Interview: Carolyn Meyer

November 30, 2011

Please help us welcome Carolyn Meyer, author of over fifty novels, including the Young Royals series. Hello, Carolyn. Thank you for chatting with us today.

1. You’ve written a number of historical novels. How did you decide to write one about Cleopatra?

It’s always fun to come up with a fascinating female character, particularly one who lived in a time period I’d never written about before, and Cleopatra was a natural. The challenge was to develop a narrative based on very little real data. And I had a hard time getting Elizabeth Taylor out of my head…..

2. Me too! What are the pros and cons of writing about a real historic person?

The down side is that there may not be much to go on; we don’t really know what Cleopatra looked like, exactly when she was born, who her mother was, or if she had two sisters or three. There are huge holes in her story, most of them filled with legend. The up side, then, is that there isn’t much to go on, and so I was free to fill in those huge holes in her story with my own creation.

3. I’ve noticed that you vary between present tense and past tense in many of your stories. Why did you use only present tense in Cleopatra Confesses?

It’s a matter of voice, and I fiddled around with it for a long time trying to get a feel for how I wanted her to sound; present vs. past tense was part of that—it just felt right for the story I wanted to tell. One of the big debates I had with my editor was the use of contractions; she opposed it, and I felt it was the best way to show informal speech with Cleopatra’s sisters, friends, and maids. I have no idea how she might have spoken to them in ancient Greek, but I’m pretty sure it would have been different from the way she addressed her father, for example.

4. What kind of research did you do?

Short answer: lots! Reading not only about Cleopatra, but about culture of the period—food, music, dress (or lack of it—there was a lot of nudity), how the calendar worked, etc.  I did visit Egypt and went on a boat trip down the Nile, but I’m pretty sure our boat was in no way like the floating palace in which Cleopatra traveled.

5. You didn’t dramatize Cleopatra’s adult relationship with Marcus Antonius like you did with Caesar. Was this mostly because of book-length constraints?

When the book was in early draft, the decision was made to focus on Cleopatra’s early life, ending the narrative before the birth of Caesar’s child. Marcus Antonius didn’t come into her story until much later. Many older readers who are familiar with the story of her life with Marcus have expressed disappointment, and in fact I have been roundly criticized for “stopping too soon.” Given the age of my usual readers, I think it was the right decision. What I’d REALLY like to do is to write a sequel aimed at those older readers and covering that torrid love story. Maybe it will happen.

6. Yes, I think paying attention to the age of your readers is important. What were your favorite books as a teenager?

I don’t remember—isn’t that awful? I had a strong liking for the Uncle Wiggly books when I was very young, but I’m pretty sure I had outgrown them by the time I was a teenager. I probably read a lot of trash. It didn’t seem to hurt me.

7. What are you working on now?

VICTORIA REBELS is in the editorial process right now. I’m pleased to have uncovered a feisty young girl in those decades before Victoria became a sour-looking old woman, and the villainous man who was always hanging around her mother and making Vicky’s life miserable.

Sounds great! Thanks so much for visiting with us! For more information on Carolyn and her books, visit http://www.readcarolyn.com/index.htm. Don’t forget to stop by on Friday for a chance to win a copy of Cleopatra Confesses.

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Book Review: Cleopatra Confesses

November 28, 2011
Cleopatra Confesses
Carolyn Meyer
Historical fiction
Ages 12+
304 pages
 

In the twenty-third year of King Ptolemy XII’s reign, ten-year-old Cleopatra learns that her father’s fleet has been spotted outside of Alexandria’s Great Harbor. Too excited to wait in her quarters, she dresses like a servant and sneaks off to the public marketplace. Here she watches as workers prepare the docks for the king’s arrival from Rome.

Commoners grumble about cruel overseers and high taxes, and Cleopatra can see that the people don’t live well. How much of that is her father’s fault? He’s been gone for almost a year on a mission to placate the Roman triumvirate so they will support him as ruler of Egypt. Knowing her father was worried when he left, Cleopatra is eaten up with anticipation.

So begins a fascinating tale, rich in historical detail. In Cleopatra Confesses, author Carolyn Meyer takes the reader on a journey with the royalty of ancient Egypt, presenting their excesses, foibles, and political maneuverings.

Cleopatra is the third of the king’s six children and is considered his favorite. She shares his intelligence and concern over Egypt. And even though she’s young when the story begins, she’s well aware of the murderous threat her older sisters and others represent to both her father’s rule and her own expected succession to the crown.

