Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Guest post by Michelle Moran, author of Nefertiti and The Heretic Queen (with giveaway)

Today, I'd like to welcome Michelle Moran, author of Nefertiti (read my review here) and The Heretic Queen, to Diary of an Eccentric. I haven't yet read her latest book, The Heretic Queen, but after reading this guest post, I can't wait! (Keep reading for details on how you can win a copy of Nefertiti.)

History's Surprises

by Michelle Moran

First of all, thank you very much for having me here! When you first asked me to write a guest post, I knew immediately what I wanted to talk about. History’s surprises. I don’t mean the small surprises an author uncovers during the lengthy process of researching for an historical novel, such as the fact that the Romans liked to eat a fish sauce called garum which was made from fermented fish. Ugh. No, I mean the large surprises which alter the way we think about an ancient civilization and humanity.

The Heretic Queen is the story of Nefertari and her transformation from an orphaned and unwanted princess to one of the most powerful queens of ancient Egypt. She married Ramesses II and possibly lived through the most famous exodus in history. I assumed that when I began my research I would discover that Ramesses was tall, dark and handsome (not unlike the drool-worthy Yule Brenner in The Ten Commandments). And I imagined that he would have been victorious in every battle, given his long reign of more than thirty years and his triumphant-sounding title, Ramesses the Great. But neither of these assumptions turned out to be true.

My first surprise came when I first visited the Hall of Mummies in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Contrary to every single media portrayal of Ramesses and every movie ever made, it turns out the Pharaoh was not tall, dark and handsome as I had expected, but tall, light and red-headed (which was just as fine, by me)! When his mummy was recovered in 1881, Egyptologists were able to determine that he had once stood five feet seven inches tall, had flaming red hair, and a distinctive nose that his sons would inherit. There were those who contended that his mummy had red hair because of burial dyes or henna, but French scientists laid these theories to rest after a microscopic analysis of the roots conclusively proved he was a red-head like Set, the Egyptian god of chaos. As I peered through the heavy glass which separated myself from the a man commonly referred to as the greatest Pharaoh of ancient Egypt, my pre-conceived notions of Ramesses II fell away. I knew that the oldest mummy ever discovered in Egypt had had red hair, but to see red hair on a mummy in person was something else entirely.

My second surprise came as I was attempting to piece together what kind of man Ramesses II had been. I assumed, given his lengthy reign, that he must have been a great warrior who was level-headed in battle and revered as a soldier. Pharaohs who were inept at waging war didn’t tend to have very lengthy reigns. There were always people on the horizon – Hyksos, Hittites, Mitanni – who wanted Egypt for themselves, not to mention internal enemies who would have loved to usurp the throne. But while researching Ramesses’s foreign policy, a very different man began to emerge. One who was young, rash, and sometimes foolish. His most famous battle—the Battle of Kadesh—ended not in victory, but in a humiliating truce after he charged into combat strategically unprepared and very nearly lost the entire kingdom of Egypt. In images from his temple in Abu Simbel, he can be seen racing into this war on his chariot, his horse’s reins tied around his waist as he smites the Hittites in what he depicted as a glorious triumph. Nefertari is believed to have accompanied him into this famous battle, along with one of his other wives. First, I had to ask myself, what sort of man brings his wives to war? Clearly, one who was completely confident of his own success. Secondly, I had to wonder what this battle said about Ramesses’s character.

Rather than being a methodical planner, Ramesses was clearly the type of Pharaoh who was swayed – at least on the battlefield – by his passions. However, his signing of a truce with the Hittites seemed significant to me for two reasons. One, it showed that he could be humble and accept a stalemate (whereas other Pharaohs might have tried to attack the Hittites the next season until a definitive conqueror was declared). And two, it showed that he could think outside the box. Ramesses’s Treaty of Kadesh is the earliest copy of a treaty that has ever been found. When archaeologists discovered the tablet it was written in both Egyptian and Akkadian. It details the terms of peace, extradition policies and mutual-aid clauses between Ramesses’s kingdom of Egypt and the powerful kingdom of Hatti. Today, the original treaty, written in cuneiform and discovered in Hattusas, is displayed in the United Nations building in New York to serve as a reminder of the rewards of diplomacy. For me, it also serves as a reminder that Ramesses was not just a young, rash warrior, but a shrewd politician.

