Kim Iverson Headlee

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I wish to express my gratitude to Books Go Social for bestowing the great honor of 2015 Best Self-Published Work upon my ancient Rome historical romance novel Liberty. This is the first time in sixteen years of being a published novelist that any of my books have won a competition outright—I have several finalist designations and one first-place tie (with my debut novel Dawnflight)—and frankly it feels a bit surreal! But I appreciate the recognition very much.

The announcement of the discovery of a grave, clipped from a small-town newspaper and mailed to me cross-country by one of my closest writer-friends, inspired the plot of Liberty. The grave in question was that of a 2,000-year-old woman buried in a paupers’ cemetery outside the perimeter of Roman-era London containing not only her remains, but the remains of an exotic funeral feast and high-quality, gladiator-themed artifacts. Archaeologists at the Museum of London who unearthed Great Dover Street Woman speculated that she was either the wealthy (but outcast because of the social mores in force at that time) consort of a gladiator or a superstar gladiatrix.

I chose the latter interpretation and gave her a story.

For this article, I have been asked to describe how I “learned to write such a great story.” I am, for the most part, self-taught as a writer. Excellent mentors have helped me hone my prose, but my most emotionally charged writing comes when I follow Ernest Hemingway’s advice to “sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”


Liberty-FINAL-badgeTo accomplish this directive, I employ a form of method acting to project myself into the mind of each of my viewpoint characters. For Rhyddes, the heroine of Liberty, this meant becoming a slave in A.D. second-century Rome who possesses no control over whether she even lives or dies. To portray the hero Marcus, who lives on the opposite side of the socio-economic divide, I became a pampered aristocratic Roman male.

My success in achieving the nuances of Marcus’s characterization I attribute to my recent ancestral affiliation with Russian aristocracy, and to the grand expectations placed upon me by my parents growing up. At age five I demonstrated talent and potential in the swimming pool, and I spent the next thirteen years, at their insistence, training to become an Olympic swimmer—a destiny I had never wanted for myself. Once I came to that realization, at age thirteen, I had to learn to navigate the storm churn and vicious undertow of rebelling against my parents’ wishes.

I dived into creative writing to escape into worlds that I could control, to fortify myself for surviving in a world that I couldn’t control.

What I had suffered at my parents’ hands whenever I failed to live up to their expectations with regard to my competitive swimming career I eventually channeled into the suffering experienced by Rhyddes at the hands of her father and her masters.

Sit down at a typewriter and bleed, indeed.

Liberty Description:

They hailed her “Liberty,” but she was free only to obey—or die. Betrayed by her father and sold as payment of a Roman tax debt to fight in Londinium’s arena, gladiatrix-slave Rhyddes feels like a wild beast in a gilded cage. Celtic warrior blood flows in her veins, but Roman masters own her body. She clings to her vow that no man shall claim her soul, though Marcus Calpurnius Aquila, son of the Roman governor, makes her yearn for a love she believes impossible.

Groomed to follow in his father’s footsteps and trapped in a politically advantageous betrothal, Aquila prefers the purity of combat on the amphitheater sands to the sinister intrigues of imperial politics, and the raw power and athletic grace of the flame-haired Libertas to the adoring deference of Rome’s noblewomen.

When a plot to overthrow Caesar ensnares them as pawns in the dark design, Aquila must choose between the Celtic slave who has won his heart and the empire to which they both owe allegiance. Knowing the opposite of obedience is death, the only liberty offered to any slave, Rhyddes must embrace her arena name—and the love of a man willing to sacrifice everything to forge a future with her.

Worldwide Amazon links: (via

Liberty Kindle

Liberty Paperback

Dawnflight Kindle (2014, current cover)

Dawnflight Audiobook (2013, fantasy cover)

Dawnflight Paperback (2013, fantasy cover)

Dawnflight Paperback (2014, current cover)

Kim Headlee’s Amazon page

Interview of Author Kim Headlee

Book Trailer – Liberty by Kim Iverson Headlee


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  1. lpobryan

    Congratulations, Kim! You are our first and a very deserving winner. I recommend Liberty to anyone who loves a good story. It captured my imagination from the beginning and held it. You have a real talent. I hope more readers get to discover your work.

    • Kim Headlee (@KimHeadlee)

      As the saying goes, better late than never, LOL!
      Thanks so much, Lawrence, on all counts! 🙂

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