Stephanie Dray

A Day of Fire: Cover Reveal and Pre-Order!

It’s here: the cover AND the Pre-Order info for my Pompeii project! We are all super excited how it turned out, and we hope you will be, too!

Title: A Day of Fire: A Novel of Pompeii
Authors: Stephanie Dray, Ben Kane, E. Knight, Sophie Perinot, Kate Quinn and Vicky Alvear Shecter, with an introduction by Michelle Moran
Genre: Historical Fiction
Release Date: November 4, 2014

Pre-order today!

Pompeii was a lively resort flourishing in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius at the height of the Roman Empire. When Vesuvius erupted in an explosion of flame and ash, the entire town would be destroyed. Some of its citizens died in the chaos, some escaped the mountain’s wrath . . .

Six top historical novelists join forces to bring readers the stories of Pompeii’s residents–from patricians to prostitutes–as their world ended. You will meet:

A boy who loses his innocence in Pompeii’s flourishing streets;

An heiress dreading her wedding day, not knowing it will be swallowed by fire;

An ex-legionary who stakes his entire future on a gladiator bout destined never to be finished;

A crippled senator welcoming death, until a tomboy on horseback comes to his rescue;

A young mother facing an impossible choice for her unborn child as the ash falls;

And a priestess and a whore seeking redemption and resurrection as the town is buried.

The Next Project: Something Secret, Different, and Fabulous!

Some of you may have heard me hint over the past few months about a fabulous secret project coming up after “Lady of the Eternal City.” Secret no longer–here are the deets.

It’s a collaboration between six authors of historical fiction. All about the fall of Pompeii.

Everything began on my last release day, when Stephanie Dray and Sophie Perinot dropped by in their standard Release Day effort to keep me distracted from my Amazon Sales Ranking by any means up to and including handcuffs. At some point over the champagne, somebody mused “We should write a book TOGETHER. Not just a collection of stories; a book-in-three parts. Romance authors do it all the time, why not historical fiction authors?”

Six months and eight billion emails later, we had a subject – the last days of Pompeii – and a lineup of contributing authors. Six authors, not three; representing all shades and flavors of historical fiction from guts-and-glory star Ben Kane to historical YA phenom Vicky Alvear Shecter; historical family drama expert Sophie Perinot and historical fantasy maven Stephanie Dray and romance-bestseller-turned-historical novelist Eliza Knight.

At the end of 2014, we will be excited to bring you A Day of Fire: a novel of Pompeii.



Pompeii was a lively resort flourishing in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius at the height of the Roman Empire. When Vesuvius erupted in an explosion of flame and ash, the entire town would be destroyed. Some of its citizens escaped the mountain’s wrath, some died as heroes . . . and these are their stories.

A boy who loses his innocence in Pompeii’s flourishing streets.
An heiress dreading her wedding day, not knowing it will be swallowed by fire.
An ex-legionary staking his future on a gladiator bout destined to be fatally interrupted.
A crippled senator whose only chance of escape lies with a beautiful tomboy on horseback.
A young mother faced with an impossible choice for her unborn child as the ash falls.
A priestess and a whore looking for redemption and resurrection as the town is buried.

A novel in six parts, overlapping stories of patricians and slaves, warriors and politicians, villains and heroes who cross paths during Pompeii’s fiery end. But who will escape, and who will be buried for posterity?

My Writing Process

If there’s any TV show I get a kick out of, it’s Castle. Nathan Fillion plays a bestselling novelist, and to watch him you’d think a writer’s life is all red-carpet events, research trips to exotic and dangerous places, and the occasional hour or two of staring pensively at a spiral-bound notebook. No writer I know has ever worked that way–just take a look through this cyclical blog tour “My Writing Process.” Christy English tagged Stephanie Dray with the four questions below, and Stephanie in turn tagged me–and among all our answers, you won’t find a single a red-carpet event or a spiral-bound notebook!

