Jenny Williamson is a romance and fantasy novelist obsessed with the ancient past. While writing a historical romance, she fell down a research rabbit hole—an occupational hazard—and realized she had a decision to make. She could either go on cornering people in bars, ranting on about child emperors and Mongol siegecraft and the Praetorian Guard—she gets that way after a few Dark n Stormies—or she could start a podcast.
Genn McMenemy is a New Yorker in London and an ancient history and mythology nerd. By day she works in the marketing department for a publishing house. By night, she’s frequently researching something that happened a long time ago and probably on the other side of the world.
When not researching myths, legends and history for the podcast she writes, reads and travels as much as possible.
Jack Schell (The Soundweaver): Jack Schell (The Soundweaver) created our intro and outro music. Jack’s compositions evoke visual images in the listener’s mind to form what may be called ‘soundscapes’ or ‘musical art pieces.’ His uncommon rhythms combined with sweet, sometimes quirky and fun and memorable melodies form original sound compositions that appeal to those from all walks of life.
From an early age Jack picked up instruments and made music from them, often with a unique perspective that influenced the sounds he produced. He learned piano, clarinet, drums and percussion in his childhood. He picked up again with the advent of Atari computer and MIDI music software in the mid-1980’s when he began to compose his signature-style music. Now with several releases over the last thirty years, Jack creates well-rounded soundscapes filled with depth and intrigue.
Jayel Draco: Jayel is responsible for all of our visuals, web design and illustration. Jayel Draco is a multimedia visual artist and the co-creator of Oneshi Press. Jayel earned his BFA in Illustration from the School of Visual Arts, later branching out into animation, costume and prop design, photomanipulation, motion graphics, and VFX. During his time as a freelance artist, Jayel’s fashion designs have been featured at trade shows including Project and Pool, and his animation work has appeared in Marvel’s Astonishing X-Men (episodes 1 – 6, written by Joss Whedon, illustrated by John Cassaday, and directed by Neal Adams) at MarvelFest New York City, and in Wagner’s Die Walküre (conducted by James Levine and directed by Robert LePage) at the New York Metropolitan Opera. For several years, he worked under the close tutelage of renowned comic book artist Neal Adams.
Who are you people? Are you historians?
Jenny: Nah. As the great Dan Carlin has been known to say—we’re history fans, not historians. That said, we do watch a lot of documentaries.
I’ve been a fan of ancient history my whole life, though. My parents were the kind of people who spent their honeymoon camping on civil war battlefields. I used to hang out in the stacks of my mom’s library growing up, devouring books about Stonehenge and the Egyptian Pyramids and the Aztecs and stuff.
I usually say that I know enough about ancient history to get in trouble.
Genn: No, but I’m a history enthusiast. I’m just a girl with a degree in writing and a healthy love of the classics and a great story. I’d blame it on my years taking Latin as a teenager, but, to be honest, I’ve forgotten more Latin than I probably ever learned.
My mom is a massive history buff and I remember watching Anne of a Thousand Days with her (at probably too young an age) and being captivated by things that happened a long time ago on the other side of the world. And it’s that fascination, that passion for history that I hope to share in the podcast.
Why did you start this podcast?
Jenny: We sat on this idea for a long time before really getting serious about it. We were both writing novels that we were completely obsessed with.
On my end it was a romance novel set during the fall of Rome, and I was getting really into the time period. And I felt the need to talk about it. I was cornering people in bars and going on and on about my research.
Being obsessed with something is kind of lonely and isolating. You start wanting to reach out and share your obsession—to drag other people down your rabbit hole with you. And I also felt like the podcast would fuel and feed my research, which would fuel my novel-writing.
Genn: Mythology and ancient history are two things that I’ve always loved and constantly bored my family and friends with. Until one day when Jenny and I decided, let’s see if we can tell these stories to other people. With lots of emphasis on the fun bits. The types of stories from ancient history that cause us to go down rabbit holes for days. The stories I break out over a glass (or two) of wine. The stories that feel more like fiction than fact. And that’s why we started this podcast.
How do you know each other?
