References and Rhetorical Flourishes

So the question posed to the Debs this week was: Are there any “easter eggs” or “hidden Mickeys” inside your book? And my answer?

Boy howdy, are there ever.

There are so many, in fact, that I’m offering up an annotated copy of From Unseen Fire once I hit my next Patreon goal, with every one of them marked out and commented upon. (So if you’re interested in knowing what they all are, join up, and tell your friends to do the same so that I hit that goal, and your name will be entered in the drawing!).

Some were quite deliberate, like when I refer to Arrius Buteo as “obnoxious and disliked”, a reference to the musical 1776:

(This is somewhat unfair to John Adams, who even at his worst was not as big a tool as Arrius Buteo).

I also straight-up stole some of Ovid’s poetry for the party scene at the end of the book, taken from his Metamorphoses. (The poet Urbanus, a minor background character, is someone I envision as sort of a mash-up between Catullus and Ovid; the doggerel rhymes he and Felix engage in are my own invention, but take inspiration from a number of Roman invectives). And then I very intentionally put some of Julius Caesar’s most famous words into my heroine’s mouth as the closing line of the book.

There are, of course, a number of references to true history, big and small. Ocella was based on the dictator Sulla; Sempronius has bits of Julius Caesar, Tiberius Gracchus, and Germanicus in him; Buteo is a bit of Cato and a bit of Cicero. References to the Roman gods are prominent throughout, and so hardly qualify as hidden Mickeys, but I also drop in some more obscure figures out of legend, like Penthesilea.

Other references, though, were utterly subconscious, and I only caught some of them when listening to the audiobook. During one two-hour stretch of driving, I swear I heard about a dozen things I’d lifted from other sources, mostly plays and musicals — and, truly, mostly from Shakespeare, the man who has so utterly infected my brain that there’s really no coming back from it. (While working on Book Two recently, I had to remind myself that I probably can’t just straight-up steal the line “how easy is a bush supposed a bear” from A Midsummer Night’s Dream and drop it into Alhena’s mouth.) Many are so small, just two or three words, that I’m having trouble finding them now — but I’ll be doing another listen-through of the audiobook to help me with that while I make the annotated copy!

A lot of what struck me on listening, though? Is that sometimes I’ve borrowed not the words themselves, but the rhetorical structure. The political speeches throughout the book owe a lot to Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Macbeth, and Henry V.


From Unseen Fire is an epic fantasy set in an alternate version of ancient Rome. Get your copy now in hardcover, ebook, or audiobook! Learn more about the world of Aven on Cass’s Patreon.

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Cass Morris lives and works in central Virginia and the Outer Banks of North Carolina. She completed her Master of Letters at Mary Baldwin University in 2010, and she earned her undergraduate degree, a BA in English with a minor in history, from the College of William and Mary in 2007. She reads voraciously, wears corsets voluntarily, and will beat you at MarioKart.

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