1) What am I working on?
I’m working on the long-awaited sequel to “Empress of the Seven Hills,” which is titled “Lady of the Eternal City” and will be released March 2015. This has been the book from hell, but it’s also been hugely rewarding. I’m revisiting my rough-edged Roman legionary Vix, who is caught in a tangled triangle with Hadrian, the brilliant and sinister Emperor of Rome, and Hadrian’s elegant wife Sabina who is both the love and the bane of Vix’s life. Throw in poison, plotting, rebellion, a trip down the Nile and the building of Hadrian’s wall, and you have yourself a wild ride!

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
My books will make you laugh. A lot of historical fiction has gotten very serious lately–all these moody princesses and grim battlefield epics! And I love books like that, but history can be zany, absurd, and wonderfully whacky as well as deadly serious. And I like showing my readers the fun side.

3) Why do I write what I do?
Search me–I’m not sure we can ever figure out exactly why we are fascinated by the things that grip us body and soul. For me, it’s always been the past. Maybe because of my mother’s degree in ancient and medieval history, which had me watching “I, Claudius” instead of Disney cartoons, and listening agog to bedtime stories of Julius Caesar crossing the Rubicon rather than the Billy Goats Gruff crossing the troll bridge. But historical fiction is always where I gravitated.

4) How does your writing process work?
The two key ingredients for me are black coffee and a black dog. The coffee keeps me alert through the seven hours or so I’m sitting at my laptop (I work longer hours at this than I ever did at an office cubicle). And the little black dog at my side gets me off the laptop, insisting not so gently that I take him for his morning stroll–and that’s where I do some of my best thinking. It’s good for a writer to unplug, get away from the Facebook updates and the editor emails and online researching. And somehow, my mind always manages to wander usefully while my feet are moving–I can come back from an hour of romping with the dog in the snow, and I’ll have solved that plotting problem that was giving me headaches an hour ago.

My friend Sophie Perinot has agreed to answer the same questions for me–I love hearing how other writers work (and I’m betting no red-carpet events or spiral-bound notebooks for her, either!) Check back here next Monday March 31st, and I’ll link to her site so you can see what her answers are.

Facebook Party Tomorrow!


Nobody really likes Thursdays, do they? Not quite Friday, sigh, sigh. So tomorrow, come hang out on Facebook with me instead–I’m joining a really impressive array of historical fiction authors and bloggers, hosting a Facebook party in honor of historical fiction, the 2,023rd anniversary of the Ara Pacis, and the release of my friend Stephanie Dray’s newest book, Daughters of the Nile: A novel of Cleopatra’s Daughter.
Readers can win free books, lunch at the next Historical Novel Society meeting, swag, gift cards, and other prizes from some of the best authors in this genre. Please join us, and RSVP!

How Authors Become Friends, and Why You Should Buy Stephanie Dray’s “Daughters of the Nile”

I always face a bit of a dilemma whenever an author friend’s book is released. On the one hand, I want to pimp the hell out of their book because I want it to do well. On the other hand, I know that if I do that, there’s a decent chance people won’t believe me when I say “This book is awesome!” because “She’s just saying that because her friend wrote it.”


My friend Stephanie Dray has a book out today called “Daughters of the Nile,” and yes, I’m going to pimp the hell out of it. And in the interests of full disclosure, you get the full story of this author friendship so that you understand why I am telling you to buy this book, and why I am not just saying that because she’s my friend.

Stephanie and I are both Berkley Books authors, but we lived on opposite sides of the country and had never met. She had a book about Cleopatra’s daughter coming out, called “Lily of the Nile” – and she’d apparently read and enjoyed my book “Mistress of Rome,” so she asked her editor if I might consider reading “Lily” for a cover quote. My editor asked me (the deadline was tight), I said “Sure, I read fast, send it over.” And the book apparently vanished in a puff of smoke from the Berkley mail-stream, disappeared into the ether, and reappeared forty-eight hours later in exactly the same place, faintly singed and smelling of brimstone and definitely NOT in my hands. By then it was too late for a cover quote, even if they’d re-mailed it. So I didn’t blurb “Lily of the Nile,” and Stephanie was merely told “Yeah, the quote’s not happening.” She later told me she plunged into a gloomy “Kate Quinn hates my book!” funk, and ate a pint of gelato for dinner.

