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Interview with J. Lynn Else

     Today,  it is my pleasure to interview author J. Lynn Else. I read and reviewed the first two books in her Forgotten series, and enjoyed them both. We both share a love of ancient Egypt, and I recommend these books for fans of the genre! I appreciate Ms. Else's time and insights in this interview. I hope you will enjoy reading it and getting more familiar with this rising author. Thank you, Ms. Else!

What initially sparked your interest in writing about ancient Egypt? 

I’ve always had an interest in history.  When the Titanic was discovered in the late 1980s, I learned all I could about the ship and that time period.  Gradually, my interest fell to the beautiful culture of ancient Egypt.  Their monuments have stood for thousands of years.  It’s hard to even comprehend how old those temples and pyramids actually are.  The pyramids were already a thousand years old when Tut was born in 1341 BC--incredible!  Plus, for an ancient society, women had many rights that other countries did not provide.  Women in ancient Egypt could own land, run business, divorce and be entitled to an equal share of the separation, and testify in court.  If you had to live in those days, Egypt is where you’d want to live. 

How did you research the novels? Did you get the opportunity to visit Egypt?

I researched using lots of books.  I have my own personal collection of over 50 ancient Egyptian reference books.  When I’m in the midst of writing, I’ll use Google so I can keep the fingers typing away; then I’ll cross reference with published material later.  Either way, I keep lots of references at the hip as I’m developing the story.  My favorite historical fiction tales are those that are highly researched so that the setting is also a living, breathing character in the story. 

Regarding your second question, I’d love to visit Egypt.  It’s definitely a goal of mine in the future though not the safest of places at present.  

King Tut is one of the most recognizable pharaohs, but his wife is mostly overshadowed by him. What inspired you to tell her story?

I went to an exhibit at the Minnesota Science Museum about King Tut and the Pharaohs.  I was astounded by all the pieces of history on display but realized there was little about Tut’s wife, Ankhesenamun.  She’s featured in loving poses with King Tut, but then she disappeared.  When I dug a little bit into that time period, I realized the astounding circumstances that she lived through.  That’s when I decided her story needed a voice.  I wanted to bring to life this courageous but “forgotten” woman.  I asked myself what choices she might have had, which became one of the novel’s overriding questions.

One of the most shocking parts of Ankhesenamun's story is that she was forced to marry not only her brother, but her father AND grandfather as well! What else surprised you about her life?

She was so young when she was not only widowed but also remarried.  Then she had to help Tutankhamun re-establish the religious system?  Fixing all the ills of their father’s heretical ways fell to two children…talk about daunting!  She was asked to change everything about herself.  So who do you become when you strip all this away, family, identity, beliefs?  I can’t imagine telling my 12-year-old daughter to forget everything she’s ever known and, oh by the way, we’re also changing your name.  Ankhesenamun had to have been very intelligent to overcome these circumstances at such an age.

Did you plan to write a standalone book, or did you have the idea for The Forgotten series from the start?

From the beginning, I always intended to write about more women from antiquity.  I started researching some pharaohs from the Old Kingdom as I’ve been interested in the wives of the pharaohs who built the pyramids, but I may slant that novel into more of a fantasy series involved the ancient gods.  In particular, the warrior goddess Sekhmet, who was the fiercest hunter known to the Egyptians.  I think she’s got a story to tell.  

Was it easier to write the sequel since much of the world building had been established, or was it difficult keeping everything consistent with the first book?

It was difficult because I felt I didn’t give Merytaten enough credit in the first novel.  I always pictured her as the one trying to keep the peace and sacrificing behind the scenes, a place Ankhesenamun wouldn’t learn about until it was too late.  Originally for my second book, I’d thought about centering it on Hapshetsut’s mother, but my heart kept drawing me back to Akhenaten’s family.  When I explored the establishment of Atenism, I realized how much Merytaten had to adapt and change in order to survive such a turbulent era.  So while I had the birth order and timelines I’d used for book 1, I still had to make sure I didn’t break any rules established in the first book like having Merytaten do or say something different than I’d penned in book 1.  

The story of Moses played a big role in The Forgotten: Aten's Last Queen. Did you have any pressure writing about such a well-known story and character? Why is the story set in Akhenaten's early reign instead of during Rameses II's era?

