Describe your latest project.
Hand of Isis is a retelling of the story of Cleopatra from the Egyptian perspective. One of the amazing things about Cleopatra is how she fascinates ? even through the filter of her enemies. All of the original sources we have about her were written by her enemies. And yet enough remains of this extraordinary woman, one of the greatest female heads of state in the ancient world, to continue to compel our interest 2,000 years after her death. Whether as Elizabeth Taylor's femme fatale or George Bernard Shaw's silly brat or Rome's troubled temptress, we are still talking about her. I wanted to look at her through a different lens, the viewpoint of her own people, to whom she was a heroine and a great queen.
My viewpoint character is her handmaiden and half-sister Charmian, one of the women that the Roman emperor Augustus dismissed as part of a coterie of "hairdressers and serving girls" who ran Egypt ? because, of course, any kingdom that had female ministers was ruled by hairdressers! Charmian is her personal assistant and, in many ways, her Secretary of the Interior, responsible for building projects and for the physical operations of the palace. It's an amazing story, and I think a unique retelling of a pivotal moment in the history of the world, when the might of the Roman Empire came crashing against the successor kingdoms left by Alexander the Great, of the clash of two very different philosophies and cultures.
What fictional character would you like to date, and why?
Well, for a date ? not to actually try to have a relationship with ? I'll take Captain Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean. I'm sure it would be a memorable evening! As in, difficult to forget...
What's the strangest or most interesting job you've ever had?
Definitely the strangest was performing onstage as a dancing plant! I was once in a regional theater performance of Little Shop of Horrors ? as Audrey II! I was inside a plant costume the entire time. It's very interesting to dance while wheeling around the stage on an office stool with a gigantic plant costume on your head!
What is your astrological sign? If you don't like what you were born with, to what sign would you change and why?
I'm an Aries, with a Gemini moon and a Gemini rising, and it suits me perfectly! I'm voluble and optimistic, and sometimes I give the impression of being a lightweight. And then you hit the Aries. I'm incredibly stubborn and smarter than I look.
What is your favorite indulgence, either wicked or benign?
Massage. If I could afford it, I'd have a massage twice a week.
Why do you write?
Because I have stories to tell. I collect stories. People tell me stories. I read things and stories cluster about. Since we don't really have a bardic tradition anymore, and no one sits around and listens to stories now, I have to write them. The stories are too big and too beautiful to belong to me alone.
Dogs, cats, budgies, or turtles?
Cats, definitely cats. Though I wouldn't mind a dog if I had a big yard, and my young daughter wants a turtle. But I've had a series of wonderful cats, and I can't imagine living without one.
In the For-All-Eternity category, what will be your final thought?
I'll be back in a minute.
Recommend five or more books on a single subject of personal interest or expertise.
Five Great Fiction Books about the Ancient World
Persian Boy by Mary Renault
The Egyptian by Mika Waltari
Lord of the Two Lands by Judith Tarr
Roman Blood by Steven Saylor
The Firebrand by Marion Zimmer Bradley