But I read “Lily of the Nile” when it hit the shelves, and I liked it. The heroine was smart, and I love a smart heroine. She was just a teenager, but this was no YA chick moping about her love triangle; Stephanie had made Selene the survivor’s-guilt-ridden heir to the complicated legacy of Cleopatra and Mark Antony: bitter, damaged, ambitious, devious, and proud. I liked that even better. So I dropped Stephanie an email about how much I’d enjoyed the book, and told the story of the post-office snafu, and she jumped on that and asked if I might blurb the second Selene book. I read “Song of the Nile,” and I liked it even better. Selene had grown up into a vengeful, passionate, seductive, scheming priestess-queen, and if that weren’t enough, she had the world’s creepiest love-hate relationship with Emperor Augustus (who “I, Claudius” fans will have a VERY hard time identifying as affable Brian Blessed from the mini-series). So I was happy to write a cover quote for “Song of the Nile,” and when the hubby and I moved out to Maryland a year or so later—Stephanie’s state of residence—she took me out for a thank-you lunch.

Authors are always a little nervous on meeting each other in person. “I liked your books so much—what if I don’t like you?” Or “I like you a lot, but I’ve tried your books and I just hate them . . . what do I say?” So Stephanie and I eyed each other over the napkins at an Indian restaurant with a certain unease at first, but that wore off fast. Because we’d both read and genuinely enjoyed each other’s books before either meeting in person or ever needing a favor like a cover quote out of each other, and that’s a good place to start. Soon enough we were gabbing it up about Isis worship, Emperor Augustus, Latin profanity, Bernard Cornwell, crazy Amazon reviews, and everything else under the sun. Lunch turned into coffee turned into a Barnes & Noble run, and it was the start of a beautiful friendship. (Stephanie blogged her own version of our meeting here, and I will state for the record that I don’t drive that fast, and we were nowhere near being arrested, and I said the exact same thing to the cops.)

Fast-forward a couple of years, and Stephanie is now one of the best author friends I’ve got. We get together on book launch days, and forcibly stop each other from checking our Amazon Sales Rankings. We’ve complained about sales trends, crazy hate-mail, and headless-heroine covers. We missed a plane flight at 1am, coming back from the Historical Novel Society conference, and like a pair of Roman empresses we planned evisceration and crucifixion for the hapless cretins of United Airways who caused the screw-up. We’ve bitched about one-star reviews. We have a running joke about hippos that never gets old.

I was there at Ground Zero when Stephanie wrote “Daughters of the Nile,” the concluding book to her trilogy about Cleopatra Selene. I talked her off a ledge when she was convinced she couldn’t write a metaphor anymore. I commiserated about an early version of her cover, which we called “Troll of the Nile” because Selene looked like a hunchback. I beta-read her rough draft: “This scene in the reeds is swoon-worthy! But your epilogue needs work; what about this . . .”

“Daughters of the Nile” is out in stores today, and I feel like a proud auntie. I want to see which of those three different endings Stephanie put in (I voted for Version #2, when the panicked “Which of these is the best???” email went out 12 hours before deadline). I’ve read this book in rough-draft form, and even without the final polishing it’s since received, I can tell you it’s dark, mesmerizing historical fiction: the final gut-wrenching act in the twisted car-wreck of a relationship between Selene and her mentor-suitor-madman Emperor Augustus. There’s tragedy to punch you in the gut, and tenderness to make you cry, and moments that will just plain prickle your hair. I’m taking Stephanie out to lunch today, and after lunch we’re heading to B&N so I can buy my copy of “Daughters of the Nile.”

