Sunday, January 16, 2011

Guest Author Stephanie Drey

There’s nothing better than a contest to kick off the year! Here at Killer Fiction, we’d like to thank all our readers for a fabulous 2010 and kick off 2011 in fine fashion. And what better way to kick off the New Year than with free stuff? All the rules for the contest are on the sidebar, so read up and make sure you’re entered to win great prizes.


IMPORTANT NOTE: All contest winners will be drawn the weekend following the end of the contest. So if you didn’t hear about the contest right away, don’t despair—you can still go back to previous blog posts and enter.


Today we have a special guest, Stephanie Drey, who is sponsoring a contest for aspiring authors, as well as giving away free prizes to those who join her newsletter. So, take it away, Stephanie…


Sex, Lies & Togas: The Secret Life of Augustus
By Stephanie Drey

My debut novel, Lily of the Nile: A Novel of Cleopatra’s Daughter, is set in Late Republican Rome, one of my favorite time periods to write about. It was a unique era in which sex, politics, and family feuds came together to create the splashiest historical dramas of Western civilization. Much like the Tudor period, when King Henry VIII’s desire for a son turned an entire kingdom upside down, the Augustan Age revolved around a ruthless ruler whose family scandals rocked the empire.


In the aftermath of Cleopatra and Mark Antony’s suicides, Rome was led by Augustus, who preached a “return to traditional family values” but practiced anything but. The public face that Augustus showed to Rome was a strict but magnanimous paterfamilias who lived in simple virtue, enjoyed a marriage of more than forty years in duration, and passed morality laws to regulate sexual behavior and punish adultery.


Augustus reserved a special distaste for foreign cults and their mysterious fertility rites. He ordered a favorite freedman to commit suicide when it was revealed he’d been having sexual relations with Roman matrons[1]. He closely regulated the company his daughter kept, chastising her for wearing clothing that revealed too much skin. And after humbly submitting to marry three men of her father’s choosing in succession, when Julia was accused of having taken lovers outside of marriage, Augustus banished her to live out her days on a tiny island.


When it came to his own sexual behavior, however, Augustus was decidedly less strict. To begin with, his own marital history was not unblemished. Livia wasn’t his first wife, but his third, and the circumstances under which they wed were scandalous. When Augustus met Livia, he was already married and so was she. As the story goes, Rome’s first emperor was a dinner guest when he developed an attraction for his host’s wife. With uncharacteristic recklessness, Augustus allegedly carried the wife off to the bedroom before her husband’s eyes, then returned her to the dining room with her hair disheveled and her ears red.


Thereafter, it would be rumored that this scarlet-eared woman was Livia because Augustus soon asked Livia’s husband to give her up. Perhaps Livia’s husband was through with her or perhaps he was too afraid to refuse. Either way, Augustus divorced his wife on the very day that she gave birth to his daughter Julia. With their previous marriages dissolved, Augustus married a heavily pregnant Livia with such haste that they would be plagued ever after by the rumor that her unborn child was actually their bastard son.


That their marriage was long-lasting is remarkable insofar as Livia was unable to give Augustus a son to secure his dynastic plans. That their marriage was also apparently happy was probably due to Livia’s ability to be at peace with her husband’s sexual affairs. She wasn’t the only one who had to turn a blind eye; among the women Augustus took to bed was the beautiful Terentilla, wife of Maecenas, the emperor’s closest political advisor.



Antony once had charged that Augustus’ friends played pimp for him, but according to Suetonius, other sources claimed that it was Livia who procured innocent young girls for the emperor to debauch. Indeed, one of the emperor’s friends was so concerned about his womanizing that he disguised himself as a young woman in a carriage and leaped out with a knife in hand to show Augustus how vulnerable these liaisons made him.


In light of this kind of hypocrisy, it may not be surprising that, while Augustus gloried in having defeated that Egyptian whore who dared to think herself equal to men, he also promoted Cleopatra’s image with a zeal akin to obsession. This fixation would not have been lost on the dead queen’s young daughter, Cleopatra Selene, who came to Rome as a chained prisoner and was taken into the emperor’s household as his ward.

Yes, caught up in this milieu of depravity and deceit were all the children of Augustus’ household including his daughter, his grandchildren, his nieces and their children--many of whom would fall victim to conspiracy and scandal. Augustus would go on to arrange and re-arrange the marriages of his family members, meddling in their personal lives and banishing three of them.



The heroine of my novel, Cleopatra Selene, is one of the few children to have successfully and safely escaped the taint of these imperial intrigues, but her character was no doubt shaped by them, which is why Augustus made for such a delicious villain!


~Stephanie
http://www.stephaniedray.com/


Stephanie Dray is the author of a forthcoming trilogy of historical fiction novels set in the Augustan Age, starting with Lily of the Nile: A Novel of Cleopatra's Daughter. Before she wrote novels, Stephanie was a lawyer, a game designer, and a teacher. Now she uses the transformative power of magic realism to illuminate the stories of women in history and inspire the young women of today. She remains fascinated by all things Roman or Egyptian and has–to the consternation of her devoted husband–collected a house full of cats and ancient artifacts.

She is currently sponsoring the Cleopatra Literary Contest for Young Women, the deadline for which is March 1, 2011, but join her newsletter now for updates and a chance to win a free copy of Lily of the Nile and additional prizes.




[1]See Anthony Everitt’s biographies on Livia and Augustus.

45 comments:

rrshep said...

