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Winner of Nefertiti

June 30, 2008

First, I just want to say thank you for all of you kind words, comments and e-mails on my last post. It has been truly hard for my entire family to have to say goodbye to my Mother, who was a wonderful woman. My Mother’s funeral was held on Friday and it was a beautiful memorial to such a great person.

Now, I’m happy to announce the winner of Nefertiti by Michelle Moran.

Congratulations go to Anna from Diary of an Eccentric!

Please e-mail me Anna at wordblog(at)verizon(dot)net with your address and the publisher will send you the book in the mail.

For more information about Nefertiti and it’s author, check out the below Q&A: 

You say that your love-affair with Ancient Egypt began on an archaeological dig in Israel when your team unearthed a lapis stone scarab. Can you say a little more about your journey from archaeology to novel writing?

Certainly! I would say that my journey into the world of history actually began with the PBS television program Reading Rainbow. I was eight years old when the program featured a children’s book about dinosaurs. On the screen, a group of school children were huddled around a dinosaur bone, dressed in khakis and safari hats. They were squatting over a gigantic femur and tenderly cleaning off the dirt with their brushes. “That’s what I want to do,” I announced, and when my mother signed me up for a children’s course in paleontology at the Natural History Museum, I knew I wanted to join a dig someday.  

Twelve years later 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 practically trampled the other students in my haste. Visions of artifacts danced in my head. After all, it was Israel, and who knew what we might find? For the three weeks before the orientation meeting, I agonized over what I should bring. Shorts, of course, and heavy boots. But what about brushes? Were there special brushes that archaeologists used, or would the ones from Home Depot be okay? I finally settled on brushes from Home Depot, and when it came time for packing, I lovingly placed them in protective wrap and imagined all the priceless artifacts they’d soon be dusting. 

When I landed in Israel, I unpacked my brushes and laced up my boots. I didn’t own a fedora, but I already felt like Josh Bernstein and I was ready to Dig Up Some Truth. As we arrived at the dig site, our team leader walked to the back of his van. I watched enthusiastically as he unloaded twenty pickaxes. When he began passing them out to the volunteers, however, I became concerned. They’ve mistaken me for someone else, I panicked, someone who’s signed up to dig ditches instead of brushing delicate femurs. “What is this?” I asked when it was my turn for a pickax. “One of your tools,” our team leader replied. “There’s a shovel as well. You’ll be digging six feet by ten.” When he saw the shock on my face, he frowned. “You knew that, didn’t you?”
 
 

 

For weeks we dug ditches, shoveling dirt into wheelbarrows and hauling the barrels of dirt down a hill. Over that summer I think I lost ten pounds, and I know that I gained some serious muscle. Plus, I never did get to use my brushes. Only seasoned archaeologists were allowed to do the delicate work. But when our team discovered an Egyptian scarab that proved the ancient Israelites had once traded with Egyptians, I began to wonder who had owned that scarab, and what had possessed them to undertake the long journey north 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.

Writing the novel took years of research. I wanted to be sure that when I wrote Nefertiti I was extremely accurate, down to the color of the palace tiles and shape of the women’s beads. At the same time, however, I wanted to be careful not to weigh the story down in too much detail. There needed to be the same sense of urgency, danger, and passion as filled Nefertiti’s world.

Egypt in 1351 BCE is a setting that feels very “foreign” and exotic to most of us, but you made this period come alive in your very sensuous descriptions of villas, palaces, gardens, clothes, and even cosmetics. What was your biggest challenge in evoking this setting for your readers?

My biggest challenge in evoking 18thDynasty Egypt was not being able to include all of the information that I had researched. There are so many great resources for studying ancient Egypt, and I was fortunate enough to be in contact with several Egyptologists who were available to answers any questions I had which couldn’t be found in books. But it was a real challenge not to include everything I knew about the Amarna period. One example would be how Nefertiti’s daughter had her own perfume line. To me, this was fascinating. It meant there were celebrity figures even three thousand years ago who young women at court wanted to emulate. But this fact simply had no place in the storyline, so I didn’t include it. Several wonderful biographies exist on Nefertiti, and my job was to remember that I was trying to write a compelling fictional narrative, not another biography.

At the recent North American Historical Novel Society Conference, you mentioned a previous novel, published in Germany, about the biblical Jezebel. How was writing about Jezebel different from exploring Nefertiti’s world? Did Jezebel help pave the way for you?

