Saturday, November 12, 2011

Interview with Stephanie Dray, Author of Song of the Nile

Hello everyone! I am extremely pleased and exited to bring you my latest interview with Stephanie Dray, author of the captivating novel Song of the Nile. In her latest novel about Cleopatra Selene, Stephanie has gracefully combined historical fiction with historical fantasy, delivering an deliciously satisfying reading experience. To learn more of this novel be sure to read my review.

Now, for the moment you've all been waiting for: the interview!


  • When did you first feel compelled to write about Cleopatra Selene's extraordinary life? 
Almost as soon as I learned about her existence, I was obsessed. I read anything I could get my hands on, and it made me sad that there was so little available. One day, she just seemed to start speaking to me. Now, I know how that sounds. I’m not that kind of author usually. Though I’ve written numerous books in different genres, I don’t have characters who speak to me. I don’t channel a muse in the fog, as it were. But this one time, I heard a young woman speaking to me about the voice she’d been robbed of, and I had to write it all down.

  • Of your current two novels about Cleopatra Selene, or even the upcoming conclusion, is there one you've enjoyed writing more than the other?
What a great question. Lily of the Nile was my first historical fiction project and it was a time of exploration for me. I wrote with joy and without much self-consciousness. I didn’t have deadlines at the time, so I just wrote when I felt like writing. It was glorious. Song of the Nile, on the other hand, was a misery to write. First of all, there was a deadline. Secondly, I was a much improved writer, so I was always worrying about what I was doing wrong. Third, I knew that the material was darker and more controversial, and I made myself cry more than once because I felt so badly for Selene. But in the end, I actually think Song of the Nile is the stronger book. (Though, at the time I wrote it, I had no such belief, which only added to the misery.)

  • When you began writing Cleopatra Selene's story did you have the plot completely planned out or have things evolved throughout the writing of each novel?
I knew the historical arc of her life, so I had that to guide me. But I wanted to weave so much more between the dry dates and battles and milestones of the historical record. I wanted to bring alive a personal, intimate life for this woman. So, that part of it has evolved a great deal as I’ve come to understand her better. My Selene suffers from intense survivor’s guilt. Her whole family is dead, but yet, she thrives. I can only imagine what that must have been like for her...and so as I explore her psychology, the plot shifts accordingly.

  • Out of all the historical figures who played a part in your novels, who, besides Cleopatra Selene, would you most want to meet?
I wish I could say that I’d like to meet either Cleopatra or Augustus, but the truth is that both of them were very ruthless and dangerous people. They would make mincemeat of me. So, I think I would have to go with King Juba, who was, by all accounts, a gentleman scholar.

  • Can you tell us a bit about the next novel in this trilogy?
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!

Thank you, Stephanie! It's been an honor to interview you :)
The honor is all mine!

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.

Synopsis of Song of the Nile...
"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?"

Copyright © 2011 Svea Love. All Rights Reserved.


Mystica said...

I read about Selene in Michelle Moran's book. This sounds another aspect of her life. Nice post.

Carole Rae said...

=D I can't wait to read this someday! I still have to read 'Lily of the Nile', so it'll have to wait. *sighs* And thanks so much for having this interview!

Svea Love said...

Mystica- Thank you! Yes, the contrast between the two takes on her life was quite different. Dray's novel contains the magical aspect which reflects the thinking of the time.

Carole- You will absolutely love it! I had to pace myself with Lily of the Nile because I was devouring it too fast, lol.

Blodeuedd said...

And I never knew she existed before I read the Moran book :) I am so glad authors have written about her now

Teddyree said...

I mentioned in my review that I thought Song of the Nile was more refined and polished, a stronger novel but I'm sorry that Stephanie found it a misery to write. I guess that happens when you have high expectations of yourself :)

Thoroughly enjoyed the interview Svea!

Unknown said...

Teddyree, at the time I was writing Song of the Nile, I was so terrified that I was messing everything up that I was eating Tums like candy. I think now I see that in order to improve as a writer, you really do have to suffer a little.