I enjoyed reading about Stephanie Drey's books and will definitely be looking for them.

Robin Kaye said...

Stephanie~ Welcome to Killer Fiction! The book sounds amazing! I can't wait to get it.

bettycd said...

Another intro to a new author. Love reading about Rome timeline and the new book sounds very interesting.

Maureen said...

It was an interesting post and the story looks like a good one.

JoanneR said...

This story sounds absolutely fascinating and even more so because of the facts involved.
joannereynolds@sbcglobal.net

susanann said...

I like History and I like reading fiction. Both are great. This author's stories sound amazing.

krisgils33 said...

sounds like a great intrigue!!!

Virginia said...

Interesting post, this book sounds like a great read, will be looking for it. Its funny you mention being a game designer that is what my son wants to do.

Judy T. said...

This was a very interesting post and the book sounds like a great story.

Laura said...

The book sounds very interesting.

Jean P said...

Always have enjoyed history, found your post very interesting. Your book sounds very good.

Refhater said...

Looks amazing! Can't wait to read the book.

Helen said...

Very interesting time period. I've read some mystery fiction set in Rome AD 70ish, but not from the Augustus era. This book sounds like something I'll have to pick up.

Helen C. Johannes

Countrysunrise said...

I have never read a book from this time period before, but after reading your blog, reading the most wonderful plot, and reading about an author who shares my outside interests almost to a tee, I have to read this book!!

Toystory said...

I like stories of this type! Go Stephanie!

joder said...

That is a very intriguing historical factoid that makes me think I should be watching the History Channel more. Where there's much talk of piety, there's always the most corrupted souls. And I can see why you'd use this historical figure as the basis for a book.

joderjo402 AT gmail DOT com

Jenyfer Matthews said...

I read The Memoirs of Cleopatra by Margaret George and would LOVE to read your book - it was a fascinating time.

Kristi said...

I saw this in the bookstore the other day and it's on my wishlist. Can't wait to read it.

catslady said...

Oh, sounds like a very fascinating book. And although I don't have any ancient artifacts, I do have a collection of cats lol.

Estella said...

I love finding new authors!

Anne said...

I'm definitely going to tell my sister about this book. She loves fiction with a history backdrop.

Suzan Harden said...

Oooo! I wanna read!

Stephanie Dray said...

I'm typing this from my phone because I'm running around to every bookstore in the galaxy signing my books ;) I'm sorry to be late to the party. I'll try to get back to respond to everybody but for now I want to thank you for the warm welcome.

Stephanie Dray said...

Jenyfer, Margaret georges memoirs of Cleopatra is one of my absolute favorites!

Stephanie Dray said...

Helen -- I'm partial to that kind of mystery. I've read a little Lindsay Davis and Steven Saylor but John Maddox Roberts slays me.

Jeanette J said...

The book sounds very interesting. Thank you for sharing.

Judy said...

Lily of the Nile sounds like a great read. I have always been interested in Cleopatra and love that period of history.

sonya said...

awesome blog
very interesting
thanks
signed up for your newsletter

robynl said...

sounds very interesting and he even arranged some marriages; must read about that.

yourstrulee(at)sasktel(dot)net

Susan Mo said...

Sounds good - looking forward to checking it out!

LMcLendon said...

"There’s nothing better than a contest to kick off the year!"

I am not familiar with this author but I love reading so I am always looking for new author finds!!

Stephanie Dray said...

Just for the record, it's Dray not Drey in case anyone was googling me.

Virginia, how old is your son?

Joder, you're so right on that!

Catslady--there's a little grey cat who plays a big part in Lily of the Nile ;)

Thanks Ann! If your sister gets the book, have her email me and I'll send her an ankh charm.

Judy, I'm a total Cleopatrophile if you couldn't tell. But her daughter--I might love Selene even more.

Stephanie Dray said...

Robyn, oh, the emperor arranged many marriages. He forced his daughter to marry, forced her husbands to divorce, re-arranged the family to his liking, causing all manner of trouble.

There is even a very sad story about Tiberius--Augustus made him divorce the wife that he was in love with, and he would later follow her in tears, but be forbidden to ever speak to her again.

Rebekah E. said...

Thanks for the great post. Sounds like a great book.

bison61 said...

I checked out the Cleopatra Literary Contest for Young Women and it sounds like a great story

tiramisu392 (at) yahoo.com

Susan P. said...

What a fascinating time in history! I love fictionalized history since it makes learning about history much more interesting.

Stephanie Dray said...

Susan, that's definitely the case for me. I think teachers forget to put the STORY in history ;)

dhenry said...

sounds like a good story.

Cassy Campbell said...

What a great historical backdrop for a story! It sounds fascinating.

David L Rattigan said...

Nice post, Stephanie.

Cathy M said...

Always enjoy getting to know a new author Stephanie.

Janean said...

Your books sounds great and the cover is gorgeous! Happy Reading, Janean

Amy S. said...

Your book sounds great!

Caffey said...

Hi Stephanie! I haven't read this time period but so wanted to! I heard that some stories with the Tutor settings had beheadings so I avoided most, I know it was part of that time period, but i'm a wimp! I so don't think I'll be able to resist this one! Fastinating on the history! Congrats on the trilogy!!!

cathiecaffey @ gmail.com

Robyn said...

Your debut novel sounds really interesting. Looking forward to reading your historical fiction. It sounds like I'll love it.

coolestmommy2000 at gmail dot com