There were other surprises as well; about the personal history of my narrator Nefertari, the Exodus, and even the Babylonian legends which bear a striking resemblance to Moses’s story in the Bible. Researching history always comes with revelations, and it’s one of the greatest rewards of being an historical fiction author. There’s nothing I like better than being surprised and having my preconceptions crumble, because if I’m surprised, it’s likely that the reader will be surprised as well.

Thanks, Michelle, for taking time out of your busy schedule to stop by Diary of an Eccentric and share your story with us.

Read an excerpt from The Heretic Queen here, and a Q&A about the book here.

**In January, I'll be reviewing The Heretic Queen and Michelle will be stopping by for another guest post and to offer two hardcover copies of the book to my readers! Isn't she a gem?**


Michelle is generously offering one lucky reader a paperback copy of Nefertiti. (Thanks, Michelle!)

If you'd like to be entered, please leave a comment in this post with the your favorite historical fiction title. Also, please be sure I have your email address or blog URL. If I don't have a way to contact you, your entry won't be counted. This giveaway is open to readers everywhere and will end midnight EST on December 21.


Anonymous said...

Hm, favorite historical fiction ... I guess I'll go with The Story of the Stone by Cao Xueqin. I really want to read Nefertiti!

Wordlily AT gmail

Anonymous said...

I want this book soooo bad.

If i have to pick one book it would be Empress Orchid. It's a fictional account of the last empress of China. I loved the book so much that I bought the sequel too. Please enter me!!!

Teddy Rose said...

No need to enter me. I have both of her books, I just need to read them. LOL!

I posted about your giveaway here:

Serena said...

No need to enter me, but my favorite historical fiction is The Lost Diary of Don Juan.

Stephanie said...

I've been wanting to read these books SO bad!!

So far, my favorite Historical Fiction novel has been Here Be Dragons by Sharon Penman.

Tricia said...

One of my favorite historical fiction this year is Dreamers of the Day by Mary Doria Russell.

Please enter me!

Anonymous said...

I love historical fiction - I would have to say the oldest ones that I remember reading would be The Kent Family Chronicles by John Jakes. Then about 10 years ago I couldn't put down The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck but most recently it would have to be Mozart's Sister by Nancy Moser or In the Shadow of Lions by Ginger Garrett.

Would love to be entered for this book.


Linda said...

I mostly read English historical fiction, one of my favorites is A Place Beyond Courage by Elizabeth Chadwick. I've been hear so many good things about Michelle Moran's books -- I would love to win a copy. Thanks.
lcbrower40 at gmail dot com

Nely said...

Please enter me. I've only heard good things about this book. As for historical fiction anything about King Henry and his queens works for me. Thanks ~ Nely


Anonymous said...

I would love to be entered for this giveaway Anna.. but I have never read historical fiction until now.. so i don't really have a favorite:(
I definitely want to win a copy of nefertiti though:)

teabird said...

Oh this one sounds wonderful! I recently read Here by Dragons by Sharon Kay Spellman, and I am utterly hooked!

teabird 17 /at/ yahoo / dot / com

Anonymous said...

I would love to be entered. I guess my favorite historical fiction would be The Red Tent by Anita Diamant.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

No need to enter me, Anna. I'm just dropping in to say I've got this posted at Win a Book for ya.

Btw, my fave historical fiction? India Edghill's two: Queenmaker and Wisdom's Daughter. Mind-blowingly good!

donnas said...

Please enter me. I have only read 1 historical fiction so far so I guess that would have to be my favorite by default. It was Here Be Dragons. This sounds like a great book to continue in the historical fiction genre.


Unknown said...

I'm going with the oldie, but goodie route. The Little House on the Prairie books have been favorites for more years than I'm going to say!

jgbeads AT gmail DOT com

Gwendolyn B. said...

I absolutely love Sharon Kay Penman's work and also that of Elizabeth Chadwick; but, I have to say that my all-time favorite historical fiction novel is SWORD AT SUNSET by Rosemary Sutcliffe. That was my first brush with a realistic King Arthur.
I'm really looking forward to reading Michelle Moran's work. She's on my TBR list for 2009. Thanks for the chance to win one of her novels!
geebee.reads AT gmail DOT com

Anya said...

The Other Bolyen Girl. Thanks for the chance.

Sara said...

I have too many for an all time favorite with out serious consideration. This years People of the Book, was great.

Sararush at hotmail dot com

Dawn said...

Please enter me Anna! Historical fiction is my thing ya know!! LOL!
It's too hard to pick a favorite...yep, just too hard. My book case is full and I love them all.

Eva @ One Swede Read said...

