view of a slave who nonetheless would have seen everything and been a fly on every wall.

Amazon Vella provided a way to chip away at this story in bite-sized pieces and the fast-paced format with a cliff hanger enforced every 1000-2500 words has made for what i think will be quick read. If I were writing for a New York or London publisher as I would have been doing at the start of my career 40+ years ago, I’d probably conceive the book as a hefty tome, but as a serial, it’s coming out as a trilogy of relatively short books. I’ve been gratified at the response so far as neither of the two genres the book fits in is one that I am particularly known for … it’s been my fastest-selling new book in decades.

I write the novel in snatches (in rotation with two others) when taking breaks from what is now my main occupation, running the local opera company in Thailand.

Qn 2: Who do you think would be interested in this book, is it directed at any particular market?

There are two main audiences, I suspect. One is fans of ancient history and of historical novels — the Robert Graves, Mary Renault, Gore Vidal crowd. But because of the central character, it could also appeal to fans of LGBTQ fiction, as Sporus was one of the most prominent trans characters in history (however unwillingly) and many of the relationships in the story necessarily delve into the complexities of Roman attitudes to sexuality and morality.

Qn 3: Out of all the books in the world, and all the authors, which are your favourite and why?

This is so difficult to say but in the end, my favorite book is still “Through the Looking Glass”. My favorite author overall would probably be Theodore Sturgeon.

Qn 4: What guidance would you offer to someone new, or trying to enhance their writing?

Have something to say; actually, say it; be willing to do the work to enable you to have the technical skills to make what you write actually be the thing you are trying to say; tell the truth, no matter what the cost; fear nothing.

Those are the five points I make whenever I talk about writing to aspiring writers. Sometimes, I’ll make a video explaining each of these points.

Qn 5: Where can our readers find out more about you, do you have a website, or a way to be contacted?
can be reached through the website

If you can’t wait for the second volume to come out, follow the continuing serial on amazon vella at: where we’re already quite a bit further on.

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