As part of the blog tour for Asp of Ascension, I asked author Bethany Meyers to give us the inside scoop on the research that went into the YA book.
My review of Asp of Ascension is here, and don’t forget, a comment below enters you in the draw for an e-copy of the book!
Thanks so much for inviting me to host today’s post on your bee-u-tee-ful blog! Seriously, this place is amazing. I’m totally jealous.
Today I’m going to talk about RESEARCH! *lights fireworks to grab your attention*
Asp of Ascension was originally a short story of less than a thousand words, but after prompts from readers on Wattpad, I decided I could take the story further and turn it into a novel. After all, Cleopatra is one of the most iconic figures in history, known best for seducing two powerful men; Caesar and Mark Antony. Her death scene is one that even Hollywood couldn’t have staged better. How could I resist—the well of material at my fingertips was brimming to overflowing.
Practically salivating, I headed to the computer. I had an outline for the novel, but now I needed facts, those tasty bits of history that would ground the fantasy aspects of the story. Part of the fun of writing a book based on ancient Egypt is the exploration. And by exploration I don’t mean relying on Wikipedia (although that’s a good place to start sometimes).
I soon discovered I was about to embark on a journey of epic research proportions. If you Google ‘Ancient Egypt and Cleopatra’ you will get over six hundred thousand results in less than a second. That is a lot of sticky notes, my friends.
After disappearing down the rabbit hole of the internet for hours at a time (Cleopatra is everywhere!) I weeded out the less reliable sites—love potions of the middle east anyone?— and dove into ancient Egypt with the trusted experts from National Geographic.
It was then that I realized I would have to rewrite my entire novel. I had planned my plot on preconceived ideas about Cleopatra that were based on pop culture and ignored the most important facts of her life. It was a grueling decision to change the story, but in the end the payoff was substantial.
So with my head down and into the wind, I left the house and ventured to library, determined to do Cleopatra’s legacy justice. I poured through the numerous hard cover books devoted to the subject. Those published by museums with their sumptuous photographs of artifacts were the most inspirational, and it was in those moments, bent over the library desk that I developed some of my favourite scenes, encouraged by the timeline of Cleopatra’s reign.
It was a grand coincidence that while I was writing Asp of Ascension a friend of mine was reading, Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff. We would talk about my plot and she would intersperse several facts from Ms. Schiff’s book that had stayed with her. I remember her telling me the mascara wand designed by Cleopatra was nearly the exact same as you would buy in Sephora today—nearly two thousand years later. That little nuance made it into the book.
The lovely result of writing historical fiction, or in my case fiction based on historical facts, is that you actually LEARN something about history while being entertained or at least have a few myths corrected.
Because for all her mastery at warfare and strategy, her thirst for knowledge in the fields of medicine, surgery, and yes beauty products, Cleopatra’s name will always be associated with an ambitious seductress first and a national leader second. And this, my friends should change.