Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Interview with Stephanie Thornton

Yesterday I reviewed the delightful Daughter of the Gods, a historical novel about famed female pharaoh Htshepsut.  Dramatic, evocative, and emotional, this was an inhale-it-in-hours kind of read.  I'm excited to share my interview with Ms. Thornton, so read on to learn a little more about this book, her writing process, and what she's been reading recently.  Be sure to enter the giveaway!

Was Daughter of the Gods the original title of your book?

No, but it’s so much better than my original title. I wrote and submitted the novel as Hatshepsut: Pharaoh and Queen, but several people told me that sounded more like a non-fiction title. The new title came to me after a revision where I emphasized the role of the Egyptian gods, but it wasn’t until after I finished writing The Secret History that I officially changed the title of Hatshepsut’s story.

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

Several, actually, but it was the opening scene that gobsmacked me. The first draft of the book took me two years to write and an additional year to edit, and during that entire time, the book opened with what is now Chapter 2. Then I had some very perceptive readers say that they wanted to see Hatshepsut’s sister on the page and I knew I’d started in the wrong place. That first chapter pretty much wrote itself, although I did have to track down several YouTube videos of hippo attacks!

Is there a particular association you have with writing Daughter of the Gods -- a food, a song, an object, etc.?

As far as food goes, I’d probably say hummus, but only because I ate a lot of it when I was in Egypt doing research for the book. Typically I write in silence (I’m like a squirrel, easily distracted by sounds or anything shiny), but there’s a dancing scene in Daughter of the Gods where I listened to Yo-Yo Ma’s Night at the Caravanserai on repeat for several days in order to get the feel for the right beat and tone. Even though his work is definitely not Egyptian, I love Yo-Yo Ma!

The historical figures you choose to write about -- Empress Theodora, Hatshepsut, the women in Genghis Khan's life -- have incredible lives. What is the great challenge you find in writing about them?

The toughest thing about all of these figures is that life in ancient times really was nasty, brutish, and often short. Each of my books depicts life as it really might have been, which means a fair bit of blood and gore, in addition to the often abysmal treatment of women. Theodora had to claw her way out of poverty and prostitution, Hatshepsut faced a bloody war abroad and an internal coup, and Genghis and his offspring were beyond brutal, pouring molten silver down people’s throats and performing horrific executions. Life was cheap in ancient times, and that’s often difficult to both read and write about.

What do you do when you finish a book -- celebrate? Start another one?

Okay, so I laughed at this one, because the answer is a resounding BOTH. So far I’ve celebrated writing “The End” in all my novels with a Coldstone ice cream cake, preferably Peanut Butter Playground, but the toffee/coffee one will do in a pinch. (Truth be told, I also eat ice cream cake while I’m drafting, revising, and editing… Pretty much whenever I want, but we’ll ignore that for now.) Thus far, finishing a book has always meant turning right around to start researching and writing the next one. (And yes, sometimes I think I’m a glutton for punishment, but I chalk it up to providing more excuses for more ice cream cake.)

Read any good books recently?

Yes! I love a good book about disease (especially plague), and I just devoured Alan Brennert’s Molokai about the leper colony in Hawaii. Also, I really enjoyed Marci Jefferson’s Girl on the Golden Coin and I’m about to crack open Kate Quinn’s The Lion and the Rose. I can’t wait to find out what happens to Carmelina and Leonello as they traverse the world of the Borgias!

*** *** ***

My thanks to Ms. Thornton for her time and thoughtful responses. You can learn more about her and her books at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.


I'm thrilled to offer a copy of Daughter of the Gods to one lucky reader! To enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US and Canadian readers, ends 5/16.


  1. Great Interview! Child of the Morning is my favorite book on Hatshepsut. I hope this is just as good or better.

  2. I'm reading this now and loving it. Enjoyed hearing about the ice cream cake - sometimes you don't need an excuse!