Stephanie Dray Interview

January 5, 2011 interviews
the author of LIly of the Nile

Author Stephanie DrayIt was great to welcome Stephanie Dray to the blog on January 5, 2011, to talk about Lily of the Nile. It's an imaginative novel about Cleopatra's daughter Selene, which portrays Selene inheriting her mother's role as a priestess of the goddess Isis.

Selene's role in history is overshadowed by that of her more famous mother. What inspired you to write about Selene rather than Cleopatra?

Cleopatra VII is a powerful feminist icon, but there are plenty of authors who have tackled her story. It was her daughter Selene's life story that moved me deeply. Here was a little orphaned princess who was robbed of a voice; for most of her life, she had to hide who she was, what she believed and who she loved most. That she triumphed over the tragedies to become the most powerful client queen in the empire inspired me; I wanted to give her the voice that the Romans and two thousand years of historical neglect have deprived her of.

It was astonishing to read about the strong parallels between the worship of Isis in Rome and the early development of Christianity there. How did you discover these?

I'm not the first one to discover or write about these parallels--though I may be the first to suggest that Cleopatra Selene's historic importance may be connected to her religion. There are too many fine books about Isiacism and Christianity to name, but several of them are cited on my website in the bibliography section. I admit to having been astonished myself! Ultimately, both religions offended the powerful in Rome for the same reasons--they challenged temporal authority. Unfortunately, both religions were also co-opted by those in charge and stripped of some of their revolutionary power.

Selene especially came alive for me during her experiences of sacred magic. What led you to include this sacred magic in the novel?

I value history, but I'm always acutely aware that everything we think we know about our past is always subject to revision with the next archeological dig. History is as much a strange and magical landscape as any fantasy world. Consequently, throwing magic into the world was an easy choice--especially since magic was real to the ancients. More importantly, there are some aspects of Selene's true-life story that are so unbelievable, magic seemed like the only explanation!

Review of Lily of the Nile by Stephanie Dray

See listing for Lily of the Nile at Powell's Books

See listing for Lily of the Nile at

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