Friday, September 18, 2009

Author Interview: Michelle Moran

Author Michelle Moran was kind enough to answer some of my questions. Below are her responses. Enjoy!

All three of your books (Nefertiti, The Heretic Queen and Cleopatra's Daughter) take place in ancient Egypt/Rome. What do you find interesting about this time period?

I love how familiar everything is despite the fact that we’re talking about people who lived more than two thousand years ago. The ancient Egyptians and Romans were so similar to us that sometimes I would have to take a breather from my research to remind myself that these weren’t actually people living today. Certainly, their religions were different from ours. And they definitely led much shorter and more difficult lives. But in terms of love, hate, jealousy, ambition – all of the human emotions that define us – they were exactly the same.

Do you think historical fiction is more difficult to write than other genres?

I couldn’t actually say, given that historical fiction is all I’ve ever written. My hunch would be no – that each genre comes with its own challenges. For fantasy, the author has the task of creating a believable world from scratch. For crime fiction, the author must lay out careful clues and at the same time, not give too much away. Writing a compelling novel is a challenge whether the genre is literary fiction or romance.

This is your first young adult/adult cross over novel. Was Cleopatra's Daughter more difficult to write than your previous books?

Actually no. I found it much easier to write, probably because I had already written two books in the voices of teens. My fourth novel will be a vast departure from what I’ve been writing, and will be strictly and adult fiction book. So it was a great deal of fun to say goodbye to the world of young adult with what I hope will be my first crossover novel!

Cleopatra gave her daughter (Selene) a necklace. Is there any evidence that this happened?

No, there is no evidence of this. Having Cleopatra give her daughter the pearl necklace was one of those creative additions I felt would help to remind the reader that Selene had a mother – a very famous, smart, and powerful mother – who is missing for most of the book.

Do you think the historic Selene had difficulty adjusting to Roman culture?

Yes. Very much so. I think the evidence for this comes when the book is over and we see what Selene chooses to do with her life (which involves Greek architecture).

In Cleopatra's Daughter there are slave revolts. Selene also becomes friends with a slave. In Ancient Rome was there a lot of tension between free people’s slaves?

There was enormous tension. We know this from slave and from papers left behind by various scholars such as Seneca the Younger, who really felt guilty about the way slaves were treated in Rome.

Selene is horrified when she finds abandoned baby girls left out on the streets to die. Was this a common practice?

Yes, unfortunately is was. There were two places a child could be left: the Columna Lactaria, where there was a chance the child might be picked up and raised as a slave somewhere, and the Dump, where the wolves would most likely do away with it. When a woman gave birth, there was a very specific ceremony that had to take place which involved the father picking up the child and declaring it his. If the father refused to do this for any reason, the child was given away regardless of the mother’s pleas. It was a tremendously cruel practice.

Selene seems very attached to her twin brother Alexander. Was this true in real life?

Evidence of their relationship is nonexistent. However, I had to believe that being her twin, and being the only brother who survived the journey from Alexandria to Rome, Alexander must have been close to his sister. If they hadn’t been close, their time in Rome would have been that much harder. Twins always have a special bond, and I believe this would have been true of Alexander and Selene.

Without giving away the ending to the novel, can we expect a sequel to Selene's story?

Well, I don’t have one planned. Although I would love to return to ancient Rome in the very near future!

Are you working on a future project? Can you tell us a little bit about it?

For my fourth novel, I will be departing from the ancient world to write about the French Revolution. As my incredible agent Dan Lazar wrote in PM, this book will be "about the life of Madame Tussaud, in which young Marie Tussaud joins the gilded but troubled court of Marie Antoinette, and survives the French Revolution by creating death masks of the beheaded aristocracy."

Thank you Michelle!

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