Today on Author Chats I’m excited to welcome Zenobia Neil, whose brilliant interpretations of Greek myths make for some fascinating reading. Before we talk about her writing process, here’s some information about her newest release:
Ariadne Unraveled: A Mythic Retelling
By Zenobia Neil
Ariadne, high priestess of Crete, grew up duty-bound to the goddess Artemis. If she takes a husband, she must sacrifice him to her goddess after no more than three years of marriage. For this reason, she refuses to love any man, until a mysterious stranger arrives on her island.
The stranger is Dionysus, the new god of wine who empowers women and breaks the rules of the old gods. He came to Crete seeking vengeance against Artemis. He never expected to fall in love.
Furious that Dionysus would dare meddle with her high priestess, Artemis threatens to kill Ariadne if Dionysus doesn’t abandon her. Heartbroken, the new god leaves Crete, vowing to become better than the Olympians.
From the bloody labyrinth and the shadows of Hades to the halls of Olympus, Dionysus must find a way to defy Artemis and unite with his true love. Forced to betray her people, Ariadne discovers her own power to choose between the goddess she pledged herself to and the god she loves.
Zenobia. Great having you here today. Let me start with a fun question: If you could go anywhere for a year to be inspired for your next book, what setting would you choose and what would you write?
I would definitely go to Greece, and spend time in Sparta where Alexandra, the protagonist for my next novel was born. I went there five years ago to do some research for my last novel, The Queen of Warriors: Alexandra of Sparta Book One. My next novel will be the prequel and will explore how Alexandra, a Spartan woman in Anatolia 50 years after the death of Alexander the Great, was able to become the leader of a mercenary army.
While in Greece, I’d also visit Crete again and the Aegean islands of Naxos, Lesbos and Lemnos where Ariadne Unraveled takes place. If I had a year in Greece, I feel like I’d be inspired to write several more novels!
How important is working with your editor or beta readers, and how would you describe your relationship?
I feel that each book needs to have its own team of champions. It’s incredibly important for me to have a good relationship with my editor and I always appreciate having beta readers. I’ve been in a writing group for about fifteen years. They’ve basically read my last three novels in their infancy. My mom has also been amazing. She’s read each of my books and been incredibly supportive and encouraging. I had a new editor, Laura Perry, who is extremely knowledge about the Minoans in addition to being a fantastic editor. I’m incredibly grateful to my editor, to all my beta readers and friends who have been so supportive.
If you have pictures on your writing desk or desktop, what are they and why did you choose them?
I am deeply inspired by art. Each book I’ve written has its own Pinterest page, and I usually surround my desk with images of the place, the characters and symbols that represent the story. For Ariadne Unraveled, I put up maps of Knossos where part of the novel takes place as well as images of some of the frescoes. I even used a coloring book by my editor Laura Perry and colored in frescos and put them around my desk.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I do a lot of research. Writing Ariadne Unraveled took about five years—though a lot of the time I was also working on different books. Because I keep wanting to write about vastly different time periods in the Mediterranean, I keep having to learn about different ancient societies. Ariadne Unraveled takes place in Bronze Age Greece—4,000 years ago. I read about 15-20 books while writing this book, in addition to going to Crete and looking things up constantly online.Tell us more about your latest book, Ariadne Unraveled:
How do you select the names of your characters?
For a mythic retelling, most names are quite straightforward. Ariadne, Dionysus, Theseus—Asterion, the Minotaur, Minos, Pasiphae and Phaedra are all set and the novel wouldn’t work if I changed their names. However, I also got to choose names for Ariadne’s handmaidens: Thalia, Melia and Zoe and her bodyguards, Manko and Talos—these names are related to the research I did around the time period.
I also had fun using nicknames. For example, Dionysus calls Hephaestus “Twice-fallen” and Hephaestus calls Dionysus “Twice-born.” Using nicknames gave me a chance to make a 4,000-year-old story more relatable and fun.
Which scene or chapter in the book is your favourite? Why?
This is a challenging question to answer for two reasons. First, I love all the chapters in their own way. There is one chapter that sticks out as a favorite but I can’t talk about it without spoiling anything so I’ll just say this. Dionysus is the God of Transformation and one of his powers in Ariadne Unraveled is transforming mortals as well as himself. Some of my paranormal romance writer friends have books about shifters—I think werewolves started this trend and then it became bears and cougars. My favorite chapters involve Dionysus helping mortals shift or transform into an animal that actually represents themselves.
How long did it take you to research and write this book; were there any “wrong turns” along the way?
It took five years to write this book. Most of that time wasn’t me sitting staring at the computer though. I had several other projects and books going on in addition to working and taking care of my family.
There were many “wrong turns” and scenes that I wrote that didn’t make it into the book. One involved a Minoan board game that has been found. I tried to write a scene with Ariadne and Phaedra playing it, but it simply didn’t work for the novel.
There were a few aspects of Minoan society that were very difficult to wrap my mind around. The first thing that was difficult for me was to imagine going around topless as apparently the Minoans did. I’m a redhead and have fair skin, so the idea of being topless in Crete would mean a sunburn for me, but fortunately my characters have much darker skin than I do.
A second tricky part was that because I’m writing about Dionysus inventing wine, I had to go back and insert mead or beer where I originally had wine. It’s extremely difficult to imagine a time before wine when writing about Greek mythology.
Give a shout out to a writing buddy or fellow author; how did they help you with this book?
So many writer friends helped me with this book, it’s hard to pick one. I was lucky enough to get great feedback, advice and support from so many people, but my friend Mia Hopkins who writes amazing romance books, which I highly recommend, helped me the most by formatting it for me. She also held my hand through all kinds of random questions. Having writer friends is the best!
Zenobia Neil was named after an ancient warrior queen who fought against the Romans. She writes historical romance about the mythic past and Greek and Roman gods having too much fun.
Social Media Links:
Website Twitter Facebook
Instagram Pinterest Book Bub
Amazon Author Page Goodreads