NOTICE: (Updated March 5, 2010)

Beginning December 19, 2009, Books 'N Border Collies will be posting but only intermittently while I pursue personal goals. I plan to share some reading I'm doing, but there will be no reviews. I will, however, be sharing my exploration of vegetarian cooking and the cookbooks and websites I use to educate myself. I hope you enjoy it!


Saturday, September 6, 2008

Michelle Moran Q & A

The entries are pouring in for the Michelle Moran Book Giveaway, and I couldn't be more thrilled! It's going to be so much fun to give away these great prizes!

There's still time to get in on the drawing, and in the meantime, Michelle has offered to answer your questions about her books! Wondering how she did her research? Why she chose to tell the story from Nefertiti's sister's point of view? Ask away! She said the only thing she won't answer are specific questions about The Heretic Queen, as the book is not out yet, and she doesn't want to give anything away.

Post your questions in the comments section, and next week Michelle will answer them personally!


Ladytink_534 said...

What made you want to write about this particular queen? What kind of research did you do? Do you listen to any type of music while writing? Did any other authors influence you and this book?

Sorry those are the only questions that popped into my mind. I'm sure I'll think of others later though lol!

Michelle Moran said...

Hi Ladytink,

Thank you for asking! I think I'll answer your questions in several posts, because a few of them require longer answers.

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 Egypt and seen her magnificent tomb. At one time, visiting her tomb was practically free, but today, a trip underground to see one of the most magnificent places on earth can cost upwards of five thousand dollars (yes, you read that right). If you want to share the cost and go with a group, the cost lowers to the bargain-basement price of about three thousand. I looked at my husband, and he looked at me. We had flown more than seven thousand miles, suffered the indignities of having to wear the same clothes for three days because of lost luggage… and really, what were the possibilities of our ever returning to Egypt again? There was only one choice. We paid the outrageous price, and I have never forgotten the experience.

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 Egyptian Museum in Cairo. There, resting beneath a heavy arc of glass, was the great Pharaoh himself. For a ninety-something year old man, he didn’t look too bad. His short red hair was combed back neatly and his face seemed strangely peaceful in its three thousand year repose. I tried to imagine him as he’d been when he was young – strong, athletic, frighteningly rash and incredibly romantic. Buildings and poetry remain today as testaments to Ramesses’s softer side, and in one of Ramesses’s more famous poems he calls Nefertari “the one for whom the sun shines.” His poetry to her can be found from Luxor to Abu Simbel, and it was my visit to Abu Simbel (where Ramesses built a temple for Nefertari) where I finally decided that I had to tell their story.

Michelle Moran said...

Question: What kind of research did you do? Do you listen to any type of music while writing? Did any other authors influence you and this book?

I'll bet that last answer was a bit more than you bargained for, huh?! I'll try to keep this one short ;]

For research, I try to visit the actual location where the novel is taking place (in this case, Egypt). Then I buy as many books on the subject as possible and try to recreate - in my own mind and on paper - the world my characters are living in. I also have some very gracious contacts in the archaeological world whom I can turn to if I get stuck.

I have to admit, I don't really listen to any music for inspiration. I like total silence when I write. I also try not to read too much fiction set during the time period I'm writing on. There are two reasons for this.

One of the reasons is that Egyptian fiction has never really appealed to me (ironic, I know). A great deal of fiction set in ancient Egypt feels “heavy”. The dialogue seems stilted because the author is attempting to make it sound old (which seems silly, since the dialogue isn’t going to be accurate anyway. Firstly, we don’t know the rhythm or cadence the ancient Egyptians used, and secondly, they didn’t speak English!). Also, a lot of fiction set in places like Rome and Egypt focuses on the lives of men. The books are filled with war or male-dominated politics, and that’s simply not what I’m interested in.

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 Egypt and my next book will explore Imperial Rome, I’m eager to start looking for Egyptian fiction with strong female leads. Any suggestions are most welcome!