Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Interview with Stephanie Thornton, author of Daughter of the Gods

Author interviews are one of my favorite things to post which is why I am super excited to welcome author Stephanie Thornton to Flashlight Commentary to discuss her latest release, Daughter of the Gods. 

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Welcome to Flashlight Commentary Stephanie. Great to have you with us. To start things off, please tell us a bit about Daughter of the Gods. 
I’m so happy to be here! Daughter of the Gods is the story of Hatshepsut, my all-time favorite historical figure and Egypt’s first successful female pharaoh. 

What attracted you to Hatshepsut and her story?
I first did a report on Hatshepsut in junior high and was intrigued by this little-known woman who had been intentionally erased from history. I always wanted to know what made her seize the throne from her stepson, and literally couldn’t get her story out of my head once I’d graduated from college. I think most authors have at least one book in them that they simply had to write; this is it for me. 

History can only tell us so much about a person. How did you approach characterizing Hatshepsut for your novel and what sort of impression do you hope she leaves on your readers? 
The trick with Hatshepsut was to make her ambitious, but not so driven that you hate her. She’s very charismatic, but also terribly flawed. I hope readers walk away with an appreciation for this ancient woman who dared to do what so few women have done in history: seize power and usher in a golden age. Her story is very similar to Elizabeth I, although Elizabeth might have had an easier time since she inherited her throne. 

Hatshepsut develops a searing attraction for Senenmut. Can you tell us about this man and what he represents to your heroine? 
Let’s just start with a confession: I have a crush on Senenmut. He’s depicted as sort of jowly and old in ancient sketches, but this man was brilliant, starting as a tutor to Hatshepsut’s daughter, working as an architect, and eventually accruing over 80 titles, including Superintendant of the Bedroom. (My favorite!) Hatshepsut could have ruled without Senenmut behind her, but why would she want to? He was clever, creative, and her match in so many ways. 

Centuries separate us from Hatshepsut’s Egypt. Where did you start in terms of recreating the ancient world and the society in which her story unfolds?
I’ve been obsessed with Egypt pretty much forever, so I started by reading every book on Hatshepsut and Egypt that I could get my hands on. I was also fortunate to be able to travel to Egypt. Of course, things are different there now than they were in Hatshepsut’s day, but if you take a trip down the Nile and see the farmers and fishermen on the banks, you realize that some things are probably very similar. 

You probably have many, but is there a scene you particularly enjoyed writing?
I love the scene where Hatshepsut and Senenmut get to sneak out of the palace and go to the workmen’s village at Deir el-Medina. That scene crept in during a late draft and surprised me, but it was a place I really wanted to write about, simply because the daily life of regular Egyptians is so perfectly documented there. Also, it was pure fun to get Hatshepsut and Senenmut out of the palace, a sort of field trip from the intrigue of life at court. 

Deir el-Bahari with temples of Hatshepsut,
Thutmosis III and Mentuhotep II, Luxor, Egypt
Image by Ian Lloyd
What scene posed the greatest challenge for you as an author? Why was it troublesome and how did you work through it?  
Without giving anything away, the scene after Hatshepsut and Senenmut return from the valley was probably written and re-written at least 30 times. It had to keep changing based on later plot points, and how much violence I wanted to include. Sometimes it’s hard to throw your characters under the bus!

Sometimes fiction takes on a life of its own and forces the author to make sacrifices for the sake of the story. Is there a character or concept you wish you could have spent more time with or expanded on?
Actually, this book took me three years to write and several more to revise, so there were many times I wanted to throw the whole lot out the window! However, early drafts included several chapters told from both Aset and Senenmut’s viewpoints. I really liked some of those scenes, especially one between Aset and Neferure (Hatshepsut’s daughter). I enjoyed building on their relationship, as Neferure was the daughter Aset never had. 

Historical novelists frequently have to adjust facts to make their stories work. Did you have to invent or change anything while writing Daughter of the Gods and if so, what did you alter and why? 
My only major adjustment was to fill in the gap about why Hatshepsut finally took power after seven years of ruling as regent for her stepson. Some historians believe there might have been an internal coup that allowed her to take the Double Crown, so it wasn’t a large jump, but I did have to fill in the blanks to find an excuse for Hatshepsut to seize the moment. 

