Monday, September 03, 2007
Nefertiti by Michelle Moran
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Michelle Moran was born in the San Fernando Valley, CA. She took an interest in writing from an early age, purchasing Writer's Market and submitting her stories and novellas to publishers from the time she was twelve. When she was accepted into Pomona College she took as many classes as possible in British Literature, particularly Milton, Chaucer, and the Bard. Not surprisingly, she majored in English while she was there. Following a summer in Israel where she worked as a volunteer archaeologist, she earned an MA from the Claremont Graduate University.
Michelle has traveled around the world, from Zimbabwe to India, and her experiences at archaeological sites were what inspired her to write historical fiction. A public high school teacher for six years, Michelle Moran is currently a full-time writer living in California with her husband. She is agented by Anna Ghosh of Scovil Chichak Galen Literary Agency.
Visit Michelle's website at http://www.michellemoran.com
Why did you become a writer? Was it a dream of yours since you were younger or did the desire to write happen later in your life?
Yes. Some authors come to writing by chance, some after graduating college or working for a while. For me there was never any doubt about what I would do as a career. I think my teachers probably felt the same way. I can remember being in third grade with the toughest teacher in the world and hearing her voice echo in my mind like a scene from Ferris Bueller's Day Off. "Michelle... Michelle.... Michelle?" Now I wasn't physically absent like Bueller- just mentally! When I write, the scene unfolds in my mind like a movie, only I'm the director, and the possibilities are endless. I can listen to characters' dialogue, then tell them to stop, do it over, say the words differently, or strike a different pose. It’s a form of daydreaming with a purpose, I suppose. And trust me: it’s better for the world that I do this than something like air-traffic control! When I was twelve I terrorized the publishing industry by sending them copies of my three hundred page novel – handwritten and photocopied on a local Xerox machine! You can imagine the reception that probably had in offices around NY.
Is there anything you dislike about being an author?
Negatives? I don’t suffer from writer’s block so much as writer’s cramp! Every so often I have to get my crooked index fingers kneaded and massaged back into shape! A small price to pay for a life and vocation I love dearly.
How do you balance your personal and writing time?
Well, for most of the past year, I haven’t! I have no good answers for you that don’t involve ink-stained drudgery! Loving what I do helps, because I do a lot of it.
How do you write? Do your characters come to you first or the plot or the world of the story?
I begin by purchasing what feels like every book ever written on the subject I'm interested in. Sometimes that means our mail carrier will be delivering sixty books to my house in one week. It takes me several months to go through them, and when I feel like I have a pretty strong outline of my subject's life, I make a storyboard and begin to look for holes. Whatever holes I find, I try to patch with an event that is coherent with other facts, logic, and human nature, (three fairly constant guiding stars.) If I have doubts with a setting or a scene, I have friends in the archaeological world who can advise me on whether or not something I want to include is realistic.
Which means for the reader is that all of the major events and characters in NEFERTITI are based on fact. Even the description of Nefertiti’s palace and the images she had painted beneath her throne are historically accurate. Archaeologists today are extremely lucky that so much of Nefertiti’s life is well-preserved. But it wasn’t always this way. After Nefertiti’s reign, her enemies tried to destroy her memory by demolishing her city. The historical character of Horemheb, in particular, wanted to be sure that nothing of hers remained, so he broke her images down piece by piece and used them as rubble to fill the columns of his own buildings. Fast forward three thousand years, however, and as Horemheb’s columns began to crumble, what was found hidden inside were the perfectly preserved shards of Nefertiti’s image and life story. The irony!
I think that this is the core of what we trust in as writers- that the essence of our subjects’ lives will come tumbling out through our stories, if we only chip away at the right spot…
What genre(s) do you write? Why do you write the stories that you write?
I write historical fiction novels. The real trouble is deciding where to focus, because history is thick with so many terrific stories. I have a half dozen ideas floating around right now, and it’s difficult not to get ahead of the current novel and meander off into some lush historical thicket.
What is the biggest misconception about being an author?
That all we do is write! Would that were the case! I spend an enormous amount of time marketing. This is especially important as a debut author. Everything from contacting advertisers to interviews and signings. When advertising, I keep detailed records, so I should be able to tell with some degree of accuracy which websites provided the most click-throughs, or which newspapers offered the best exposure to my target market.
Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?
