Book Drunkard

“I am simply a 'book drunkard.' Books have the same irresistible temptation for me that liquor has for its devotee. I cannot withstand them.” L.M. Montgomery

The Heretic Queen


Virginie Says…

Lucky for me  (and you) Michelle Moran is back with another guest post AND another giveaway!  I wish I could enter and win my own giveaways because I’m dying to read this book!




For every novel I have written, I can look back and say that there has been a very specific moment of inspiration – usually in some exotic locale or inside a museum – where I’ve said, “Aha! That’s going to be the subject of my next novel.” I never began my writing career with the intention to write books about three different princesses in Egypt. In fact, I had no intention of writing about ancient Egypt at all until I participated in my first archaeological dig.

During my sophomore year in college, I found myself sitting in Anthropology 101, and when the professor mentioned that she was looking for volunteers who would like to join a dig in Israel, I was one of the first students to sign up. When I got to Israel, however, all of my archaeological dreams were dashed (probably because they centered around Indiana Jones). There were no fedora wearing men, no cities carved into rock, and certainly no Ark of the Covenant. I was very disappointed. Not only would a fedora have seemed out of place, but I couldn’t even use the tiny brushes I had packed. Apparently, archaeology is more about digging big ditches with pickaxes rather than dusting off artifacts. And it had never occurred to me until then that in order to get to those artifacts, one had to dig deep into the earth. Volunteering on an archaeological dig was hot, it was sweaty, it was incredibly dirty, and when I look back on the experience through the rose-tinged glasses of time, I think, Wow, was it fantastic! Especially when our team discovered an Egyptian scarab that proved the ancient Israelites had once traded with the Egyptians. Looking at that scarab in the dirt, I began to wonder who had owned it, and what had possessed them to undertake the long journey from their homeland to the fledgling country of Israel.


On my flight back to America I stopped in Berlin, and with a newfound appreciation for Egyptology, I visited the museum where Nefertiti’s limestone bust was being housed. The graceful curve of Nefertiti’s neck, her arched brows, and the faintest hint of a smile were captivating to me. Who was this woman with her self-possessed gaze and stunning features? I wanted to know more about Nefertiti’s story, but when I began the research into her life, it proved incredibly difficult. She’d been a woman who’d inspired powerful emotions when she lived over three thousand years ago, and those who had despised her had attempted to erase her name from history. Yet even in the face of such ancient vengeance, some clues remained.

As a young girl Nefertiti had married a Pharaoh who was determined to erase the gods of Egypt and replace them with a sun-god he called Aten. It seemed that Nefertiti’s family allowed her to marry this impetuous king in the hopes that she would tame his wild ambitions. What happened instead, however, was that Nefertiti joined him in building his own capital of Amarna where they ruled together as god and goddess. But the alluring Nefertiti had a sister who seemed to keep her grounded, and in an image of her found in Amarna, the sister is standing off to one side, her arms down while everyone else is enthusiastically praising the royal couple. From this image, and a wealth of other evidence, I tried to recreate the epic life of an Egyptian queen whose husband was to become known as the Heretic King.

Each novel I’ve written has had a similar moment of inspiration for me. In many ways, my second book, The Heretic Queen is a natural progression from Nefertiti. The narrator is orphaned Nefertari, who suffers terribly because of her relationship to the reviled “Heretic Queen”. Despite the Heretic Queen’s death a generation prior, Nefertari is still tainted by her relationship to Nefertiti, and when young Ramesses falls in love and wishes to marry her, it is a struggle not just against an angry court, but against the wishes of a rebellious people.

But perhaps I would never have chosen to write on Nefertari at all if I hadn’t seen her magnificent tomb. At one time, visiting her tomb was practically free, but today, a trip underground to see one of the most magnificent places on earth can cost upwards of five thousand dollars (yes, you read that right). If you want to share the cost and go with a group, the cost lowers to the bargain-basement price of about three thousand. As a guide told us of the phenomenal price, I looked at my husband, and he looked at me. We had flown more than seven thousand miles, suffered the indignities of having to wear the same clothes for three days because of lost luggage… and really, what were the possibilities of our ever returning to Egypt again? There was only one choice. We paid the outrageous price, and I have never forgotten the experience.

