September 30, 2009 / 8:31 AM / 8 years ago

Michelle Moran mixes love of history with writing

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Michelle Moran never had any doubts what she wanted to be in life -- a writer.

From the age of 12, Moran was writing to agents and publishers and had written 12 novels by the time she turned 18.

But with her 13th novel, she got lucky, and “Nefertiti” was published in 2006 to good sales, which she followed up with “The Heretic Queen,” cementing herself in the historical novel genre.

Moran’s third novel, “Cleopatra’s Daughter,” has just been released, giving voice to Selene, the only daughter of Cleopatra and Marc Antony who finds herself at the mercy of Caesar Augustus after the death of her parents.

Moran, who worked as a high school teacher for six years before writing fulltime from her home in California, told Reuters about her writing and love of history and archaeology:

Q: Did you really start writing at 12?

A: “Oh, before that but I started approaching agents when I was 12. I did get some very kind letters of encouragement as I included my age and that really kept me going. I got my first book deal when I was in college but it was published in Germany and I could never actually read it.”

Q: How did you get interested in archaeology?

A: “It all started when I was in Anthropology 101 and the professor asked if would anyone would be interested in volunteering for an archaeology dig (in Israel) and I said yes, thinking of Indiana Jones. When I got there it was a shock as they gave us a pick axe and we started digging. I found out I would rather dig through history with a pen.”

Q: Do you still go on digs?

A: “Yes. I love the discovery, the fact that you are touching something that hasn’t been touched for 2,000 years and everything you find has a story behind it.”

Q: Where do you get your ideas from?

A: “It really is always a moment of inspiration. For ”Nefertiti,“ it started with a visit to her bust in Berlin and I just I wanted to know her story. It was a similar story for ”Cleopatra’s Daughter.“ I was doing an underwater dive to see the lost city of Alexandria and you see over 10,000 artifacts down there. As soon as I came up I had to know more about Cleopatra and as soon as I discovered what her daughter had lived through, I had to tell her story.”

Q: Do readers mind you taking liberties with history?

A: “People don’t mind as long as you say that in the author’s note. For ”Nefertiti“ for example, she had to go through six births with girl after girl and I just could not do it anymore, so I said she had twins instead. There are only so many repetitive scenes you can write. With ”Cleopatra’s Daughter,“ I have a very meaty author’s note of well over 5 pages.”

Q: You sound like you get involved with the characters?

A: “I do feel I am living with them. I start to see some of the world the way they see it. You feel like you have lost a friend when you finish the book. You never really know who that person was but you can try to build a case based on their actions. Selene was a young woman I would have loved to have met. She was very brave and lived an amazing life.”

Q: Have you started your next book?

A: “Yes, it is on Madame Tussaud. She had an unbelievable life. She joined the court of Marie Antoinette and was tutoring in waxworks. The only way she survived was by creating death masks. She met absolutely everyone and she modeled them. It is a morbid but fascinating story.”

Q: Are you a disciplined writer?

A: “I do sit down every day and make myself write. I want 2,000 words every day or 3 single space pages a day. I think if you are on a deadline you have to be disciplined. If you turn things in late, you will find yourself without a contract.”

Q: Any advice for aspiring writers?

A: “I would say if something isn’t right for the current market it doesn’t mean you should simply give up. With each book you get better as a writer. There is no backdoor to the industry. Read in the genre you want to write, as the more you read, the better you will get as an author.”

Editing by Miral Fahmy

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