And I tell you with zero fake “I’m supporting my friend” enthusiasm that you should buy it, too.

Daughters of the Nile slide


From critically acclaimed historical fantasy author, Stephanie Dray comes the long-awaited new tale based on the true story of Cleopatra’s daughter.


After years of abuse as the emperor’s captive in Rome, Cleopatra Selene has found a safe harbor. No longer the pitiful orphaned daughter of the despised Egyptian Whore, the twenty year old is now the most powerful queen in the empire, ruling over the kingdom of Mauretania—an exotic land of enchanting possibility where she intends to revive her dynasty. With her husband, King Juba II and the magic of Isis that is her birthright, Selene brings prosperity and peace to a kingdom thirsty for both. But when Augustus Caesar jealously demands that Selene’s children be given over to him to be fostered in Rome, she’s drawn back into the web of imperial plots and intrigues that she vowed to leave behind. Determined and resourceful, Selene must shield her loved ones from the emperor’s wrath, all while vying with ruthless rivals like King Herod. Can she find a way to overcome the threat to her marriage, her kingdom, her family, and her faith? Or will she be the last of her line?


Read the Reviews


“A stirring story of a proud, beautiful, intelligent woman whom a 21st century reader can empathize with. Dray’s crisp, lush prose brings Selene and her world to life.” ~RT Book Reviews


“The boldest, and most brilliant story arc Dray has penned…” ~Modge Podge Reviews


“If you love historical fiction and magical realism, these books are for you.” ~A Bookish Affair


Read an Excerpt
Below me, six black Egyptian cobras dance on their tails, swaying. I watch their scaled hoods spread wide like the uraeus on the crown of Egypt. Even from this height, I’m paralyzed by the sight of the asps, their forked tongues flickering out between deadly fangs. I don’t notice that I’m gripping the balustrade until my knuckles have gone white, all my effort concentrated upon not swooning and falling to my death.

And I would swoon if I were not so filled with rage. Someone has arranged for this. Someone who knows what haunts me. Someone who wants to send me a message and make this occasion a moment of dread. My husband, the king must know it, for he calls down, “That’s enough. We’ve seen enough of the snake charmer!”

There is commotion below, some upset at having displeased us. Then Chryssa hisses, “Who could think it a good idea to honor the daughter of Cleopatra by coaxing asps from baskets of figs?”

The story the world tells of my mother’s suicide is that she cheated the emperor of his conquest by plunging her hand into a basket where a venomous serpent lay in wait. A legend only, some say, for the serpent was never found. But I was there. I brought her that basket. She was the one bitten but the poison lingers in my blood to this day. I can still remember the scent of figs in my nostrils, lush and sweet. The dark god Anubis was embroidered into the woven reeds of the basket, the weight of death heavy in my arms. I can still see my mother reach her hand into that basket, surrendering her life so that her children might go on without her. And I have gone on without her.

I have survived too much to be terrorized by the emperor’s agents or whoever else is responsible for this.

If it is a message, a warning from my enemies, I have already allowed them too much of a victory by showing any reaction at all. So I adopt as serene a mask as possible. My daughter blinks her big blue eyes, seeing past my facade. “Are you frightened, Mother? They cannot bite us from there. The snakes are very far away.”

I get my legs under me, bitterness on my tongue. “Oh, but they’re never far enough away.”



Daughters of the Nile cover


Available now in print and e-book!


Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Kobo | Powells | IndieBound | Goodreads



Available now in print and e-book!


Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Kobo | Powells | IndieBound | Goodreads



Stephanie Dray Headshot
STEPHANIE DRAY is a bestselling, multi-published, award-winning author of historical women’s fiction and fantasy set in the ancient world. Her critically acclaimed historical series about Cleopatra’s daughter has been translated into more than six different languages, was nominated for a RITA Award and won the Golden Leaf. Her focus on Ptolemaic Egypt and Augustan Age Rome has given her a unique perspective on the consequences of Egypt’s ancient clash with Rome, both in terms of the still-extant tensions between East and West as well as the worldwide decline of female-oriented religion. 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.

Frederick Book Festival and Signing!

Here’s a shout-out to those of you in northeastern Maryland and southeastern PA–I will be appearing with my marvelous friends-and-colleagues Sophie Perinot and Stephanie Dray at the FREDERICK BOOK FESTIVAL this coming weekend (Saturday, May 18th). Our panel on “Prejudice and Preconceptions – What you think you know about historical women” (at 11 a.m.) always brings down the house. Come out and see us!

And if you’re busy on Saturday, stop by Barnes & Noble at the FSK Mall on Friday, May 17, 2013 from 4:00 PM – 7:00 PM. I’ll be there for a signing with lots of other wonderful authors and friends!

Sex, Lies, and History: A Literary Threesome

Coming this Saturday: panel discussion and book signing for three historical fiction authors: Stephanie Dray, Sophie Perinot, and myself. God knows what we’ll end up talking about, but the three of us know how to have fun. Stop by to get a book signed, ask a question, or just say hi. I promise you it will be a great time!

Here are the details:

Date: Saturday, April 21st
Time: 1-3 p.m.
Location: Barnes & Noble, Spectrum Center, 1851 Fountain Drive, Reston, VA 20190

Hope I see you there!

Book Signing and Blog Tour!

Under a week till publication day for Empress of the Seven Hills. Who’s nervous? Well, me. This might be my third go-round, but somehow this never gets any less nerve-racking.

Fortunately, I’ve got company for my first in-person event this time. Mark your calendars: a historical fiction triple threat is set to hit the Washington DC metro area on April 21st!

Book Signing and Discussion

The marvelous Stephanie Dray and Sophie Perinot will be joining me for an appearance at Barnes & Noble in Reston, VA. God knows what we’ll end up talking about, but the three of us know how to have fun. If you’re a fan of Stephanie’s whip-smart series on Cleopatra’s daughter Selene (Lily of the Nile and Song of the Nile) or Sophie’s cracking debut novel on the medieval version of the Middleton sisters (The Sister Queens), stop by to get a book signed, ask a question, or just say hi. I promise you it will be a wild time!

Barnes & Noble
1851 Fountain Drive
Reston, Virginia
April 21st, 1-3pm

As soon as pub day hits I’ll also be hopping aboard a two-week whirlwind of a blog tour, guest blogging on everything from sexual mores in ancient Rome to the various books and movies that first turned me into a historical fiction junkie. If you’d like to follow me around the web for a few laughs and a chance at a free book (giveaways galore!) then see below.

April 3rd: Luxury Reading blog
Topic of the day: What really happens when you end up putting your husband in a book by accident?

April 4th: Passages to the Past
Topic of the day: Why Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum would have a heart attack if they ended up in ancient Rome.

April 5th: Tanzanite’s Castle
Topic of the day: The books that got me hooked on historical fiction; what are yours?

April 6th: Peeking Between the Pages
Topic of the day: A typical day in a writer’s life, and it’s NOTHING like “Castle”

April 9th: The Maiden’s Court
Topic of the day: How women in ancient Rome managed to get what they wanted despite all the laws against it.

April 10th: Historical Fiction Connection
Topic of the day: How to make historical characters a) interesting, when your readers can jump on Wikipedia to find out what happens to them, and b) sympathetic, when they have a documented historical taste for bear-baiting and slavery.

April 11th: Muse in the Fog
Topic of the day: still undecided. Hey, I’m a bit behind on my blog posts!

April 12th: Judith Starkston Book Blog


Q&A: Sample question: which of my characters would I choose to be, if I had a chance?

