Today, we have a special guest at Fictitious Musings, Stephanie Dray, author of Song of the Nile. She’s here to answer a few questions and shed some light on the Cleopatra’s Daughter trilogy while giving us some insight into her work.
I don’t know about you guys and gals but I have always been fascinated with Egypt and the stories and history of the people. Dray’s Cleopatra’s Daughter trilogy seems to have a lot to offer a girl with a major addiction to all things Egyptian. Selene seems like one of those heroines that you can really get attached to and rally behind as she grows within the series. Are you dying to know more about Stephanie’s work now? Me too. Let’s get to it then, shall we?
Pull up a chair and get ready to dive into Dray’s creation.
Welcome to Fictitious Musings, Stephanie.
Where did the idea for Song of the Nile come from? What was your muse?
The idea for the whole series really came about because I was fascinated by the image of a young Egyptian princess who is captured by the Romans and dragged through the streets in chains, only to become a powerful queen in her own right. This was a young woman who had to hide her true feelings about what she believed and who she loved almost all her life. And yet, the historical evidence suggests that she never forgot her mother, Cleopatra, or any of the rest of her family. I wanted to give her the voice that history had deprived her of.
How much research is involved in the creation of each installment?
I keep thinking that it will get easier with each book but I don’t think it does. For example, right now I’m working on the third and final book of the trilogy but there are still all kinds of things about the native Berbers over whom Selene ruled that I just don’t know.
Blending history with fiction can be a daunting task. How do you balance the two in your novels?
Most historical fiction authors are writing during time periods for which there is significant documentation. When I chose the life of Cleopatra Selene, I knew that I was dealing with a historical record that had huge gaps. Not much is known about her, even though what we do know about her is fascinating. It begs all sorts of questions, so I decided to fill in those questions with fiction.
Who is your favorite character? Why?
Selene touches my heart, because she’s a woman who forgot nothing. She spent her whole life memorializing all that she’d lost and struggling to re-found her dynasty. But outside of Selene, I’m always delighted to write about Augustus or Julia. For different reasons. The emperor is so dark and complicated but his daughter is vibrant and witty. I love them all!
A teenage heroine in an adult novel is rare these days but not unheard of. Was there ever any thought of having the series classified as YA? Have you considered writing a young adult series?
I was surprised to realize that Lily of the Nile was thought of as a YA novel, perhaps because I knew where the series was going. I’m not sure whether or not I’ll ever write a YA series. It’s possible, but I’m nervous about it because I don’t have children, so I don’t know that I would be able to capture the right emotions…
The cover of Song of the Nile is fabulous. How much input did you have on the cover design?
I’m happy and proud to say that I had quite a bit of input. My editor asked me to send in inspirational photos and share my ideas for the cover right down to my insistence that she should be wearing purple. Even so, the artist’s rendition surprised and delighted me. I was shocked by the intensity of the cover–and a little scared of it–but eventually fell in love.
Is there anything in the works outside of the Cleopatra’s Daughter series?
I have a few super secret projects that are brewing in the back of my mind. I might tackle the life of Dido (Elyssa) or perhaps Alexander the Great’s mother, Olympias. Or I might leave the ancient world altogether. What do you think I should do?
What can you tell us about the next installment in the series?
In Song of the Nile, I was very aware of Selene as the personification of Persephone (or Kore). If she was a young maiden with the problems of maidens in this middle book, she is now very firmly a mother, with the problems of a mother in the next novel. Like Demeter, she has to worry about her beloved daughter being stolen away to Rome, where the emperor has a claim on her. Selene has finally carved out some happiness for herself, and I intend to show in this last book, how she struggles to hold onto it at all costs!
In your bio, you mention that you collect artifacts. What item in your collection speaks to you the most? Why?
I should mention that I mostly own reproductions and trinkets. I don’t have anything priceless in my house. At least, not priceless to anyone other than me. Of my kitsch collection, I have a mirror that is set on a pedestal of Isis. I love the symbolism of that…of looking at yourself through the eyes of a goddess, supported by her maternal view.
Thanks for stopping by, Stephanie. We had a lot of fun learning more about Song of the Nile. Drop in for a visit anytime.
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.
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
Thanks for stopping by, Stephanie. I hope everyone enjoyed learning about the Cleopatra’s Daughter series.