Vicky Alvear Shecter Interview
August 5, 2011
the author of Cleopatra's Moon
It was great to welcome Vicky Alvear Shecter to the blog on August 5, 2011, to talk about her novel for young adults Cleopatra's Moon. It's about Cleopatra Selene, whose life was as remarkable in its own way as that of her more famous mother, Cleopatra.
What do you think teen girls today have in common with someone like Cleopatra Selene, who was suddenly forced into a world where women's roles were extremely limited?
Most girls, at one time or another, are confronted with the reality that being a girl is really, really difficult in many parts of the world. I think they can imagine themselves in Cleopatra Selene's shoes in the same way they might wonder how they would react if they were taken to a conservative Muslim country, for example, and told they couldn't drive, go to school or do anything without the supervision of a male.
But to me, the core of the book is something that I think all teens experience at some point - separating from mother, developing their own identities, finding their own ways. It's a universal, timeless process. When they're little, most girls want to be just like their moms, but by the time they're teens, many swear they'll never be anything like them.
Cleopatra Selene's process is complicated by her mother's death and her own desperate desire to keep her brothers safe. While writing, I kept going back to the question that sparked the novel - What must it have been like to have the most powerful woman on the planet as your mother?
What message would you like modern teens to take from your character's belief in the Egyptian goddess Isis?
That there was a time in history when both men and women revered the feminine in the form of goddesses. That Isis was powerful and respected and admired, not just in Egypt but throughout the Mediterranean. Our own traditions have pretty much obliterated the sacred feminine.
History gives us only a few remarkable details about Cleopatra Selene. How important was it to you to portray what her life might really have been like? Or did you just want to tell a good story in the spaces history leaves blank?
It was VERY important to work within the facts that we knew, not just about Cleopatra Selene, but about the people around her, especially in Rome. So, I researched Livia, Julia and Octavia and what their lives were like as well. I couldn't/wouldn't make up anything that could not have been plausible. I wove in true historical details of happenings that occurred around Selene. There are only a handful of people that I "made up," and those were usually ancillary characters such as priestesses or the children's nurses.
Review of Cleopatra's Moon by Vicky Alvear Shecter
See listing for Cleopatra's Moon at Powell's Books
See listing for Cleopatra's Moon at Amazon.com
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