The idea of gods in mortal bodies isn’t entirely a modern one: in myths, gods often wandered the Earth, looking like ordinary human beings. It was probably a smart way to teach people to be hospitable to strangers. You wouldn't want to risk accidentally offending a god! Regardless, I was really intrigued with the idea that anyone you bump into in the street, or someone you pass by everyday, could actually be so much more than what you think. We judge so often by appearances, but there could be a whole amazing world right under our noses!
Having the gods borrow teenage bodies, instead of adult ones, made a lot of sense to me as an author. Greek gods are a lot like teenagers: they’re passionate, full of emotion, and headstrong; they’re not weighed down by responsibilities (even when they should be); they thrive on immediate gratification; and they’re still new to (mortal) life.
But from the perspective of the gods in my novel, it was easier for them to influence teenagers to perform the ritual that would allow the gods to borrow their bodies. Few adults have enough of a sense of adventure to try something that seems so impossible and ridiculous. As people grow older, their sense of wonder, possibility, and playfulness tends to atrophy if they're not careful.
You clearly know a lot about Greek mythology. What’s your interest in the subject? Is it something you always wanted to write about, or did you learn about it for your novel?
I’ve been reading Greek mythology since I was quite young. I’ve always found it so captivating. Myths were like the comic books of ancient times: full of superheroes and supervillains, battling it out to see whether good or evil would win.
I definitely brushed up on a few details here and there to flesh out my novel though. But the great thing about writing fantasy is, in the end, you have a lot of latitude to write whatever you want. Your only real limit is your imagination. You make (and break) your own rules!
Hera is a figure often villified in Greek myths, especially modern retellings. Yet, you cast her in a sympathetic light. Why did you choose her as your protagonist?
I chose Hera as a protagonist precisely because she’s been so villified. I could never quite understand why there was absolutely no sympathy for her, when it seemed to me that she got a pretty raw deal: a cheating husband who humiliated her time and again in front of all the other gods, not to mention in front of the entire mortal world that was supposed to respect her. I thought Hera had a better story than the one we know, a story that no one had told yet. I wanted to be the one to tell it.
Also, Hera reminds me of a lot of women I know in real life, women who feel they have to sacrifice their own happiness for the sake of others. To me, that's what makes a true hero: selflessness. Those women deserve to have their stories shared and celebrated.
Your novel contains a lot of mysteries and twists. Can you tell us a bit about your writing process? Do you outline?
I do, and I don’t. :p When I first start writing something, it tends to be very free-style. I just start typing and let my imagination run wild. One thing sparks the next, which sparks the next, and so on and so forth. It’s like a chain reaction. But the more that I write, the faster the ideas start hitting me. Eventually, I have to start writing them down, or else, I’ll start to forget them. Before long, that jumble of ideas I’ve jotted down gives me a very rough outline to work with. Then it’s up to me to sew the disparate pieces together to create a meaningful story.
One of the drawbacks of that process is that I go through extensive revisions. I have to reread and reread over and over and over again to make sure the story flows and remains consistent.
Hera, Queen of Gods contains both action-packed battle scenes and emotionally charged drama. Which is more challenging for you to write?
I think drama is by far the more difficult to write, particularly when you write from the first person perspective. A narrator doesn’t notice every little detail, and as a result, a lot of things that may (or should) be obvious to someone else are missing from their narrative. As a writer, you have to find subtle ways to convey those things that the narrator has overlooked.
I also struggle with how much to spell out for an audience and how much to imply or leave to their imagination. Some readers like to have it all laid out for them, down to the smallest details; others want to fill in gaps themselves and find excessive detail condescending or boring. It’s difficult to find a happy medium that pleases everyone.
What was the inspiration behind Justin, the mortal boy who helps the gods on their quest and soon falls for Hera?
I really wanted to showcase a male character who exemplified non-traditional masculinity. I struggle a lot with how society defines masculinity today. I wanted a character who was a strong man because he was able to put himself second and support the woman he cared about. That takes a different kind of strength, one I find is underappreciated. To put it another way, everyone expects a woman to support “her man”; but how often do people expect a man to support “his woman” in her goals and dreams, even at the expense of his own? So often, I hear of celebrity romances that fail because the woman is more successful than the man. What kind of love is that? What kind of man only feels like a “real” man when he’s doing better than the woman he claims to love?
Realistically, Hera is the type of woman who needs a man that accepts her for who she is: a strong woman who needs to be in charge. She needs a man who doesn’t expect her to change, to become less, just for the benefit of his ego. For her, that’s what love is. And that takes a very special man. In the end, it takes a strong man to love a woman in the way she needs to be loved, instead of in the way he might want (or have been raised) to love.
Do you have a favorite scene in your novel?
Though it proved controversial (in a way I definitely did not foresee), I enjoyed the drinking scene in Justin’s basement. It was really difficult to write, but fun. More importantly, it was a chance to glimpse the real Hera, to see her a bit more clearly with her guard down: what she would be like if she weren’t so burdened by the fate of existence resting on her shoulders.
If you were a Greek god, who would you be, and why?
Morpheus. I love napping. :p
On a somewhat frivolous note, I love your cover! Who designed it?
Thank you! I actually commissioned my cover through a public contest on 99designs. The successful designer was Gina Brooks (username: Georgina_Gibson). Her work is stellar (her portfolio speaks for itself), and perhaps best of all, she was very easy to work with. She really went above and beyond the call of duty for me. I wholeheartedly and unreservedly recommend her to anyone in the market for a book cover.
Are you working on any new books?
Always, and too many. :p
I wrote the sequel to Hera, Queen of Gods, which I am editing now. I hope to have it published by October 2013.
I’m finishing another urban fantasy, The Order, about a girl who breaks out of the magical cult that raised her, only to find circumstances drawing her back in.
I also just started a third novel about a demon who’s been captured and forced to hunt down other supernatural terrors by a mysterious religious sect.
Hera, Queen of Gods is available at: Amazon US (Kindle e-book), Amazon UK (Kindle e-book)