If you could sit down and talk with one of your characters, maybe meet and discuss things over drinks, who would you choose and why?
Hatshepsut. (And I’d cross my fingers that she’d bring Senenmut.) Out of all my books, Hatshepsut is the one character I’d want to grill, simply because there are so many mysteries about her. Why did she seize power? Did she and Senenmut really love each other? Did she cut off the hands of dead rebels after the battle in Nubia? Why was she such a rock star?

What do you hope readers take from Hatshepsut’s story? Is there a particular theme you that hope resonates your audience? 
My whole goal in writing DAUGHTER OF THE GODS was to bring Hatshepsut’s story to life, and I hope readers walk away with an appreciation for this absolutely amazing woman. To me, she’s every bit as important as Cleopatra or Queen Elizabeth I, but not as many people know about her or the things she did. And they should!

Okay, we've talked a lot about your book. Let's switch gears and talk a little bit about you. How would describe your writing process? 
Frantic! I usually only have about an hour every night after teaching, grading papers, and hanging out with my husband and daughter, so I have to cram a lot into those 60 minutes. 

Two words: writer's block. How do you deal with it? 
Butt in the chair. I just keep slogging away, one painful word at a time. It helps to have an outline too!

Who are your favorite authors? 
My favorites are Kate Quinn, Kate Furnivall, and Pauline Gedge. Lots of great historical fiction from those ladies!

Beeld van koningin Hatsjepsoet
Maat-ka-Re Hatsjepsoe
Image by Rob Koopman
What are you currently reading? 
I just started THE LION AND THE ROSE by Kate Quinn and am thoroughly enjoying her take on the Borgias. I’m also reading THE LITTLE PRINCESS with my daughter, which is bringing back memories of 2nd grade when I first read it!

What do you like to do when you're not writing? Any hobbies?
More than I have time for! Yoga, running, and travel… I’m headed to Peru this summer!

Where do you stand on the coffee or tea debate? 
Neither, actually, but I’ll take a glass of red wine anytime!

And finally, what's next for you? Do you have any other projects waiting in the wings? 
Coming out in November is my novel THE TIGER QUEENS, about the women of Genghis Khan, and I’m currently writing a novel about the sister, wives, and lovers of Alexander the Great. I’m on a bit of a conqueror kick!

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Stephanie Thornton is a writer and history teacher who has been obsessed with infamous women from ancient history since she was twelve. She lives with her husband and daughter in Alaska, where she is at work on her next novel.

“The Secret History: A Novel of Empress Theodora” is available from NAL/Penguin, and “Daughter of the Gods: A Novel of Ancient Egypt” will hit the shelves May 2014 and “The Tiger Queens: A Novel of Genghis Khan” will follow in Fall 2014.

Website ❧ Facebook ❧ Twitter


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Format: Paperback & eBook
Publication Date: May 6, 2014
Released by: NAL Trade
Length: 448 pages
ISBN-10: 0451417798
Genre: Historical Fiction

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Check out all the stops on Stephanie Thornton's Daughter of the Gods virtual book tour schedule!


Monday, April 28
Review at Unabridged Chick
Guest Post & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Tuesday, April 29
Interview & Giveaway at Unabridged Chick
Wednesday, April 30
Thursday, May 1
Review & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books
Friday, May 2
Review & Giveaway at HF Book Muse – News
Review & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages
Monday, May 5
Guest Post & Giveaway at HF Connection
Tuesday, May 6
Interview & Giveaway at Flashlight Commentary
Wednesday, May 7
Review & Giveaway at Confessions of an Avid Reader
Thursday, May 8
Interview & Giveaway at Oh, for the Hook of a Book
Friday, May 9
Monday, May 12
Review & Giveaway at Luxury Reading
Tuesday, May 13
Review at The Mad Reviewer
Review & Giveaway at The Maiden’s Court
Wednesday, May 14
Review at A Bookish Libraria
Thursday, May 15
Review & Giveaway at The Lit Bitch
Friday, May 16
Monday, May 19
Review at Tower of Babel
Review & Giveaway at Broken Teepee
Tuesday, May 20
Review at A Bookish Affair
Wednesday, May 21
Review at Manga Maniac Cafe
Review & Giveaway at The True Book Addict
Guest Post & Giveaway at A Bookish Affair
Thursday, May 22
Review & Giveaway at Griperang’s Bookmarks
Friday, May 23
Interview & Giveaway at The Most Happy Reader

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