First I have to ask about the roses. Authors always have interesting bios included with their books. They talk about the kids or the better half or even the cats, but yours says: "She lives in California with her husband and a garden of more than two hundred roses." So, I am wondering why roses? I meant to ask this in interview part one!
Actually, I thought of including my graduate degree and education in the bio, then decided against it since I write fiction, not nonfiction. I suppose I could have written about the archaeological digs I’ve participated in, or the extensive traveling I’ve done, but my publishing house said to keep it short and sweet, so I included what seemed easy and didn’t need much explanation! I am a huge fan of flowers. Our roses rise in several tiers above our garden, so that looking at them while they’re in full bloom is quite something. I like to think of my backyard as sort of a mini Versailles (okay, very mini). We have seven fruits trees, including avocado, apple, and cherry, plus two large eucalyptus trees which threaten to demolish us with every seasonal wind storm. We also have a wide variety of furry creatures which inhabit our hedges. You might think this all sounds perfectly idyllic, but when you have to fight the weeds and thorns in order to prune two hundreds roses twice a year, reality sets in pretty quickly!
Nefertiti was narrated by Mutny and The Heretic Queen was narrated by Nefertari. Do you have a preference? Was one story more interesting than the other, or did you enjoy telling both of their stories equally the same? And, why did you choose them as the narrators. It could've been a member of the court, or Nefertari’s nurse, etc. Why someone of great importance as the narrator?
For both Nefertiti and The Heretic Queen, I chose to tell the stories from the perspective of a woman at court who would have been in a position to see, hear, and participate in much of the action. In the case of my debut Nefertiti, I decided to tell the novel from perspective of Nefertiti’s younger sister, Mutny, because Nefertiti would not have been a trustworthy narrator. Nefertiti was incredibly ambitious, and probably would not have had trouble lying or flattering her way to power. The historical Mutny, by contrast, didn’t seem to possess Nefertiti’s ambition, and so I felt that she made a much more credible narrator. For The Heretic Queen, however, I chose to have Nefertari herself narrate the tale since she experienced such an amazing life. From fighting Sherden pirates to joining Ramesses at war in Kadesh, Nefertari witnessed it all. And who better to tell the story than the person who lived through it?
Easy question to ask, maybe not so easy to answer! Do you think that Nefertiti deserves the name The Heretic Queen, or do you think she was just a woman trying to gain power for her family the best she knew how? Or, something entirely different?
Great question! I definitely don’t think that Nefertari was a heretic. In the novel, however, her life is overshadowed by the heretical policies of her aunt and uncle, Queen Nefertiti and Pharaoh Akhenaten. The people stand against her marriage to Ramesses because of her ancestry, and Nefertari’s enemies use the word “heretic” to blacken her name and incite rebellion. Choosing a title for this novel was difficult. As I pointed out on another blog, the more obvious choice would have been NEFERTARI, but that sounded too close to my debut novel, so we went with something more enigmatic.
Was there anything that you had to leave out of either of the books that you would've liked to include, you just didn't have enough pages? Everyone enjoys 'deleted scenes'.
Oh, there’s always so much great stuff (well, great in my opinion!) that has to be left on the cutting room floor by the time the final edit is complete. Both of my novels endured trimmings of more than a hundred pages, so there were many scenes which had to be disappear that were fun to write, but not necessarily relevant. Originally, I had included much more about Ramesses and how he was responsible for many of the ancient buildings still in Egypt today. However, in my first novel, Akhenaten was a prolific builder, and my editor didn’t want readers to feel that this was more of the same (and rightly so).
There were also small, wonderful facts that really had no place in either of my novels and didn’t get included, but were wonderful anyway. For example, historically it is known that one of Nefertiti’s daughters owned a pet gazelle. While that’s incredibly cute, it really didn’t fit in with what I was writing, so I didn’t use it. There is also evidence that Mutny, the narrator of my fist book, kept company with a pair of dwarves. But with so many characters already in the novel, there was no place for them.
In The Heretic Queen, I would have loved to include more about the harem of Mi-Wer, where the wives of previous Pharaohs were sent if the current one didn’t want them anywhere. I find it incredibly tragic to imagine being a beautiful young woman who’s suddenly middle-aged and banished to the middle of nowhere. Many great scenes could have come out of that, but it’s unlikely Nefertari ever visited the harem, so it didn’t get included.
Besides seeing your name in print and your books on the shelves, what has been the best part of having your books published?
Probably the ability to contact other authors without having them think I want something from them. As an unpublished author I was always fearful of contacting authors who were already published in case they thought I was searching for a blurb or a handout in some other way. Now that I’m published I see that this was a foolish way of thinking. I love it when authors contact me, published or unpublished, and I have to assume that I’m not the only one. But publishing gave me the freedom to think this way, and the courage to email all and sundry with total abandon!
Did you do anything special to celebrate the release of this book?
Actually, no. A book’s debut is about putting in a lot of hard work marketing, publicizing, interviewing, doing Q&As, and running around to bookstores signing stock. When an author comes out with her second book she can’t afford to rest on her laurels. A whole new round of publicizing has to begin. Perhaps in a few weeks, I’ll book my husband and myself into a nice hotel on the beach for a few nights and we’ll listen to the sound of the waves versus the sound of my keyboard for a change!
Lastly, what have you thought about 'your week'? Was it enjoyable? (I bet you were relieved that I liked your book! haha! I mean, I planned all this and I didn't even own The Heretic Queen yet, so I could've ended up promoting a book I didn't even like!)I must say, you took a huge gamble, and I’m certainly glad it paid off! This has been the highlight of my time as a blog reader. After all, how many people can say they have their own week? It is a triumph not likely to be equaled, and I am very appreciative of the opportunity, Kelly. Thank you!
(I am so glad you have enjoyed your week! I quite enjoyed it myself! See, last year you had part of a week, this year you had a whole week... What am I supposed to do next year? The pressure I have put on myself! Thank you for everything, Michelle!)