Saturday, November 8, 2008

Michelle Moran: Why I Love to write about ancient times

Michelle Moran is one of our favourites here at Historical Tapestry. She is always generous with her time, and today she tells us why she loves to write about ancient times. You can check out more info about Michelle and her books at

There are many reasons why I love writing on the ancient world: there’s the thrill of learning that even two thousand years ago, humans were driven by the same fears and desires, there’s the total the disbelief that our ancestors lived through so much deprivation, and the deep appreciation of their ingenuity in times of crisis. But what I love most about writing on the ancient world is the research.

Researching ancient history is often much more challenging than researching other periods. For one, there’s the language barrier. Not only did the ancient Egyptians speak a different language (which can be said of many historical fiction subjects), but their writing was completely different from ours. There’s a wonderful feeling of conquest and perseverance that comes from teaching yourself an ancient form of writing. While I certainly can’t read hieroglyphics fluently, like Tess Gerritsen, I have attempted to teach myself as much as I can, which makes it much more exciting on trips to underground tombs or temples.

Researching ancient history is also a challenge because many of the primary sources are either gone or incomplete. But the fact that we don’t have any written evidence of what happened to Nefertiti allows me as a writer to come up with plausible theories. It’s much like being a detective, only instead of sifting through the remains of a crime scene, I get to sift through archaeological evidence: art, tombs, mummies, temples, even artifacts can sometimes speak about the dead.

And because I am, by nature, a social person, I enjoy the correspondences I have with experts in the fields of Egyptology, Anthropology and Archaeology. When researching the Middle Ages, much of the information an author needs can be found on location or in books. But when researching the ancient world, many gems (literal and figurative) have been unearthed on archaeological digs which may or may not have been written about. Perhaps a professor is the process of publishing a paper about wigs in 18th Dynasty Egypt, and this is the exact information I need to complete a particular scene. A few emails later, I have that information. It’s great fun to talk about excavations, and even more fun to participate in them. These are just a few of the reasons I find researching the ancient world so satisfying.


  1. Thanks for an interesting look into your work!

  2. I love these snippets about your work and research! It's really cool that you've managed to teach yourself some hieroglyphics. That sense of secret discovery is so great! I know after my first survey art history course, I used to love running through museums trying to identify various Catholic saints based on their colors and insignia! So much fun.

    I especially would love to participate in an excavation at some point. If only I could find the free time!

  3. Michelle thanks so much for sharing your research with us. It sounds so exciting.

    I am truely looking forward to reading your novels!

  4. It's so cool to have contacts like that! I wish I knew people who know cool things about history and other interesting stuff like that!

  5. Beawhiz: Actually, I don't "know" most of them in person: many are e-contacts!! Ah... the joys of the internet!! :]