All of the major events and characters in Nefertiti are based on fact. Even the description of Nefertiti’s palace and the images she had painted beneath her throne are historically accurate. Archaeologists today are extremely lucky that so much of Nefertiti’s life is well preserved. But it wasn’t always this way. After Nefertiti’s reign, her enemies tried to destroy her memory by demolishing her city. The historical character of Horemheb, in particular, wanted to be sure that nothing of hers remained, so he broke her images down piece by piece and used them to fill the columns of his own buildings. Fast forward three thousand years, however, and as Horemheb’s columns began to deteriorate, all that was left were the perfectly preserved (although broken) images of Nefertiti and her life. The irony!
But although most of this novel is based in fact, some liberties were taken with personalities, names and minor historical events. For instance, no one can be certain how Mutnodjmet felt about her sister’s vision of an Egypt without the Amun Priests, but in an image of her found in Amarna she is standing off to one side, her arms down while everyone else is enthusiastically embracing the new god Aten. In a period where art attempted to portray reality for the first time, I found this significant. And while Nefertiti did have six daughters with Akhenaten, she never, so far as we know, produced twins.
What are you reading right now?
When not working on my sequel, I’m reading BLOOD OF FLOWERS by Anita Amirrezvani. It’s unique, and the Persian setting and period were somewhat unfamiliar to me. From the first page, the voice absolutely hooks you.
Out of all the characters that you've written, who is your favorite and why?
The patient, loyal sister Mutny, whose search for tranquility and love amidst the turmoil are, I think, the beating heart of the novel.
If you were writing a script for the big screen, who would you want to act in your movie?
Casting the lead would be crucial. There was talk a while back of Halle Berry playing the role, and her talent would fit beautifully. Or maybe someone like Eva Longoria, Monica Belluci or Aishwarya Rai?
Playing across from her, I think a good Akhenaten would be Arnold Vosloo from the Mummy. The perfect mix of fanaticism: dangerous, yet weak- the kind of character that Joachim Phoenix seems able to summon.
What would you want readers to take away from your books?
I’d like to say that they take away some essential truths about history, human nature, and the place of each individual in the turbulent rush of the centuries. But most of all, I think, I want them to have the simple enjoyment of a remarkable story. I want them to be able to empathize and thrill in a story that is all the more thrilling for being true.
Do you have any advice for beginning writers in regards to writing a book?
Learn as much as you can about the business of writing. Because we writers feel an emotional connection to our stories, we tend to feel that publishing is also emotional. If I’m nice, they’ll publish me. If I send them chocolate with my query letter, they’ll see what a good person I am. But publishing isn’t personal and most of the time it’s not emotional either. It’s about numbers and sales and - at the end of the day - money. So learn everything there is to know about the business before you send off your material, especially once your material is accepted for publication. That’s when business savvy matters most, and knowing important publishing terms like galleys, remainders and co-op is extremely important when trying to figure out how best to help your book along in the publication process. Learn everything you can, but above all, keep writing!
ABOUT THE BOOK:
The sweeping story of a powerful Egyptian family, Nefertiti: A Novel tells the tale of two sisters, one of whom is destined to rule as one of history’s most fascinating queens.
Beautiful Nefertiti and her sister, Mutnodjmet, have been raised far from the court of their aunt, the Queen of Egypt. But when the Pharaoh of Egypt dies their father’s power play makes Nefertiti wife to the new and impetuous king. It is hoped she will temper King Amunhotep’s desire to overturn Egypt’s religion, but the ambitious Nefertiti encourages his outrageous plans instead, winning the adoration of the people while making powerful enemies at court. Younger yet more prudent, Mutnodjmet is her sister’s sole confidant, and only she knows what lengths to which Nefertiti will go for a child to replace the son of Amunhotep’s first wife.
As King Amunhotep’s commands become more extravagant, he and Nefertiti ostracize the army, clergy, and Egypt’s most powerful allies. But it is only when Mutnodjmet begins a dangerous affair with a general that she sees how tenuous her situation is at her own sister’s court. An epic story that resurrects ancient Egypt in vivid detail, Nefertiti: A Novel.
If you are to believe what the viziers say, then Amunhotep killed his brother for the crown of Egypt.
In the third month of Akhet, Crown Prince
Tuthmosis lay in his room in Malkata Palace. A warm wind stirred the curtains of his chamber, carrying with it the desert scents of zaatar and myrrh. With each breeze the long linens danced, wrapping themselves around the columns of the palace, brushing the sun-dappled tiles on the floor. But while the twenty-year-old Prince of Egypt should have been riding to victory at the head of Pharaoh’s charioteers, he was lying in his bedchamber, his right leg supported by cushions, swollen and crushed. The chariot that had failed him had immediately been burned, but the damage was done. His fever was high and his shoulders slumped. And while the jackal-headed god of death crept closer, Amunhotep sat across the room on a gilded chair, not even flinching when his older brother spat up the wine-colored phlegm that spelled possible death to the viziers.
