Tuesday, September 1, 2009

New Releases from Michelle Moran (GIVEAWAYS!)

To celebrate today's paperback release of bestselling historical fiction author Michelle Moran's second Egyptian novel, THE HERETIC QUEEN, Michelle has written a guest post to share with you. In it, she reveals how she became entranced by the daughter of Cleopatra--the subject of her third book, on sale September 15.

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Why Cleopatra’s daughter? by Michelle Moran

It began with a dive. Not the kind of dive that people take into swimming pools, but the kind where you squeeze yourself into a wetsuit and wonder just how tasty your rump must appear to passing sharks now that it looks exactly like an elephant seal. My husband and I had taken a trip to Egypt, and at the suggestion of a friend, we decided to go to Alexandria and do a dive to see the remains of Cleopatra’s underwater city. Let it be known that I had never done an underwater dive before, so after four days with an instructor (and countless questions like, Will there be sharks? How about jellyfish? If there is an earthquake, what happens underwater?) we were ready for the real thing.

We drove to the Eastern Harbor in Alexandria. Dozens of other divers were already there, waiting to see what sort of magic lay beneath the waves. I wondered if the real thing could possibly live up to all of the guides and brochures selling this underwater city, lost for thousands of years until now. Then we did the dive, and it was every bit as magical as everyone had promised. You can see the rocks which once formed Marc Antony’s summer palace, come face to face with Cleopatra’s towering sphinx, and take your time floating above ten thousand ancient artifacts, including obelisks, statues, and countless amphorae. By the time we had surfaced, I was Cleopatra-obsessed. I wanted to know what had happened to her city once she and Marc Antony had committed suicide. Where did all of its people go? Were they allowed to remain or were they killed by the Romans? What about her four children?

It was this last question which surprised me the most. I had always believed that all of Cleopatra’s children had been murdered. But the Roman conqueror Octavian had actually spared the three she bore to Marc Antony: her six-year-old son, Ptolemy, and her ten-year-old twins, Alexander and Selene. As soon as I learned that Octavian had taken the three of them for his Triumph in Rome, I knew at once I had my next book. This is how all of my novels seem to begin – with a journey, then an adventure, and finally, enormous amounts of research for what I hope is an exciting story.
The death of Cleopatra was only the beginning...

Visit CleopatrasDaughter.com
Check out Michelle's blog at michellemoran.blogspot.com

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Like its best-selling predecessors NEFERTITI and THE HERETIC QUEEN, CLEOPATRA'S DAUGHTER is bound to be an enthralling read. The Library Journal, in a starred review, proclaimed: "Dramatic, engrossing, and beautifully written, this is essential reading, and Moran is definitely an author to watch."

Michelle has generously offered to provide books to two lucky winners: the first winner will receive a signed copy of the paperback edition of THE HERETIC QUEEN, the second a signed copy of the hardback release of CLEOPATRA'S DAUGHTER.

To enter the contest, leave a question for Michelle in the comments section. You could ask about any of her books, her extensive travels, her writing habits, or her insights on historical fiction or publishing in general. Only those entries that contain a question will be considered for the drawing. Please include with your question an indication of which of the two books you would like to receive. Entries must be posted by 11 pm PST on Sunday, September 13. The winner of each book will be chosen at random and names posted on Monday morning, September 14.

In the meantime, Michelle, who loves to interact with her readers, will stop by each day to answer your questions. (Please note: Michelle's responses and the drawing for the books are completely independent events.) It's an opportunity for Michelle to address what's on your mind and for you to pose those questions you've been dying to ask.

Many thanks to Michelle for her presence here and best wishes for a successful launch!

22 comments:

Danja said...

I have been eyeing Ms. Moran's books since Nefertiti was published, and the only reason I have not read them yet is because I usually get sidetracked by medieval novels. So after reading this post, her books have been moved to the top of my reading queue. Here is my question: how much of your book research is done on location and how much from the place where you do your writing?
I do not have a preference for the book, getting either one would be fabulous.

Lynn Irwin Stewart said...

Hi, Michelle!

Do you spend more time researching or more time writing?

Either book would be fine -- but, if I have to choose, I'll pick the hardcover.

Thanks for the opportunity, Julianne!

Linda said...

Assuming that Ms. Moran reads, as well as writes, historical fiction, I'd like to know who some of her favorite authors are, what HF book she has read recently. I would love either book, but since I read in chronological order, I'd prefer Heretic Queen. Thanks.
lcbrower40(at)gmail(dot)com

Michelle Moran said...

Hi Danja,

I would say a fourth of my research is done on location, 1/2 in done in books, and the last 1/4 is done through one-on-one contact with scholars who are generous enough to answer my detailed questions.

Of course, the research on location is the most fun, but when you're researching civilizations that are 2000 years (sometimes 3500) old, there's not always much left to see. Luckily, a great deal of Egyptian and Roman artifacts still exist, and I tried to visit every location my narrator went. In fact, I posted the photos on my website here:

http://www.michellemoran.com/CD/novelimages.htm

http://www.michellemoran.com/Gallery/ancientrome.htm

Michelle Moran said...

Hi Lynn!

I would say it's half and half. I give myself six months to research and six to write. The industry likes to keep authors on a book-a-year schedule.

Michelle Moran said...

