Song of the Nile - A novel of Cleopatra's daughter and interview with Stephanie Dray!
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?
Song of the Nile is the much-anticipated second book of a trilogy based on the life of Cleopatra’s and Mark Anthony’s daughter, Selene. This novel, however, easily stands on its own and it is not necessary to have read the first book in order to fully enjoy this one, but you’ll definitely want to collect all three books in the series.
As queen of Mauretania, Selene continues her efforts to reclaim her mother’s throne of Egypt. Like her mother before her, Selene is a shrewd young woman and must use her wits against the cunning strategies of Caesar.
Author Stephanie Dray did a splendid job of recreating Selene from vulnerable young woman to woman of great strength. The characters are complex and intriguing, at times likeable and at other times detestable. And that’s what made them so believable. Although the novel closely follows historical facts that are known about Cleopatra Selene, the author has believably filled in what was missing with vibrant detail and additional conflict that truly brings the story to life.
Delicious prose, an exotic setting, and a heroine that will impress you with her unfailing courage and determination to reclaim what was once hers, are elements that make this book worth reading. It is historical women’s fiction at its finest and I recommend you get both Lily of the Nile and Song of the Nile so you can follow the trilogy from start to finish.
An Interview with Author Stephanie Dray
Thanks so much for having me here. The honor is all mine!
Song of the Nile is the story of Cleopatra’s daughter, a little girl who was orphaned and taken away from the only home she’d ever known, marched through the streets of Rome as a captive prisoner, and raised by the very people who killed her family. That she was able to carve a future for herself out of that horrific past, by endearing herself to her parents’ enemies and keeping quiet about her true feelings, is a testament to her strength. However, it also meant that she was deprived of a true voice most of her life. I try to give that voice back to her.
2. You've chosen a very interesting title. What inspired the title? What inspired the book?
The original title for this book was Sorceress of the Nile because I wanted to get across that the Romans were so suspicious of Egyptian magic and they feared it in the hands of a woman. My heroine is as feared for her association with magic as for her actual wielding of it. The publisher thought the title was too much like fantasy, so we changed it to Song of the Nile which is just as appropriate because Egypt sings to my heroine and tries to lure her home.
3. What makes this book special to you?
This is a book that delves deep into the human heart and goes very dark places. Cleopatra Selene lost so much in her life--she suffered unimaginable tragedies by the time she became a bride at just fourteen years old. Exploring how it is that she was able to put her life back together to become one of the greatest queens in the ancient world was truly an honor for me. And an inspiration.
4. What makes this a book that people MUST read and WHY?
I think Selene’s story will help every woman find her own inner goddess to guide her. Moreover, Selene’s story is a lesson to us that the progress of women’s liberation has not been a straight line; there have been setbacks in the past and there may be setbacks in the future. We should be wary of them even now.
5. What sparks your creativity? Any tips to help others spark their own creativity?
Reading books! I learn so much from how other writers have tackled problems that I’m always inspired. Also, meeting with other writers at conferences always leaves me ready to go.
6. What has been the biggest stumbling block in your writing? Can you share some tips to help others get past similar problems?
This book was difficult for me to write for a couple of reasons. The first reason was that I knew it was going to be controversial; it’s darkly beautiful. I’m exploring cultural issues that would have been normal for Selene, such as slavery, rape and incest. But these things shock the modern senses. And they should shock us. But we have to know where we came from to understand where we are. I had to just swallow my fear and let some like-minded readers see the early drafts of the book so that I could have more confidence in what I was doing. Having that early feedback that this book was stronger than the first...that helped me persevere. The second reason it was difficult for me is that it is such an emotional story. To create this character, I had to channel her a little bit. I had to imagine how difficult and painful her life might be. I cried more than once writing this novel, but by the end, I was also filled with joy.
7. Tell me about the most unusual things you have done to promote your book?
Oh, the crazy things I’ve done! I suppose the wackiest is that I started making Egyptian-themed jewelry to give away with my books.
8. Each author is different in the way they create a work of fiction. Please describe for us how you plan or plot a story.
For starters, I create a giant timeline of known historical events. Then I stare at the timeline a lot, as if I can divine a pattern from it. I ask myself what themes suggest themselves from the historical record. Is this a time of recklessness when people are making fatal mistakes? Is there a slow and steady march to power? What’s the arc of this person’s life and can it be twisted into a story that follows any kind of journey? When I stared at the timeline of Cleopatra Selene’s life, I saw that it was inextricably wound up with Augustus. She lived at his sufferance. She ruled for his pleasure. But all the while, she did these little things to assert her independence and to memorialize her dead. She commissioned coins honoring her dead mother that could have created trouble for her with the emperor. She built temples to her forbidden goddess. She named her son after her lost dynasty. This suggested to me a woman who suffered from survivor’s guilt, so I used that to start filling in the holes in the historical record.
9. Authors are very unique in the way they write, the tools they use, when they write, etc. Please describe a typical writing day for you? How do you organize your day?
I use two tools for historical fiction. The first is a timeline program called Aeon Timeline and I’m desperately glad for it because math has never been my strong-suit. This program helps me keep track of the ages of my characters when certain things are happening--not to mention the events themselves. The second program I use to write is called Scrivener. It allows me to keep all my notes and research in one convenient place. I’m so dependent on it, I’m not sure I could write without it anymore! As for the structure of my day, it used to be that I’d get up, get coffee, start writing and not stop until I’d hit my word count. Lately, marketing and promotional activities have started to get in the way. I wake up, take care of urgent emails, figure out if there are any outstanding obligations I might have--books to send out, people to thank, tweets to send, etc. This takes up far more time than it should and I’m recently considering whether or not simply withdrawing into hermit land would not be a better approach.
10. What is your current work in progress?
I’m in the midst of writing the third and final book in the Nile trilogy about Cleopatra Selene’s life. This will cover the meat of her career as a successful ruler, all her amazing accomplishments, not to mention her legacy as a mother and as the last Ptolemaic queen. It’s also my last chance to say goodbye to her, so it’s been fairly emotional writing it.
11. Can you tell us where to find more information about you and your books and how readers can reach you?
I really hope readers will subscribe to my very infrequent, but always informative newsletter. I like to include recipes from ancient history, little known facts, recent discoveries about women in history, and the occasional update about my books. Also, I give out free stuff to subscribers every time I send out the newsletter and who doesn’t want free books? If folks want to find me online, however, I tweet as stephaniehdray and I’m reachable through my website at StephanieDray.com.
I love when folks stop by and tell me their thoughts on my books.
12. What would you like our readers to know about you and your writing?
My style is very allegorical. I take the historical record, then I infuse it with mythology. I do this because even though history is interesting all on its own, I want to make sense of these events for their symbolic import. This is why readers will find themes such as the divine feminine sprinkled throughout my work and why fantasy elements creep into an otherwise faithful historical narrative.
Thanks so much for having me here today!
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.
Berkley Trade October 2011 (Trade Paperback)
# ISBN-10: 0425243044
# ISBN-13: 9780425243046
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