How common is it in historical mysteries that one of the bad guys also happens to have been a genuinely rotten guy in history? Not too common, I suspect.
Marcus Salvius Otho (A.D. 32-69) is another character who, like Alexander, evolved and grew as Rubies of the Viper progressed. Otho started out as just one of many in my mind, but he almost literally leaped off the pages as I learned more about his fascinating real-life story and began writing him into my fictional one.
It would be hard to invent a fictional character quite like the real Otho… whose patrician father repeatedly flogged him for juvenile delinquency… who hung out with Nero both before and after Nero became emperor… who coveted, won, and lost the same woman Nero coveted, won, and lost… who was so ambitious (and hapless) that he achieved his ultimate goal—to become emperor—only to die by his own hand three months later.
Imagine a Roman military officer who “wore a wig, put scent on his feet and on the march to Rome it was suspected that he studied his appearance in a mirror, like an actor in his dressing room.” —author Kenneth Wellesley
I had fun with Otho.
It was fun to play him off against Theodosia… who first falls for him, then sees him for the rat he is, then battles it out with him in a game of wits, guts, and strength.
It was also fun to play him off against Alexander… who sees through him from the beginning and ultimately—while risking everything—manages to pull a fast one on him despite overwhelming odds.
It was even fun to play him off against Nero… who has the world at his feet but is on track to lose it all through sheer, bull-headed stupidity.
If you’ve read Rubies of the Viper, I’d love to see what you thought of my characterization of Otho. Just remember… no spoilers, please!
—text copyright © Martha Marks—