Hi Linda,

I read a great deal of HF! Some of my favorite authors are CW Gortner, Robin Maxwell, Sharon Kay Penman and Margaret George (and not because they blurbed my book - ha-ha!). My most recent read in HF was Sarah Dunant's Sacred Hearts. What a fantastic book!

Jessica said...

I really enjoyed both NEFERTITI and THE HERETIC QUEEN, and am looking forward to reading CLEOPATRA'S DAUGHTER!

Here's my question: We all run across those fascinating tidbits while doing research, tidbits that often don't have a place in the story itself. Would you mind sharing one of those interesting or quirky facts that ended up on the cutting room floor?

I'd love a copy of either book!

BuckeyeBlossom said...

Maybe it's just me, but I don't often run across historica fiction set in Egypt or Rome, which I find sad now that I think about it as they are both fascinating subjects.

My question for my Michelle then is what it feels like to write for these eras and what drew you to them? And do you find the audience more or less similiar or different to other areas of historical fiction (ie: medieval)?

I'd love to give the books a try as well.

Michelle Moran said...

Hi Jessica,

Definitely! For each book I've written I've found dozens of little stories or facts that simply couldn't find their way into the novel.

In Nefertiti, I discovered that her daughter had her own perfume line!

In The Heretic Queen, there was a great deal about the Hittite culture and legends that fascinated me but didn't make it into the book.

For Cleopatra's Daughter, I would have loved to have been able to include more about the latrines! The public toilets were hilarious. A long row of different sizes holes next to each other. You can still see them in Pompeii!

Michelle Moran said...

Hi BuckeyeBlossom!

I'm not sure about the audience. It's always hard to tell who your readers are and why they came to you.

As for what inspired me to write the books, I posted about that on my website:

http://www.michellemoran.com/nef_story.htm

http://www.michellemoran.com/her_story.htm

Carine De Vos said...

Hi Michelle,

I have enjoyed both Nefertiti and The Heretic Queen very very much and I'm looking forward now to reading Cleopatra's Daughter. So if I win I would like a copy of Cleopatra's Daughter.

My question for you is : Cleopatra's daughter is moving over from Ancient Egypt to Rome. For future books, are you thinking of writing any more about Egypt ?

Thanks.
Carine
carine[underscore]devos[at]hotmail[dot]com

Stuart MacAllister said...

Hi there,

I would love to enter this competition.

Michelle - do you find that you have too many scenarios that could be weaved into your stories? How do you chose which events to include and which ones to discard?

Like the Romans, the Egyptians were full of political intrigue and debauchery so how do you filter things?

Regards
Stu

Michelle Moran said...

Hi Carine,

Thank you! Actually, my next book won't be set in Egypt at all. Instead, I'll be writing 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. I'm very, very excited about it!

Michelle Moran said...

Hi Stuart,

Thanks for stopping by! Yes, I do often have to cut out some of the history to make sure the book flows well. So if I find something that's repetitive - too many wars, too many births (Nefertiti had SIX children!) - I will skip it and simply reference it. I think readers want what my editor used to call "forward motion." If there is battle after battle, or birth after birth, it doesn't feel like the story is really moving forward. The plot has to grow along with the character. At least, that's what I've been taught!

Michelle Moran said...

As for your second question Stuart, since I consider Cleopatra's Daughter my first adult/YA crossover, I definitely did not want to include too much debauchery. Nefertiti and THQ were also read by quite a few young adults, so I was careful not too include too much sex, or scenes in brothels. There is so much potential to write fantastically gritty scenes set in Egypt and Rome. But that's just not my intended market. so I'll hint, but I don't explore the seedier sides (like how the brothels were all filled with slaves who were essentially being raped daily) too deeply.

LoveHistory said...

Hi Michelle. Aside from the French Revolution, what other time periods and cultures are you planning to write about?

I'd take either book, but I think I'd prefer "Cleopatra's Daughter."

Michelle Moran said...

Hi LoveHistory!

Well,, my secret desire is to write about the American Revolution (keeping with the 18th century). I don't know if that will ever happen since there's such a small market for American historical fiction, but I'm keeping the dream alive!

LoveHistory said...

Small market? Says whom? I love books set during that period! Absolutely keep the dream alive, Michelle!

Michelle Moran said...

Ha-ha. I know... there are always books that break through, such as Cold Mountain. But it's a tough sell (unless, of course, there are witches involved!).

Veronica said...

I don't think this question was posted so I'll do it. Of all the exciting places you have been which was a big favourite and which one would you love to go back to? (I went to Pompeii this summer and lost all my photos so I have to go back in the future but even so there was something about that place I reckon.)

I would love a copy of Cleopatra's daughter if I'm lucky enough.

Veronica =)

Michelle Moran said...

Hi Veronica,

I'm so sorry to hear about your Pompeii photos :[ The same thing happened to me in Egypt. Sigh... I guess it's just another reason to go back!

Of all the places I would like to go back to, I would probably choose the Austrian Alps. to me, there is nothing so beautiful as a little wooden house with a smoking chimney nestled in the green Austrian hillside. Of course, I only say this because I've been to Rome, Paris and Vienna so many times. Otherwise, I would have to pick one of those cities!

Julianne Douglas said...

Contest now closed. Thanks to all who entered, and to Michelle for assiduously answering all their questions.

Winners posted in the morning!