Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Interview with Stephanie Dray

Hi Stephanie, welcome to Anna's Book Blog! I'm glad to have you here. To start off can you tell the readers a little about yourself?
I’m a bit obsessed with strong women in history--many of whom have been vilified. I love bad girls of all varieties and I love to tell their stories. I have three cats, only two of whom like me, and I used to be a great housekeeper until I became a published author, at which point all such things fell to pieces.

Song of the Nile is your newest release, can you tells us a little about it and the series?
Song of the Nile is a story about Cleopatra’s daughter, who was orphaned at the age of nine when her famous parents committed suicide, and marched through the streets of Rome as a chained captive. She managed to convince the emperor Augustus to spare her life and eventually he would make her the most powerful queen in his empire. This novel is about her first years as a young queen in North Africa. While it’s actually the sequel to Lily of the Nile, it stands on its own, so there’s no need to read the first one unless you want to!

What is your writing day like?
It’s a tricky question because before I was promoting published books, I was very good about buckling down each day and finishing my word count. Now that I’ve had four books out in twelve months, it’s been chaotic and I tend to fit writing time in when I can between promotional responsibilities. It’s not exactly a healthy mix, so I should really do something to change it by remembering that I’m a writer first, and a marketer second.

When you’re not writing what kind of books do you like to read?
I love to read historical fiction; I love the sensation of learning something about the past while my emotions are all engaged in a story. I’ve recently discovered Ken Follett and Bernard Cornwell but I also love more female-oriented historical fiction. Sometimes, when I’m in a more lighthearted mood, I opt for a lighthearted Regency Romance.

You write YA and paranormal romance (as Stephanie Draven), do you find one genre easier to write than the other?
Each genre comes with its own challenges. Paranormal romance is difficult because I have to build a new world and I have to meet the confines of the genre. Romances have very specific expectations and it’s often a brainteaser to figure out how to make it work. On the other hand, historical fiction requires a great deal of research and I fret constantly. It certainly gets written slower. I can generally write a romance novel in a month’s time, but Song of the Nile took me an entire year--and it didn’t feel like enough time.

What are 3 things that are "must haves" for you when you sit down to write a book?
Scrivener -- It’s my most important writing tool and I’m not sure I could write without it anymore.
Caffeine -- I like a nice drink of iced tea or coffee to get my mind focused.
Music -- While I can write in silence, I prefer mood music to set the tone!

What made you decide to write a book(s) about Cleopatra's daughter Selene?
This is a woman who had to befriend the very man who all but extincted her family. He was the murderer of her kin, and yet, she had to praise him, flatter him, even honor him as a god for her own survival. She did all this, but she never seemed to forget her dead family; she memorialized them all whenever possible. She was a woman who never forgot, and that truly touched me. While Cleopatra VII of Egypt was known for her famous suicide, her daughter was truly a survivor. I wanted to honor that with my books.

What type of research did you do for the book/series?
I relied heavily upon Duane Roller’s research on Juba II and Kleopatra Selene. I also pored over every biography I could get my hands on regarding Livia, Augustus, Julia and the rest of the imperial family. I also had to build a map for my novel and I’m very proud of it. I got help from the Library of Congress and the Ancient Mapping Center . . . I think it really helps put the world of Cleopatra Selene into perspective.

If you could give your lead characters one piece of advice, what would it be?
I would tell Selene that she gets to live her own life--she’s not obligated to live her life to please her mother. And I would tell her that her mother would be proud of her, though I know Selene wouldn’t believe me . . .

If you can, tell us what is next for you?
I just accepted a contract from Berkley for the third and final book in the series about Cleopatra’s Daughter and I’m so excited to have the chance to tell Selene’s whole story!

Thanks so much for having me.

About Stephanie…
Stephanie graduated with a degree in Government from Smith, a small women’s college in Massachusetts where–to the consternation of her devoted professors–she was unable to master Latin. However, her focus on Middle Eastern Studies gave her a deeper understanding of the consequences of Egypt’s ancient clash with Rome, both in terms of the still-extant tensions between East and West as well as the worldwide decline of female-oriented religion.

Before she wrote novels, Stephanie was a lawyer, a game designer, and a teacher. Now she uses the transformative power of magic realism to illuminate the stories of women in history and inspire the young women of today. She remains fascinated by all things Roman or Egyptian and has–to the consternation of her devoted husband–collected a house full of cats and ancient artifacts.

By Stephanie Dray

Out Now!

Sorceress. Seductress. Schemer. Cleopatra’s daughter has become the emperor’s most unlikely apprentice and the one woman who can destroy his empire…

Having survived her perilous childhood as a royal captive of Rome, Selene pledged her loyalty to Augustus and swore she would become his very own Cleopatra. Now the young queen faces an uncertain destiny in a foreign land.

Forced to marry a man of the emperor’s choosing, Selene will not allow her new husband to rule in her name. She quickly establishes herself as a capable leader in her own right and as a religious icon. Beginning the hard work of building a new nation, she wins the love of her new subjects and makes herself vital to Rome by bringing forth bountiful harvests.

But it’s the magic of Isis flowing through her veins that makes her indispensable to the emperor. Against a backdrop of imperial politics and religious persecution, Cleopatra’s daughter beguiles her way to the very precipice of power. She has never forgotten her birthright, but will the price of her mother’s throne be more than she’s willing to pay?

Berkley Trade October 2011 (Trade Paperback)
# ISBN-10: 0425243044
# ISBN-13: 9780425243046

Where to Buy:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Constellation Books | IndieBound | Powell's Books

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