Caroline Lawrence Gives Slater Lecture

October 15, 2012

Author of the Roman Mysteries series Caroline Lawrence was the guest lecturer for the annual Thelma Tournay Slater Classics Lecture on Thursday, October 4.

Lawrence presented, “The Historical Detective: How Real and Replica Roman Artifacts Are Used as Clues.” Lawrence is an avid storyteller, which she accredits to her love of reading everything and watching as many movies and television shows as possibly she can.  In fact, the stories that she reads and views inspired her to peruse her two passions—telling stories and ancient Roman culture.

That is how the Roman Mysteries series came about. Previously, Lawrence was a schoolmarm in London, England until her sister inspired her to write a children’s book set in Pompeii, Italy. Today, Lawrence has penned about 20 books including the Roman Mysteries series.  

Why Roman mysteries? Lawrence, as a child loved Nancy Drew books due to the fact that the mystery genre gets the reader involved in the story. To Lawrence, mystery books are considered literature’s moral genre — mystery books are both thrilling for the author and for the reader. Lawrence’s love for her childhood hero Nancy Drew and her admiration for ancient Greek and Roman culture is what eventually led her to complete her first children’s book, The Thieves of Ostia in 1999. It was the first book in her mystery collection. The first book sets the stage for Lawrence’s five children characters as they solve mysteries around Rome. The Thieves of Ostia has the five children solving the case of who is killing the watchdogs in Ostia Antica, ancient Rome.

In her lecture, Lawrence addressed that it was only in her first book where animals were killed. She received instantaneous backlash from her younger readers protesting that animals are not to be harmed. From that point on, Lawrence said that only people will be harmed not animals and that was okay with her readers. 

Although Lawrence enjoyed the travel and research that went into creating her children’s books, she mentioned that not everything was smooth sailing when it came to writing. Lawrence loves to create vivid scenes and settings in her books, but in the past, she greatly struggled with creating a plot within her stories. Lawrence offered advice to writers that taking classes, reading books, and the process of rewriting is how she and anyone can overcome this writing obstacle. Waking up each morning to write for an hour is another tip from the successful author on how to better those writing skills. What about pesky writer’s block? All authors struggle with it.  Lawrence deeply encourages a long walk for fresh writing material to form.

Recently, Lawrence launched another series of books about a 12-year-old detective, P.K. Pinkerton, Private Eye, set in Virginia City, NV in 1862.

The Thelma Tournay Slater Classics Lecture is made possible through a gift by Mrs. Thelma E. (Tournay’42) Slater. Mrs. Slater’s lifelong passion for the classics began at Mount Union. The gift supports student enrichment through an increases appreciation of the civilization and cultural achievements of ancient Greek and Rome that stand at the core of a liberal arts education.

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