Meyer wrote Cleopatra’s story in the present tense. I don’t usually even notice present tense in books anymore, but in this instance, it brought an immediacy to the narrative that drew me deeper into Cleopatra’s hopes and fears.

I choose this book because I’d never read fiction set in ancient Egypt. Is it just me, or is there an overabundance of YA books set in Victorian England? Not that those are bad—I was just ready for something different. And Cleopatra Confesses provided royalty, intrigue, and an actual historical character. It was also nice to read something that helped me let go of Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra. By the way, I love the cover!

Please join us on Wednesday for an interview with author Carolyn Meyer and on Friday for a contest to win a copy of Cleopatra Confesses.


Apple Pie

November 23, 2011

America Frugal Housewife

Apple Pie

When you make apple pies, stew your apples very little indeed; just strike them through, to make them tender. Some people do not stew them at all, but cut them up in very thin slices, and lay them in the crust. Pies made in this way may retain more of the spirit of the apple; but I do not think the seasoning mixes in as well. Put in sugar to your taste; it is impossible to make a precise rule, because apples vary so much in acidity. A very little salt, and a small piece of butter in each pie, makes them richer. Cloves and cinnamon are both suitable spice. Lemon-brandy and rose-water are both excellent. A wine-glass full of each is sufficient for three or four pies. If your apples lack spirit, grate in a whole lemon.

…presented to you from The American Frugal Housewife – Dedicated to those who are not ashamed of economy, by Mrs. Child…


Army Football

November 16, 2011

With Veteran’s Day this past Friday and it being football season I figured I could get away with this post! Anyone who knows me knows I’m a diehard Army Football fan (and an Army Brat). My father went to West Point and every year we attend at least one home game for a day of tailgating, cheering, and lots of fun.

Army football has a wonderful history—a winning history up until recently! That’s something they can’t seem to do these days: win! Not that that’ll ever make me root for any other team. I will root for them through the good and bad (I just with they’d get out of this bad slump…tens years of it has been hard to endure!) Okay, back on track. This past weekend I attended the Army-Rutgers game at Yankee Stadium. That was an experience. I can’t say a baseball field is the best place to play a football game, but it was something I’ve wanted to do for awhile now, and I had a good time (even if Army tore my heart out, oh it was a painful loss!)

Army football began in 1890 when Navy challenged the cadets to a game. This was a relatively new sport, but a historic rivalry began with this first game. Navy defeated Army at West Point that year, but the following year Army avenged its loss, defeating Navy at Annapolis. The Army-Navy game is now played on neutral territory every December in Philadelphia. There’s always been a certain energy about these games, and if you’ve never watched one I recommend you catch this year’s game!

Army plays its home games at Miche Stadium at West Point, a beautiful stadium that overlooks the campus and Hudson river beyond. Unlike other colleges the cadets’ attendance is mandatory at football games and the Corps stands for the duration of the game. At home games, one of the four regiments marches onto the field in formation before the team takes the field. (I didn’t catch this on video this weekend, but in the video below you can see some of the cadets on the field waiting to welcome the Army team to the field after they’ve broken formation.)

Yankee Stadium Video as the cadets take the field:

Back to Yankee Stadium… The University of Notre Dame and Army have a football rivalry that dates back to 1913. They played their first game at Yankee Stadium, where Army was trounced but redeemed themselves the following year. Last year the teams resumed their rivalry in the new Yankee Stadium for their 50th game against each other. Yes, Army lost, but still the history of the two teams being renewed and seeing the game played at Yankee Stadium was neat!

Notre Dame contracted with Explore Media to produce the following video, which I really like. (Though it’s in favor of Notre Dame, it’s well done and gives a great overview of the history between these two teams).

Notre Dame-Army Rivalry

Army football isn’t just football. It’s a history filled with great legends, glorious moments, agonizing moments, but most of all it instills a pride in you. It is just a game, and at the end of the day (or in the cadets’ case at graduation) reality awaits—a life that involves service to our country. Thank a veteran. It doesn’t just have to be on Veteran’s day.

I leave you with these parting words from the Army Fight song!

On, brave old Army team!
On to the fray.
Fight on to victory
For that’s the fearless Army way.


Winner of The Faerie Ring

November 8, 2011

The winner of Kiki Hamilton’s The Faerie Ring is Farida!  Congratulations!  Please send your snail-mail address to damselsinregress [at] gmail [dot] com so I can get it in the mail before I leave for vacation Friday!