While breathing in some of the most expensive air in the world, I saw a tomb that wasn’t just fit for a queen, but a goddess. In fact, Nefertari was only one of two (possibly three) queens ever deified in her lifetime, and as I gazed at the vibrant images on her tomb – jackals and bulls, cobras and gods – I knew that this wasn’t just any woman, but a woman who had been loved fiercely when she was alive. Because I am a sucker for romances, particularly if those romances actually happened, I immediately wanted to know more about Nefertari and Ramesses the Great. So my next stop was the Hall of Mummies at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. There, resting beneath a heavy arc of glass, was the great Pharaoh himself. For a ninety-something year old man, he didn’t look too bad. His short red hair was combed back neatly and his face seemed strangely peaceful in its three thousand year repose. I tried to imagine him as he’d been when he was young – strong, athletic, frighteningly rash and incredibly romantic. Buildings and poetry remain today as testaments to Ramesses’s softer side, and in one of Ramesses’s more famous poems he calls Nefertari “the one for whom the sun shines.” His poetry to her can be found from Luxor to Abu Simbel, and it was my visit to Abu Simbel (where Ramesses built a temple for Nefertari) where I finally decided that I had to tell their story.

It’s the moments like this that an historical fiction author lives for. Traveling has been enormously important in my career. My adventures end up inspiring not only what I’m currently writing, but what I’m going to write about in the future.



So here is your chance to win a SIGNED, paperback copy of The Heretic Queen by the talented and generous Michelle Moran.  And here are the contest details.  Easy peasy.  Anyone can enter – just leave your email address.  For extra entries, tweet about the contest or post it on your blog.  Just make sure you let me know so I can add those entries to your total.  Contest ends September 30.  Good luck!


32 thoughts on “The Heretic Queen

  1. I’m new to historical fiction and am loving the genre. This sounds like a great book.


    I also tweeted it as lavender_lines


  2. I would love to be entered in your draw. Thanks.

  3. Pls count me in and thanks for making it open


  4. Wow! I have read Neferititi and loved it very much…5000$ to go inside… ohh my! I am sure i can never go in there 🙂

    But it is great we can read about it 🙂 🙂 See it through Michelle’s eyes 🙂

    Thank you for the giveaway!
    givingreadingachance AT

  5. Please include me in this giveaway!

    Amanda N.

  6. tweet tweet:

    Amanda N.

  7. Please add my name to the giveaway drawing…would enjoy reading this wonderful novel. thanks

    karen k

  8. I just finished Nefertiti and would love to read another novel written by Moran. Enter me please!

    raidergirl3 at gmail dot com

  9. Pingback: Pilate’s Wife Winner « Virginie Says…

  10. Enter me plz. maddy_kat @ hotmail . com

  11. I’ve been a fan of historical fiction for a long time. Really helped me get through my history MA! 🙂 Would love to win this. Thank you!

  12. Pingback: Giveaway « Virginie Says…

  13. Michelle Moran is a great author! I would love to win a copy of the Heretic Queen.

  14. Please enter me in this contest.


  15. Please enter me in this contest! I tweeted under jmchshannon too!!

  16. mememememe…i want …well, i want anything she has written but don’t tell anyone…and i have busted my book budget for…i don’t know how many months…i am dangerous

  17. Hi there! I’d adore a chance to win The Heretic Queen. I’ve talked to Michelle briefly through email and she is super kind =)

    Thanks so much,

    mishtakes AT gmail DOT com

  18. Sandra Vaughan this writer is getting lots of attention so if you are into egypt and history and stuff, you need to check this out

    The Heretic Queen « Virginie Says…
    Lucky for me (and you) Michelle Moran is ba

  19. I’d love to win this! I’m fascinated by the strong queens of ancient Egypt.
    +1 I tweeted this, too!

  20. Will def be tweeting away.

  21. This really sounds great. I would love to win this book. Thanks

  22. This book sounds very interesting!

  23. I have so been wanting to win a copy of this book. Please enter me into this giveaway.

    Thank you,


  24. Would love to win this marvelous book! Count me in.

  25. Please count me in!!

    Link on sidebar:
    Tweeted about it:


  26. Hi! the book sounds great!
    I really want to win it! please count me in!


    thaks! =D

  27. rt

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