Jenny: Genn and I were in the same writing program in college. It focused a lot on mainstream fiction–especially short stories and poetry—which I loved, too, but what I really wanted to do was write genre fiction. Especially romance. I remember finding out Genn was secretly a kindred spirit and we just clicked.
We had a ton of common interests, and we went to London together as exchange students. After college, Genn moved to London and got a glam job in publishing, and I went to New York and tried to be an actress for a while. Through all that we stayed in touch.
We also stayed creative partners. We’ve always beta-read each other’s novels and encouraged each other. And this project has been one of our most fun collaborations yet.
Genn: I’ve known Jenny since my freshman year of college. We met in a writing class and we have been good friends and creative collaborators ever since. In addition to podcasting we’re both writers (and beta readers for each other). We both have a passion for travel and Prosecco.
Why is your podcast so Greco-Roman? Do you plan to cover other areas of ancient history?
Jenny: Right now I’m writing a book in ancient Rome, so most of my research is in that area. You can expect us to focus mainly on the areas where we’re already doing a ton of research for our books.
However, we do branch out. Some of the episodes we’ve already recorded touch on the Mongols, ancient China, North Africa, Southeast Asia and the Middle East. And we have a lot of ideas to cover in diverse places—including ancient Egypt, Europe, sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, the Pacific Islands, and Central and South America. There are so many fascinating stories to be told from all over the world, and we plan to cover as much as we can.
Genn: The podcast will evolve as we go forward and we’ll be talking about stories from different ancient cultures, but for the moment, we’re sticking with the stories we know best to launch. But don’t worry, we both have ideas for stories from around the world we want to tell. We’ll get there. Stick with us.
How do you define “ancient history”? What’s your latest cutoff point?
Jenny: We suspect that will be a moving target. Wikipedia (which we have no shame about using) defines ancient history as continuing up to the post-classical period, which is about 500 AD. But we’re taking a lot more latitude than that.
Genn: I live in the UK and both Jenny and I love the history of Royal Britain. But accounts of that so frequently start with William the Conqueror at 1066, and we’ve always found that a little frustrating because there were so many fascinating rulers who came before. So with our podcast, we’ve decided that “ancient history” is anything that happens before 1066.
Jenny: Except sometime I really want to do something with the Mongols and Genghis Khan, who was born in 1162. So I guess our real answer here is “1066, except Genghis Khan.”
What’s your favourite period in ancient history?
Jenny: That’s such a hard question. I don’t think I can choose.
I’m really into Rome right now (as you can see), particularly around the Germanic Migration Era. I’m just fascinated with the clash of cultures between Rome, the Goths, the Huns and all the disparate tribes and cultures warring for dominance in that region and tearing up the corpse of an ancient empire. All the human dramas that played out during that time. It must have been an incredible (and terrifying) time to be alive.
But I love other periods in history too. I’ve always been really into ancient Egypt and Assyria, the Sumerians, Neolithic Britain, and Native American history—especially the Aztecs and Maya. I love a good ancient mystery, anywhere in the world I can find one.
Genn: Greece in the age of heroes. And yes, I know that’s a mythological age, but I’m the mythology nerd in this podcast.
Is your podcast OK for kids?
We go back and forth on this. We don’t have children ourselves, and don’t feel like we should tell parents what is and isn’t appropriate for their children. Your mileage on this may vary.
However, we do deal with some adult themes in our episodes. The ancient world was rife with violence and lots of problematic stuff, and we don’t sugarcoat. We discuss sex when it comes up, and our sense of humor sometimes veers into raunchy territory. We swear occasionally.
If you have to pin us down on this, we’d say most parents would probably find us more suitable for older kids (or teenagers) than younger ones.
What other stuff do you have going on?
Jenny: The novel that eats up my life. I’m a huge romance and fantasy reader and writer. I also love writing poetry; I’ve written one chapbook and have ideas for several others in the works. I’m a full-time freelance copywriter and I love my job.
Other than writing- and reading-related pursuits, I’m an avid skier and long-distance runner; I love dyeing my hair crazy colors; and I travel a lot.
Genn: In addition to the podcast, I have a day job working in book publishing (so I’m always reading), I write fiction, have recently started getting back into an exercise routine (ha hah ha), travel and nap on a competitive level.