I wrote Jezebelwhile I was in college and was interested in the Iron Age II artifacts, and as I began researching into that time period, I came across the story of Jezebel, who had been a queen of Israel in 800 BC. The historical Jezebel is the narrator of my novel, and she brought into Israel (from her father’s Kingdom of Tyre) the cult of Baal and his consort Asherah. The book emphasizes the difference between Jezebel’s matrilineal kingdom, where land and inheritance was passed down from mother to daughter, and the kingdom of her husband, which was predominantly patriarchal. The novel is essentially a look at why Jezebel came to be such a hated female figure in the Bible. Jezebel was strong, cunning, and educated, then brought to a culture that emphasized female demureness and passivity. It’s no surprise that she was remembered with such hatred. After all, she had come from a land where women painted their eyes with kohl and dressed like the Egyptians, then became ruler of a kingdom where none of that was acceptable. Her mother had instilled in her the values of a culture that believed women could rule in their own right, and when she arrived in Israel with that attitude, she made quite a few enemies. Her real downfall, however, lay in her desire to change the religion of ancient Israel. Jezebel had grown up worshiping a goddess called Asherah, and a god she would have called by the affectionate term Baal Zebul (Baal the Exalted, who wore a helmet of horns on his head). But there is nothing more dangerous for a ruler than trying to change what her people believe in, and like Nefertiti, Jezebel failed miserably.

The writing and research for Jezebel wasn’t much different from the writing and research required for Nefertiti. What was different, however, was my publishing experience. The experience of having a novel published aboard versus the United States is vastly different. When I sold my book to Germany, I was never contacted by an editor and I had no idea where in the publishing process my novel was at any given time. One day, about a year later, a book arrived in the mail, and it was Jezebel. Unfortunately, I couldn’t read a single word, and for all I knew they had translated a completely different book and slapped my name on it (friends of mine who speak German later informed it is indeed Jezebel). But, for the most part, this is what happens when an author sells their work abroad. The experience of selling Nefertiti in the United States, however, was completely different. My editor kept me up to date on almost every aspect of Nefertiti’s journey through publication, and for nearly a year we were in contact several times a week (via email) sharing news and updates.

 Do you have a new book in the works?

Currently, I’m finishing the stand-alone sequel to Nefertiti. It will be in bookstores September 2008 and is titled The Heretic Queen. It follows the destiny of Mutny’s daughter, Nefertari, and traces her transformation from a wild palace child to the strikingly beautiful and intelligent queen of Ramesses the Great.

 Finally, in June 2008 my third novel is due for release. It is titled Cleopatra’s Daughter and follows that young woman’s incredible voyage from Egypt to Rome, from the side of her murdered mother to being held captive in the household of Augustus Caesar.

 

 

 

 

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. June 30, 2008 10:25 am

    You have been in my thoughts for the past week.
    It’s good to see you post again.

    I finished Nefertiti a few days ago & LOVED IT! Holy cow, it was AWESOME – could not put it down! Truly one of the best books I’ve ever read. I’ll be recommending Nefertiti to my book club for sure. Now reading this post, can’t wait for The Heretic Queen in September.

  2. June 30, 2008 12:35 pm

    I am so sorry to hear about your mother. I’ll br thinking about you and your family.

    And I’m so glad you liked Nefertiti, Tammy :]

  3. June 30, 2008 1:17 pm

    Congrats Anna! Now I’ve got to go pick up the book too!! Can’t wait to read it and so glad to hear Michelle Moran plans to have more books!!!

    Our good thoughts are with you and your family Stephanie!

  4. June 30, 2008 2:48 pm

    Glad to see you back. I know the funeral is over but the real grief work is still to come. Make sure you give yourself time and space for that.

  5. July 1, 2008 2:51 am

    Oh yes, and congratulations Anna! I hope you enjoy the read ;]

  6. July 1, 2008 9:17 am

    Thanks! I’m so excited! I never win anything! I can’t wait to read the book!

  7. July 1, 2008 1:37 pm

    Wow long post. The book sounds good though. I will have to add it to my library

    I hope you can come visit for Christmas. If you decide to let me know ASAP because I will want to make sure it is nice for Leah and Maya so I will want to add some gifts to my list. Can you tell I start shopping now? Also I usually order my dinner from Safeway (I know lazy), but I figure my sister the pastry chef can make one heck of a dessert, hint, hint. I love Strawberry shortcake, chocolate anything, cheesecake, etc, etc, etc…….

  8. July 1, 2008 5:01 pm

    Congrats to Anna. And since we work together, I expect her to pass along her book to me when she is finished so I get to read it as well.

    Sending you well wishes.

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