Its hard to image after a thousand years of polytheistic worship that all of a sudden, a pharaoh would come along and allow worship of only one god.  I wondered what caused such a drastic change.  The greed of the Amun temples was definitely a factor, sure, but I felt there was something more.  Why denounce all gods if only Amun was the problem?  But perhaps, perhaps, Moses and the plagues happened earlier than Rameses’ reign.  The Rameses era is a best guess by historians, but it’s not a concrete fact.  A few people have proposed Akhenaten was Moses, which is a bit extreme.  However, what if Moses was brother to Akhenaten instead of Rameses?  Akhenaten listened to the message but didn’t fully understand it.  Akhenaten witnessed miracles and was passionate about this god who looked down from the heavens.  I felt excited to explore this untapped motivation for Akhenaten’s zeal and bold new venture. 

I really admire Nefertiti. She seemed like a warrior queen. Have you given any thought to writing about her?

I loved adding a bit of spice to Nefertiti.  She was a general’s daughter, bravely assisted her husband in establishing a new religion and new capital city, and birthed a number of children in a time when childbirth was very dangerous.  She seemed to have been well liked by the people, so she was a smart and charming queen.  I figured why not also add a little fierceness to her?  During the fall of Amarna, her family was all but destroyed.  How could a woman in that situation cope?  I wanted Nefertiti to be more than just a beautiful face but also a passionate woman.  I’m not sure if I’d write about her since many other great authors have already explored her life fictionally, including one of my favorites, Michelle Moran.  

Will there be any more books in The Forgotten series?

I hope so.  I really want to explore unsung women from the ancient world.  Right now I’m writing my Awakening series, but ancient Egypt is never far from my mind.  My Sekhmet novel may be the next to develop, but we’ll see what stories call to my heart as I continue to research.  There are moms and wives and daughters throughout the kingdoms that are worth a closer look.

Congratulations on the first installment of The Awakening series! Can you tell us a little about this series?

The first book, Descendants of Avalon, centers around four teen girls who are swept into a conflict in the magical land of Avalon, a land which separated from Earth after the death of King Arthur.  The teens meet some knights descended from the men of Round Table, learn magic from women of King Arthur’s time, and battle an evil wizard set on taking over Avalon and Earth.  Perhaps it’s an off shoot of my Forgotten series concept, but I wanted the women from King Arthur’s era to be featured for this new series.  I think there’s a lot that’s misunderstood about these strong ladies.  My second Awakening book, which was just submitted for the first round of edits by my publisher, has the teens exploring more of Avalon as they search for a queen who’s been kidnapped by an unknown warlock.  

Do you have any other future projects in mind?

Book two of the Awakening series will be titled (at this point, unless my publishers changes it) The Lost Daughters of Avalon. I also recently finish a sci fi short story with a Frankenstein twist to it that I will be self-publishing this summer.  So if you’re into that genre, keep your eyes open!  It’s titled “Strangely Constructed Souls.”  I watched a lot of Star Trek TNG growing up, so I actually started my writing journey doing TNG fan fic.  Other than that, I have a few other ideas percolating.  Check me out on Twitter or Facebook for updates! 

About the author:

     J. LYNN ELSE loves reading and writing about awesome women from antiquity. Besides history, she also gets nerdy with Star Wars, Star Trek, and MST3K. J. Lynn’s always had a flare for the dramatic, graduating college with a theater major and a dance minor. She’s self-published two historical fiction novels set in ancient Egypt, The Forgotten: Aten’s Last Queen and The Forgotten: Heir of the Heretic. She lives in Minnesota with her husband and two kids where her shelves are overrun with books, her kitchen is overrun with loose-leaf tea, and her workroom is overrun with Funko Pop figures. She enjoys sketching, reliving her 1990s by watching the latest X-Files episodes, honing her Fruit Ninja skills, and randomly busting out into song and dance. She believes in unicorns and practicing random acts of awesome. 

     For more information visit her website, blog, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon Author page, Goodreads, and Instagram.


Also check out my reviews of J. Lynne Elise's novels:

The Forgotten: Aten's Last Queen

The Forgotten: Heir of the Heretic


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