I am so excited to bring to you today a conversation I had with a wonderful author. She is the author of Cleopatra’s Daughter, The Heretic’s Queen, and Nefertiti. Please welcome Michelle Moran!
Michelle, thank you so much for offering to chat with me today about what is going on in your life and about your newest book, Nefertiti! I adore historical fiction reads and know that you have traveled to many wonderful areas of the world that helped lay out the ground work for these books. Would you share a little of how these travels turned into the wonderful books you have published today?
Michelle: My travels to archaeological sites around the world have been enormously influential in my writing career. In fact, my inspiration to write on the Egyptian queen Nefertiti happened while I was on an archaeological dig in Israel. During my sophomore year in college, I found myself sitting in Anthropology 101, and when the professor mentioned that she was looking for volunteers who would like to join a dig in Israel, I was one of the first students to sign up. When I got to Israel, however, all of my archaeological dreams were dashed (probably because they centered around Indiana Jones). There were no fedora wearing men, no cities carved into rock, and certainly no Ark of the Covenant. I was very disappointed. Not only would a fedora have seemed out of place, but I couldn’t even use the tiny brushes I had packed. Apparently, archaeology is more about digging big ditches with pickaxes rather than dusting off artifacts. And it had never occurred to me until then that in order to get to those artifacts, one had to dig deep into the earth. Volunteering on an archaeological dig was hot, it was sweaty, it was incredibly dirty, and when I look back on the experience through the rose-tinged glasses of time, I think, Wow, was it fantastic! Especially when our team discovered an Egyptian scarab that proved the ancient Israelites had once traded with the Egyptians. Looking at that scarab in the dirt, I began to wonder who had owned it, and what had possessed them to undertake the long journey from their homeland to the fledgling country of Israel.
On my flight back to America I stopped in Berlin, and with a newfound appreciation for Egyptology, I visited the museum where Nefertiti’s limestone bust was being housed. The graceful curve of Nefertiti’s neck, her arched brows, and the faintest hint of a smile were captivating to me. Who was this woman with her self-possessed gaze and stunning features? I wanted to know more about Nefertiti’s story, but when I began the research into her life, it proved incredibly difficult. She’d been a woman who’d inspired powerful emotions when she lived over three thousand years ago, and those who had despised her had attempted to erase her name from history. Yet even in the face of such ancient vengeance, some clues remained.
As a young girl Nefertiti had married a Pharaoh who was determined to erase the gods of Egypt and replace them with a sun-god he called Aten. It seemed that Nefertiti’s family allowed her to marry this impetuous king in the hopes that she would tame his wild ambitions. What happened instead, however, was that Nefertiti joined him in building his own capital of Amarna where they ruled together as god and goddess. But the alluring Nefertiti had a sister who seemed to keep her grounded, and in an image of her found in Amarna, the sister is standing off to one side, her arms down while everyone else is enthusiastically praising the royal couple. From this image, and a wealth of other evidence, I tried to recreate the epic life of an Egyptian queen whose husband was to become known as the Heretic King.
Michelle, your travels just fascinate me! I would love to explore archeological sites!
I am curious, of your three books Michelle, was there one that was harder to write than the others?
Michelle: Actually, I think all three came with their own challenges. As a historical fiction author, it’s extremely important to me that the facts in the novel are correct. The research takes many, many months and a great deal of travel. That’s probably the most challenging part of each book.
The big news is about Target announcing Nefertiti as its book club pick. I love that! Share a little what finding out about that was like. Don’t leave anything out… I want details!
Michelle: HA! Well, the day I found out we were waiting news from the NYT (they fax their List every Wednesday). Cleopatra’s Daughter had just been released and the numbers looked extremely good. So good, in fact, that we were hoping for a shot at the NYT List. It turns out that even though my third novel outsold some of the books on the List, it still didn’t make it (they don’t go strictly by which books have sold the most each week – it’s a secret formula). So I was moping around, feeling ten kinds of sorry for myself, when my editor called and said she had the president of Three Rivers Press on the phone. It turns out that of the thousands upon thousands of books they might have selected, Target had chosen NEFERTITI to be their next Book Club Pick. Well, that certainly made up for the NYT disappointment! It was one of the worst and best days of my career – all in one!
Oh wow! I would be totally flipping out! That is so exciting! Michelle, I am just loving your books. I am always so excited to see a new one come out and I am so excited to read Nefertiti for myself. What is next for you?
Michelle: My next book will be about Madame Tussaud, who joined the gilded but troubled court of Marie Antoinette, and survived the French Revolution only by creating death masks of the beheaded aristocracy. I’m very excited about this novel, since Marie (the first name of Madame Tussaud) met absolutely everyone, from Jefferson to the Empress Josephine.
I always like to ask each author I interview to tell me something that is a little known fact about yourself.
Michelle: I play the harp. Not well – but I try!!
Michelle that you so much for stopping by and sharing a little bit of your life with us. I am excited to read Nefertiti and looking forward to the next book as well!
Did I mention that Michelle has graciously offered one of my readers a signed copy of Nefertiti? (Seriously, I even swooned a little!) Here’s how you can you can enter for a chance at this great book:
Go to Michelle’s Travel Gallery and look at all the places she has traveled. Then come back here and let me know in a comment which of these places you would love to see. Blog or tweet about this giveaway and let me know on a separate comment for a bonus entry. 🙂 That’s it!
I will choose a winner on February 15th and your book will come directly from Michelle!