Q: Last year when you guest blogged on my blog you mentioned where you got the inspiration for Nefertiti. Was there any different inspiration behind this novel, or was it just a natural progression from where the first book left off?
A: In many ways, The Heretic Queen is a natural progression from my debut novel Nefertiti. It tells the story of Nefertari, who suffers terribly because of her relationship to the reviled “Heretic Queen”. Despite the Heretic Queen’s death many years past, Nefertari is still tainted by her relationship to her aunt, Queen Nefertiti, and when young Ramesses falls in love and wishes to marry her, it is a struggle not just against an angry court, but against the wishes of a rebellious people.
But perhaps I would never have chosen to write on Nefertari at all if I hadn’t taken a trip to
While breathing in some of the most expensive air in the world (I figured it was about $20 a gulp), I saw a tomb that wasn’t just fit for a queen, but a goddess. In fact, Nefertari was only one of two (possibly three) queens ever deified in her lifetime, and as I gazed at the vibrant images on her tomb – jackals and bulls, cobras and gods - I knew that this wasn’t just any woman, but a woman who had been loved fiercely when she was alive. Because I am a sucker for romances, particularly if those romances actually happened, I immediately wanted to know more about Nefertari and Ramesses the Great. So my next stop was the Hall of Mummies at the
Q: And, now that you are about to become a two-time published author, how do you feel? Is it just as exciting as it was the first time around or is it a totally different experience? Would you change any of it?
A: There really is nothing like publishing for the first time. The expectation, the excitement of the unknown, and the wild drive that pushes an author to do anything and everything they can for their very first book doesn’t compare with the experience of publishing successive novels. Since Nefertiti was my first novel, I had no idea what to expect. What would happen on the first day of publication? Or if I made a bestsellers list? Or if I didn’t make one? Should I do signings? What about drive-by signings? Do bookmarks really work? Of course, all of these questions were answered in due time. And now, for The Heretic Queen, I know that bookmarks are useful, that if I make the bestsellers list my editor will call at an ungodly hour on her – gasp – personal phone to congratulate me, and that drive-by signings can be just as effective as signing events. There is an inner peace – at least for me – in publishing the second novel that wasn’t there for the first book when everything was uncertain and new. The nervousness is still there – will people like it? will I let down my publishing house? – but this time I know what to expect.
Q: On the subject of potential changes, I read somewhere where you said that you never read Egyptian historical fiction. Why is that? Did you find it hard to write a certain type of book without knowing what the ‘typical’ way of handling things were, or was it more freeing?
A: I never read Egyptian fiction before publishing Nefertiti and The Heretic Queen partly because it didn’t appeal to me (ironic, I know). A great deal of fiction set in ancient
I want to know about women’s lives. That’s not to say there aren’t any politics in my novel. Harem politics could be just as heated and dangerous as politics in the Audience Chamber. And that’s also not to say that there aren’t any battles. After all, Ramesses took his principal wives with him to war. But I want to hear about the experience of everyday life and war from the women. What was it like for them? What did they see, and hear, and do? So that’s one reason I didn’t read Egyptian fiction before writing my own. However, my primary reason had to do with my own writing and research. I didn’t want to be influenced by another author’s take on events or their approach to the ancient world.
But now that I’m finished writing on ancient
Q: What is one thing that you wish people would take away from reading your books?
A: I’d like readers to feel that if a time machine were to suddenly appear and whisk them away to ancient Egypt, they wouldn’t be totally lost. They would recognize the traditions, the gods and goddesses, and know what to expect in Pharaoh Ramesses’s court. I have tried my best to make the writing accessible to a modern audience. That means not dating the dialogue, or using too many long and unwieldy Egyptian names, or overdoing it with ancient Egyptian terms. Hopefully, by doing this, readers will come away with the sense of not only having been there for a little while, but of relating to the Egyptians. Because for all of the technological, medical and philosophical changes the world has undergone in the past three thousand years, people have remained the same. They had the same desires and fears in ancient
Q: I feel I cannot be a blogger without asking one question. Without causing a rather large argument, how do you feel blogging has changed being an author and selling books? I received your first book as an ARC to blog about, so you obviously were aware of the blogging idea. Do you think part of your success is due to being blogged about, or do you think you would’ve been just as successful if blogging and bloggers was not an option?
A: I know with absolute certainty that Nefertiti would not have enjoyed the success it did without the blogosphere. And this is in no way pandering to your question. It’s simply the truth. I think that debut authors who aren’t on the web are really missing out and potentially hurting their own careers. Of course, once in a while a debut book comes along which has such a huge marketing and publicity budget behind it that it does phenomenally well even without the blogosphere. But those books are becoming increasingly rare. Authors are expected to do a great deal of their own marketing and publicity. The most effective way of doing both, in my opinion, is to approach bloggers. I know that most of my book purchases come from books which I’ve seen bloggers review highly. If that’s the case for me, how many other people is it the case for?
Q: Do you find that the traveling that you do influences your writing?
A: Traveling has a huge impact on my writing. I’m currently writing an article for Solander Magazine which addresses the issue of whether or not travel is essential for the historical fiction author. While I don’t think it’s essential, I do think it’s incredibly helpful. Here’s an excerpt from the article, which will come out in November.
“Before I began writing my second novel The Heretic Queen, I took a trip to
to see for myself the magnificent Egypt . One of the many building projects undertaken during the reign of Ramesses the Great, the of temple Abu Simbel is carved with statues of both Ramesses II and his beloved Nefertari. Twice a year a thin beam of sunlight crosses the temple to illuminate three of four statues sitting in a darkened sanctuary. The only statue the sun doesn’t strike is that of Ptah, the god of darkness. I had timed my trip in order to see this bi-annual spectacle, and with hundreds of other visitors I watched as the sun struck the statues of Amun-Re, Ramesses II and Ra-Harakhty in turn. It was an almost mystical moment, made even more poignant by the fact that the narrator of the novel I was preparing to write would have witnessed the same event more than two thousand years ago. When I returned to temple façade , I immediately began work on my second book, outlining the scene where Ramesses II takes Nefertari to his newly built temple in order to watch this special event. Did any of the wonderment I felt standing in America translate to the pages of my book? I hope so.” Abu Simbel
Q: Lastly, what’s next? Do we have another book to look forward to next year? Do you have plans for future adventures? And, are you going to stay in
A: My third novel will be Cleopatra’s Daughter, and I’m really looking forward to the publication of this book! Cleopatra's Daughter will follow the incredible life of Cleopatra's surviving children with Marc Antony -- twins, named Alexander Helios and Cleopatra Selene, and a younger son named Ptolemy. All three were taken to
Thanks very much Michelle for taking the time to answer my questions! If anyone has any that have not been asked, feel free to put them in the comments and I am sure Michelle will answer them! She also might answer a couple questions later in the week if I can finish The Heretic Queen fast enough!