Thank you to all who entered.  When Kiki said she would spread the word about our giveaway, I had no idea it would result in eleven contest entries!  Our last few contests have not had as many entries as we could have hoped for, especially entries from new readers to our blog.  We even considered getting rid of the giveaways altogether, or donating the books to charities that provided books to low-income children.  We may still do that in the future–who knows?–but I’m glad we kept this one.  I got so many great images of stories set in far-off locales from reading the entry comments.  Interesting settings, especially for historicals, can really make a story exciting, both for the author and their readers.

For those who didn’t win this time, we do these giveaways almost every month except for December, when we take a holiday break from blogging.  We have a pretty good mix of realistic historicals, historical fantasy, and contemporary stories that somehow celebrate history.  Please feel free to enter a contest another month, and you just may get lucky.  Thanks again!  You made this struggling author’s week!


Contest: The Faerie Ring

November 4, 2011

We’re kicking off a contest to win a signed copy of Kiki Hamilton’s The Faerie Ring today, and since I’m leaving on an extended Thanksgiving vacation Friday, this contest will only run until TUESDAY NOV. 8.  To enter, please leave a comment after considering the following:

The Faerie Ring is set in London, a place that its author didn’t visit until after she began writing.  All the Damsels have major travel bugs, and I’ll bet some of our readers do too.  Where would you like to set a story (even if you aren’t a writer) just so you could have an excuse to research its nooks and crannies and maybe even visit?

You have until Tuesday.  Please spread the word!


Interview: Kiki Hamilton

November 2, 2011

Please welcome Kiki Hamilton, author of The Faerie Ring and fellow Seattle-area resident, to Damsels in Regress!

1.  Historical fantasy authors always seem to do double-duty–they have to build both their historical world and their fantasy world (and make them work together).  Which came first and/or easiest to you–the faeries and their world, or the human world of Victorian London?

I think Victorian London was a bit easier because there are tons of resources to reference when creating that world. The Otherworld, on the other hand, is more nebulous and undefined –which makes it just that much more fun to write.  I started with the foundation of the well-known Seelie and UnSeelie courts and then made up my own world from there.

2.  What sort of research did you do for the historical elements?

I used the internet, which has an amazing amount of data on just about anything, and I used several reference books.

Did you get to make a trip to London or were you drawing on past visits or other research methods?

When I wrote the story I had never been to London and actually didn’t know very much about the City.  It was very fortuitous that I set Tiki living in Charing Cross, which is the true heart of London and the point from which all distances are measured, even to this day.  After I sold the book I did have a chance to go to London and visit all the places in THE FAERIE RING.  It was amazing and surreal and the best trip ever!

3.  Though most of the story is from Tiki’s viewpoint, there are several scenes from Prince Leo’s.  What were some of the differences, challenges, or pleasures of writing from a male point of view?

I can’t say that I thought of it as writing from a male or female POV but more from a different character’s POV.  Leo comes from such a completely different world than Tiki it was fun to switch hats and see events from his perspective.    How he has grown up, how he lives influences his reactions and actions so the challenge comes more from being able to stand in his shoes and then switch and see life from the desperate straits of a pickpocket struggling to find enough food to survive. I thought the juxtaposition of their lives provided an interesting contrast.

4.  What influenced your portrayal of the faeries and their world?

I wanted to create my own faerie world. I’ve read some stories where I just didn’t like the world that had been created and that was really the impetus to write this
book:  To write what I wanted to read.

Were there myths or contemporary stories you drew on and any you sought to turn on their heads?

I was one of the many who thought a faerie ring was a circle of mushrooms in the grass. I loved using the motif of the ring throughout the story and making it something completely different in more than one way.

5.  Since this is your first book, could you describe your writing and publication journey?

It is hard to get a book published! I have rejection letters just like everybody else. But you can never give up!!  I kept working at my craft, taking classes, joining critique groups, reading other work, practicing, practicing, practicing and I was lucky enough to get an agent. It took her about nine months to sell THE FAERIE RING.

6.  Did you always intend Tiki’s story to cover multiple books or did it just grow?

When I started writing THE FAERIE RING I was just telling a story. But what I found when I got to the end was that I had just scratched the surface of the true story.

Can you give us a hint of when the others will appear and what’s in store for the next book?

At this point I don’t have a release schedule, but I’m going to do everything I can to have book 2, THE TORN WING, out in Fall 2012.  I won’t give away any spoilers but I can tell you that Tiki spends a lot more time in the Otherworld and new characters are introduced that definitely
complicate things.

Thank you, Kiki, and readers, be sure to enter our contest on Friday!