My favorite is an oldie but a goodie: Child of the Morning by Pauline Gedge.

Please enter me!

drey said...

I don't usually read historical fiction, but Nefertiti sounds very interesting! Please enter me - dreyshouse at gmail dot com. I'll blog about this giveaway later today (i.e. after work) at drey's library.

Anonymous said...

My favorite historical fiction novel would have to be the North and South trilogy of books. North and South, Love and War and Heaven and Hell. John Jakes is by far my favorite historical novelist. I also like The Kent Family Chronicles series of books,Homeland,American Dreams ,California Gold, Charleston. All excellent historical novels.

Michelle Moran said...

Anna, thank you so much for having me on your blog! And wow - everyone is naming such great historical reads!

Anonymous said...

It's so hard to pick just one since I did major in history and I'm a social studies teacher. History is my life! Hm... I guess I would say that my favorite historical fiction book is I, Claudius by Graves.


mamakane said...

I haven't read much historical fiction in recent years, but the newer publications look fabulous. I'm about to start reading Texas Belles by Kimberley Comeaux -- I know it's going to be on my favorites list.

Please enter me in the drawing for Nefertiti. Thank you for sharing your interview.

Simply Stacie said...

I love Outlander by Diana Gabaldan.

Keyo said...

hey anna, i dont have a favorite yet! can i still be entered for this? :) i love all things related to egyptian times.. would love to read this book.

Lindsey said...

I've really been wanting to read this! My favorite historical fiction title would be A Voice in the Wind by Francine Rivers (Mark of the Lion Trilogy). :-)

ladyufshalott at

Re said...

i'd love to read this! my favorite would be the ramses novels..they're great

Thanks for a great giveaway! i hope i'm chosen as the lucky winner.

Anonymous said...

most recently i've read copper crown about life in segregation. it was great! thanks!

Asylumgirl said...

Hmmm, what about Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell? Can't believe no one has mentioned it.

deidre_durance at hotmail dot com

Alessandra said...

So gfar my favourite historical fiction title is The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory. Please enter me!


Anna said...

Thanks for all the historical fiction suggestions! I'll keep track of the titles and check them out!

The Bookworm said...

I've heard so many good things about these books, I have them on my wish list :)
great post!
One of my favorite historical fictions is 'The Constant Princess' by Phillipa Gregory.

please enter me:


Julie said...

I really enjoyed The House at Riverton by Kate Morton. I'd love to read Nefertiti!!! Thanks:)
I also put your giveaway on my blog,

Kaye said...

I really would like to win this book. All the reviews
of Nefertiti I've read are great. My favorite historical novel this year was The Gates of Trevalyan, a Civil War story but there are so many.
florida982002@yahoo dot com

Jena said...

I want to win! Umm... I think my favorite historical fiction might me The Other Boleyn Girl. It's certainly one of the most memorable--the three days I was reading it, I kept vividly dreaming I was part of Henry VIII's court, so much so that I was surprised to wake up in the 21st century. I really liked The Cure (YA) by Sonia Levitan, too.

Anonymous said...

Damn! I thought I had entered for this contest! I can't believe.. I posted about it at my place.. and forgot to enter here!
I can be such a dumb-head!

Sorry! I hope you saw my post on my blog.. and there too I made a mistake of putting your name as Serena.. I am soorryyy! it was a mix-up from reading both your blogs together :(

But I am SO SURE I commented!

ohh! crap! I commented on yur other post.. rather than on this one!!

another goof up.. i must be pretty drunk .. SORRY!

I hope I dnt have to copy my comment here!

Midnight Cowgirl said...

I would love to be entered in the contest. My favorite historical fiction is The Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani. Thanks!

butterflythunder AT sbcglobal Dot net

Bookfool said...

My all-time favorite historical fiction is Desiree by Anne-Marie Selinko.

You know where to find me. ;)

Nicole C. said...

I love historical fiction!! I think my all time favorite, right now, would have to be The Tea Rose, by Jennifer Donnelly!


Paradox said...

Does alternate history historical fiction count? I love Airborn and Skybreaker by Kenneth Oppel.

Carol M said...

My favorite is Gone With the Wind.
I really want to read Nefertiti! I've heard so many good things about it! Thank you for the chance to win it!
Carol M
mittens0831 AT

/\Heather/\ said...

Pride and Prejudice is my fave. Thanks!

Anna said...

Thanks to everyone who entered the contest, and thanks for all the great book recommendations!