April 13th: Historical Boys
Q&A: C.W. Gortner and I chat about everything from dream movie adaptations to the eternal dilemma of historical fiction novelists.

April 16th: The Secret Writer Blog
Q&A: Find out why I have a fridge door full of Post-It notes with jottings like “Headless Romans York”?

April 21st: Enchanted by Josephine
Q&A: Who knows what she’ll ask, but Lucy always has great questions!

A huge thank you to all the book bloggers, reviewers, and readers who have invited me onto their blogs! I can’t wait to get started. Who’s nervous?

Well, still me.

Eating A Goat With A Colleague

I met historical fiction novelist Stephanie Dray for the first time last week in celebration of her second book’s release, and frankly I am getting nervous. She is kind and witty, self-deprecating and sassy, a sparkling conversationalist and an eager listener–just like a lot of the writers I’ve been lucky enough to meet. Are there no trolls in this business? Or am I just lucky enough only to meet the the nice ones? I’ve had the great privilege of meeting Michelle Moran, Margaret George, Diana Gabaldon, C.W. Gortner, Sophie Perinot, Anne Easter Smith, Christy English, Gillian Bagwell, Sandra Worth–and they were all delightful.

I think people have the wrong idea about how writers interact. For one thing, they assume we don’t interact at all; that we spend all our time huddled in our solitary libraries over a computer, and for a large part we do. But there’s Facebook, there’s email, there are conferences where we can meet face to face–I met most of these people at the Historical Novel Society Conference this year. However we do it, lots of us get to know each other, and for the most part there’s no backstabbing and jealousy (another popular assumption about writers). The people I’ve met were all sincerely rooting for each others’ success–after all, the more of us who sell books and make historical fiction popular, the bigger the audience is and we all benefit.

The other popular assumption is that if we don’t hate each other, we cheat. Write blurbs for each other just to get a blurb back, talk up each other’s books when we haven’t read them–a big incestuous group all scratching each other’s backs just to get a scratch in return. I haven’t seen much of that, either. If anything, there’s a slightly nervous look on both faces when two writers meet for the first time. I like your books so much; what if I don’t like you? I like you but I haven’t read your books; what if I hate them? It’s a great relief once you can relax, realizing that you like both an author and their work.

The other relief in meeting a fellow historical fiction author is that here at last is someone who understands. Here is someone who nods unfazed as you start reeling off the family tree of the Julio-Claudian emperors; who gets your toss-off reference to the Wars of the Roses; who shares your interest in Egyptian mummies. Those of us with a passion for history are resigned to blank stares or rolled eyes from those who think we’re weirdos for knowing more about the wives of Henry VIII than the husbands of Elizabeth Taylor. Meet another HF writer and after a while there is a great internal shout of “Yes! She GETS me!”

Finally, there’s a relief in knowing you aren’t alone. Writers do spend a lot of time alone, and most of us like it that way–but at times one misses the cameraderie of an office or worksite, work friends to bitch and moan with about work problems. With only two books published, I’m a relative newbie in the author scene–I went at it alone for the first few years. Now my circle is expanding, and I’ve realized that I do have work friends. They may be scattered all over the country, but they’re as supportive as the office friends I used to meet around the water cooler.

So what do two authors of historical fiction do when they meet up? Stephanie Dray and I hit an Indian restaurant for lunch where, yes, roast goat was on the menu. We agreed it was something both her Egyptian heroine Selene and my Roman heroine Thea would have eaten, and we’d be fools not to follow suit. So we ate goat and dished on Isis worship, Roman emperors, plotting problems, and snarky reviews. Lunch turned into coffee; Stephanie wheedled a couple of spoilers from Empress of the Seven Hills out of me, and I wheedled a few from her on the next Selene book (sorry, we’re both sworn to secrecy). Stuffed with goat and coffee, we parted good friends.

Stephanie, congratulations again on the launch of Song of the Nile. Next lunch is on me.