Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Interview with Stephanie Dray

Stephanie Dray's series about Cleopatra's daughter Selene captivated me, first with Lily of the Nile, then with Song of the Nile.   I'm excited to say Ms Dray has confirmed there will be a third book in this series (happy news since I'm not ready to let Selene go!).  To my delight, Ms Dray agreed to be interviewed; read on to learn more about her writing practice, her newest book, and what she does when she's not writing.

What was the plot of your very first piece of fiction?

Oh gosh, this is the most embarrassing question! I was probably a teenager when I started actually putting plots on paper. My first story was a romance about young angsty gymnasts who were either sleeping together or trying to kill one another with knives. I knew I had a future in writing, however, because my sister yelled at me, “You left Mitch bleeding on the porch and now I’ll never know what happened to him!”

Do you have any writing rituals or routines?

I usually make a soundtrack for whatever book I’m writing so that I can get into the mood. But I have to admit, beyond that, I’m not very regimented.

Was Song of the Nile the original title of your book?

It was not! The intended title for the sequel to Lily of the Nile was originally Sorceress of the Nile. However, my publisher felt that it was a little bit too much on the fantasy side and might alienate historical women’s fiction readers. They asked me to submit a list of alternatives, and I gave them so many, I didn’t even know what was on the list. Naturally, they picked the one title I hated most. Pearl of the Nile. Then I had to go back to them, on bended knee, and beg them to compromise on Song of the Nile, which they did. I can’t complain though, because it worked for me and the beautiful cover just screams sorceress.

As you were writing Song of the Nile, was there a particular scene or character that surprised you?

I like to think that I’m a very business-like writer and that nothing can surprise me. After all, I write out these very detailed outlines before I start writing. And I’m not generally the kind of writer whose characters act on their own. But inevitably, things do surprise me. For one thing, Selene often surprised me. She often lashed out when I thought she’d be more politic...or she’d show shrewdness in a situation that I thought might not call for it. Her ability to hold a grudge shouldn’t have shocked me, but when I was writing the manuscript, it was as if I couldn’t make her stop being angry at Euphronius no matter how hard I tried! Maybe I was channeling her a little bit.

When you’re not writing, what do you like to do?

I can’t remember. :P I say this only half in jest. I remember that I used to have hobbies and do things with my friends. I had a clean house. I wore fashionable shoes. Sometimes I was even witty. These days though, it’s all books all the time!

Read any good books recently?

I just finished Christy English’s book on Eleanor of Aquitaine and Alais of France. About the same time I read Steven Saylor’s Triumph of Caesar. I admit that when it comes to ancient Roman mysteries, I’m more of a fan of John Maddox Roberts, but I have to give props to Steven Saylor because I found myself quite moved by the end!

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My thanks to Ms Dray for her time and answers!

About the Author: 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.

Learn more about her and her books at her website.


  1. Now I want to get my hands on those randy and violent gymnast stories! This is a great interview, and I can't wait to read these books. Thanks for sharing this with us today!

  2. I've gotta admit, historical fiction is not my bag, but since the author seems super-cool, I might check this out.

  3. is it totally awful I want to read the murderous gymnast novel? I'm intrigued :D

    I've had this author in my TBR pile for a while but hadn't heard much about her either way. She seems very personable and approachable; great interview, as always Audra!

  4. @Heather: My thought exactly! I totally want to read those stories! Thanks for the comments -- again, I can't urge you enough to pick this series up (this and the India Black -- escapist fun!)

    @Rambo: She is dead super cool, very smart and savvy -- her research leaves me breathless and I love how she humanizes religion and politics in an era that is, to me, very alien.

    @Jessie: If it's awful, I don't want to be right! ;) I do hope you pick her up -- I think this series would be right up your alley!

  5. Wow. My sister is going to be so thrilled to hear that after more than two decades, there is finally a reason for me to finish that book about homicidal young gymnasts.

    Thanks for all the great comments!

  6. I do like lily of the nile better than sorceress. Nothing wrong with the first one but yes more fantasy sounding

  7. Now that's a story I would have read about those gymnasts. I guess I have a penchant for darker stories. :) This is yet another great interview. I always like to learn about the scenes that surprise and the titles that are different.