It has been said that the victors of war are the authors of history. By their accounts, the players are cast as heroes and villains, and some bear more responsibility for the conflict than others.
But as we all know, war is messier than “good guys” and “bad guys.” What if both are to blame for the events? What if those who are most culpable have never been held accountable for their actions?
These are the issues that Anthony J. Miano explores in his debut novel, The Changing of the Gods, an unprecedented fictionalized look at how Greek mythology reflects how we consider the broader impact of military conflicts.
Set in the aftermath of the Trojan War, the book centers on Hades, God of the Underworld, who has, up to this point, avoided meddling in the affairs of mortals and the other gods. But as more and more of their culpability and destructive behavior surrounding the war comes to light, he decides that he must make the key players in the development of the war answer for their behavior, regardless of whether they directly started the conflict or perpetuated it.
As Hades calls the gods to the Underworld one by one, chaos will unfold, revenge will be sought, retribution will be served, and all of it will lead to a conclusion that none of them, nor the reader, will see coming.
I read The Changing of the Gods after meeting Miano at the North Coast Indie Author Expo in Elyria, Ohio this summer. In my last post, I discussed how one of the advantages of doing an author expo beyond selling books is the chance to network with fellow writers.
Miano is an excellent example of this connection in action—our tables were placed near each other, and we spent much of the event talking about our writing. We even traded copies of our books so we could discuss our work further once the expo concluded.
Since devouring the book last month, I’ve been privileged to have several conversations with him about his creative process, the inspiration for his book, and where his writing is headed in the future.
The primary source text for The Changing of the Gods is The Trojan Women, a tragedy by Euripides that depicts the surviving women of the Trojan War as they await delivery into slavery by the Greeks. The critical moment in the story unfolds when Odysseus (yes, THAT Odysseus) persuades the other Greeks that they must kill the young son of Hector, the fallen prince of Troy, to prevent him from growing up and seeking vengeance.
“After the events of The Odyssey, Odysseus likely enjoyed a long, prosperous life with a stellar reputation,” Miano explained. “I felt that the premeditated, calculated murder of a child was not something he should be allowed to walk away from. Also, the first thing he does in The Odyssey is attack one of Troy’s allies. That’s a war crime.”
Miano says that the backstory of his book comes directly from The Trojan Women, diverging from its original story when Hades decides to pour out his wrath on those who bear responsibility for the war.
“I decided that if The Illiad and The Odyssey are considered the Greek mythology equivalent of the Bible, then my story would be its Book of Revelation,” he said.
Aside from being a scholar of mythology, Miano is also a veteran, which informs the military angle of the book. His Military Occupational Specialties, according to his bio, include 19D, Calvary Scout, and 37F Psychological Operations. While Miano has never directly experienced war as a soldier, he drew extensive inspiration from his family’s background, which includes a combined total of more than a century of military service.
In particular, Miano’s late stepfather did multiple tours in Vietnam, was raised by a retired Marine who was one of the last remaining Iwo Jima veterans, and even had an ancestor who was a Confederate soldier.
Miano says that his stepfather’s experiences in Vietnam helped him interpret the characters of Hector and Priam, King of Troy, and directly influenced his ability to understand and relate to the events of the Trojan War.
“My understanding of [his experiences] is why I have a soft spot for all soldiers, whether they’re Greek or Trojan, American or Confederate, or even the Germans from World War II. We understand each other in ways no one else can,” he said.
For this reason, reading The Changing of the Gods is one of the most unusual literary experiences I’ve ever had. Using Greek mythology as inspiration, Miano succeeds in bringing empathy into the story of the Trojan War, forcing readers to get up close and personal with its consequences, causes, and escalations as Hades pursues justice for its innocent victims.
While many encounters between Hades and his “witnesses” reflect the structure of a courtroom drama, the book is not all talk. You will see plenty of action, often violently so, particularly in a chapter where Poseidon is called on the carpet to answer for his brutality.
It’s been several weeks since I finished the book, and key scenes are still playing out in my mind, as well as how Miano’s writing style brings together mythology and war to discuss the issues at hand. To me, that’s the mark of a great book. As a bonus, although the subject matter is undeniably serious, it is also filled with plenty of humor and wit.
Miano hopes that people who read his book will see that the events of the Trojan War and their impact are not isolated to their particular time and place and that even today, “men in power rule over people with almost as much power as the gods.”
“One of the worst things about the Trojan War, and by extension all other wars, is the numerous opportunities to prevent or stop or deescalate them,” he said. “I hope readers will be inspired to be less cruel to each other and to see that the men who fight wars are not responsible for starting them.”
Miano added that he would also love to see The Changing of the Gods produced as a movie or a stage play.
Along with Euripides, Miano cites J.K. Rowling and the Harry Potter series as an inspiration to him as a writer, as well as the CW series The Arrow, which helped him to write the combat scenes between characters in his work convincingly.
He also encourages writers to be flexible in their process of writing longer works, emphasizing that he wrote the last chapter of his book first, followed by the first chapter, then everything in the middle.
“Start by writing out the setup for your book before the story,” he said. “You don’t need to have it plotted linearly before you begin.”
If you are interested in mythology, military history, and the moral consequences of war, you will love The Changing of the Gods, which is currently available on Amazon. Last week, the book was also featured in a video by The Mythology Guy, a YouTuber who explores media related to all things mythological.
In addition to his writing, Miano is a narrator for audiobooks and can be found at the Audible website, www.ACX.com. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn or on Facebook as A.J. Miano. Miano also has a TikTok account for the book, @thechangingofthegods, and can additionally be found on the platform as @MianosMilitaryMatters.