When Amunhotep couldn’t stand any more of his brother’s sickness, he stalked from the chamber and stood on a balcony overlooking Thebes. He crossed his arms over his golden pectoral, watching the farmers with their emmer wheat, harvesting in the heavy heat of the day. Their silhouettes moved across the temples of Amun, his father’s greatest contributions to the land. He stood above the city, thinking of the message that had summoned him from Memphis to his brother’s side, and as the sun sank lower he grew besieged by visions of what now might be. Amunhotep the Great. Amunhotep the Builder. Amunhotep the Magnificent. He could imagine it all, and it was only when a new moon rose over the horizon that the sound of sandals slapping against tile made him turn.
“Your brother has called you back into his chamber.”
“Yes, now.” Queen Tiye turned her back on her son, and he followed her sharp footfalls into Tuthmosis’s chamber.
Inside, the viziers of Egypt had gathered. Amunhotep swept the room with a glance. These were old men loyal to his father, men who had always loved his older brother more than him. “You may leave,” he announced, and the viziers turned to the queen in shock.
“You may go,” she repeated. But when the old men were gone, she warned her son sharply, “You will not treat the wise men of Egypt like slaves.”
“They are slaves! Slaves to the priests of Amun who control more land and gold than we do. If Tuthmosis had lived to be crowned, he would have bowed to the priests like every Pharaoh that came—”
Queen Tiye’s slap reverberated across the chamber. “You will not speak that way while your brother is still alive!”
Amunhotep inhaled sharply and watched his mother move to Tuthmosis’s side.
The queen caressed the prince’s cheek with her hand. Her favorite son, the one who was courageous in battle as well as life. They were so much alike, even sharing the same auburn hair and light eyes. “Amunhotep is here to see you,” she whispered, the braids from her wig brushing his face. Tuthmosis struggled to sit and the queen moved to help him, but he waved her away.
“Leave us. We will talk alone.”
“It’s fine,” Tuthmosis promised.
The two princes of Egypt watched their mother go, and only Anubis, who weighs the heart of the dead against the feather of truth, knows for certain what happened after the queen left that chamber. But there are many viziers who believe that when judgment comes, Amunhotep’s heart will outweigh the feather. They think it has been made heavy with evil deeds, and that Ammit, the crocodile god, will devour it, condemning him to oblivion for eternity. Whatever the truth, that night the crown prince, Tuthmosis, died, and a new crown prince rose to take his place.
"A stunning debut-I can't believe it's her first novel-what a thrilling read! I found the whole book rich and compelling, exciting and haunting. Nefertiti is a fine creation, both appealing and frightening, and she's surrounded by a thoroughly satisfying cast of characters, too. The whole world of Anceient Egypt comes to life."
-- Rosalind Miles, bestselling author of I, Elizabeth
"There haven't been two more fascinating or outrageous siblings since the Boleyn sisters...Nefertiti is obsessive reading."
-- Robin Maxwell, author of The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn
"An engrossing page-turner, Nefertiti brings ancient Egypt to life as two royal sisters struggle to find fulfillment and happiness- one craving ultimate political power, the other desiring only to follow her heart. A strong debut novel of passion and intrigue, Nefertiti kept me up way too late!"
-- India Edghill, author of Wisdom's Daughter
"A provocative portrait of limitless power in an ancient land of limitless fascination."
-- Ki Longfellow, author of The Secret Magdalene
“Nefertiti is a fascinating window into the past, a heroic story with a very human heart. Compulsively readable!”
–- Diana Gabaldon, #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Breath of Snow and Ashes
"Though sometimes big events are telegraphed, Moran, who lives in California and is making her U.S. debut, gets the details just right, and there are still plenty of surprises in an epic that brings an ancient world to life."
-- Publishers Weekly
"Beautifully written and completely engrossing, this first novel should enjoy wide readership."
-- Library Journal
"A wonderful, beautifully written, and well researched novel, Nefertiti is a page-turner filled with amazing visuals of a dazzling historical period."
-- Jani Brooks, Romance Reviews Today
Nefertiti by Michelle Moran
Genre: Historical Fiction
Release Date: July 10, 2007
$16.47 (hardcover) from Amazon.com
Purchase Nefertiti by Michelle Moran HERE!!!