Gabrielle Pantera interviews author Michelle Moran
Vivid portrayal of the life of the daughter of Cleopatra **** 4 stars
Cleopatra's Daughter, Marc Antony's daughter
HOLLYWOOD, CA (Hollywood Today) 10/18/2009 – “The strangest thing has definitely been the number of times I’ve been asked whether I think I am the reincarnation of Cleopatra’s daughter,” says Cleopatra’s Daughter
author Michelle Moran. “The only other author friends I know who get this question are writers of historical fiction set in Egypt. I don’t know what it is about the place…okay, maybe I do. Many people feel strongly connected to it.”
Cleopatra’s Daughter traces the three children of Cleopatra VII and Marc Antony. They are taken to Rome by their father’s greatest rival, Octavian Caesar. Their parents committed suicide rather than be taken alive. Cleopatra Selena and Alexander Helios are twins. Their younger brother Ptolemy dies of illness on the ship. The eleven-year-old twins are paraded thought Rome as part of Octavian Caesar triumphant return having defeated Marc Antony.
The twins live at the home of Octavia, their father Marc Antony’s former wife and Octavian’s sister. Their daily lives are entwined with Octavian, his wife Livia, his daughter Julia, and the future emperor Tiberius. The children adapt to life in Rome and try to make themselves useful to Octavian so they won’t be killed. Will they make it to adulthood?
Moran got the idea for the book Cleopatra’s Daughter while scuba diving. “My husband and I had taken a trip to Egypt,” says Moran. “At the suggestion of a friend, we decided to
go to Alexandria to see the remains of Cleopatra’s underwater city.”
“We drove one morning to the Eastern Harbor in Alexandria,” says Moran. “I wondered if the real thing could possibly live up to all of the guides and brochures selling this underwater city, lost for thousands of years until now. Then we did the dive. It was every bit as magical as everyone had promised.”
“We saw the blocks that once formed Marc Antony’s summer palace, came face to face with Cleopatra’s enigmatic sphinx, and floated above ten thousand ancient artifacts, including obelisks, statues, and countless amphorae.,” says Moran. “By the time we surfaced, I was Cleopatra-obsessed. I wanted to know what had happened to her city once she and Marc Antony had committed suicide. Where did all of its people go? Were they allowed to remain or were they killed by the Romans? And what about her four children?”
“It was this last question that surprised me the most,” says Moran. “I had always assumed that Cleopatra’s children had all been murdered. But the Roman conqueror, Octavian, actually spared the three she bore to Marc Antony. As soon as I learned that Octavian had taken the three of them to Rome for his Triumph, I knew at once I had my next book.”
“When I discovered what Cleopatra’s daughter lived through while in exile…rebellion, loss, triumph, love…I absolutely couldn’t wait to start writing,” says Moran.
“For each of my novels, I begin by purchasing what feels like every book ever written on the subject I’m interested in,” says Moran. “Sometimes that means our mail carrier will be delivering sixty books to my house in one week.”
“It takes me several months to go through them,” says Moran. “When I feel like I have a pretty strong outline of my subject’s life, I make a storyboard and begin to look for holes. Whatever holes I find, I try to patch with an event that wouldn’t seem too far-fetched. If I run into trouble with a setting or a scene, I have friends in the archaeological world who can advise me on whether or not something I want to include is realistic.”
Cleopatra’s Daughter captures what life could have been like for these two children of Egypt. Michelle Moran’s descriptions of Roman life are vivid. As you read you want to know what will happen next. These children are intelligent and don’t act like children. They’ve grown up with war and the knowledge that they will rule. When that’s taken away from them they must learn how to survive. Selena want to be sent home to rule her homeland and thinks it’s possible.
Very little of the book is set in Egypt. Once the Selena and Alexander are taken to Rome, that’s where the book is centered. There is a timeline and list of characters with photos of statues in the front of the book. There’s a glossary at the end. This book is for anyone who’s interested in Rome. At this time, no sequel planned.
Moran’s next book is Madame Tussaud, the story of the woman who joined the gilded but troubled court of Marie Antoinette. Tussaud survives the French Revolution only by creating death masks of the beheaded aristocracy.
Michelle Moran grew up in the San Fernando Valley in California and currently lives in Los Angeles. Moran got her first agent she through a traditional query. Her agent today is Dan Lazar of Writer’s House. They were introduced by Moran’s former editor.
Moran’s blog, called History Buff, is at http://www.michellemoran.blogspot.com/.