Interview: Carolyn Meyer

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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