Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Interview with IVONNE HARLECH ~ author of ~MISTRESS OF THE TEMPLE ~

Mistress of the Temple


Based on a remarkable true story… 1290 BC in the Egyptian city of Abydos, the young priestess Bentreshy is renowned for her spiritual powers—a medium between Isis and the temple. But when she begins an illicit love affair with King Sety I, her spiritual life is thrown into turmoil. By defying temple protocol the pair pit themselves against the powerful priesthood…     

3200 thousand years later, Dorothy Eady (aka Omm Sety) begins to remember a past life, when she lived in a beautiful temple as a follower of Isis. Only Dr Budge, a Keeper at the British Museum, believes her story and helps her unravel the past. Dorothy must return to Abydos where the truth lies hidden in the mysterious temple, revealing a past life that mirrors her own, where ancient secrets are about to change her destiny. 


‘This is Dorothy Eady’s story. A woman who had her life once described in The New York Times as “one of the Western World’s most intriguing and convincing modern case histories of reincarnation”. After a fall down stairs at the age of three, where she was declared dead, she awoke as if having had a refreshing rest; full of health and asking to ‘go home’. Her home was no longer the London house of her birth, her memories of ancient Egypt had started. Or rather the memories of Bentreshy, a Temple of Isis priestess. Dorothy was now never destined to be the mother and wife her own family assumed for her.

Yvonne Harlech’s passion for this era leaps off the page at you and you find yourself absolutely absorbed. Feeling the desert sun burning your skin and just wishing you could be there at those feasts! It’s rare to come across a biographical novel that is so engrossing. It was such a good read that the images have remained. Thoroughly enjoyable, rich and satisfying; Mistress of the Temple has entered my top ten of favourite books and is unlikely to be removed.’
Rachel Malone, Historical Novel Review

Yvonne Harlech was born in Edinburgh and grew up in Montreal, Canada. She studied English Literature at Concordia University and now lives in Cheshire with her husband. She is the author of the historical novels Mistress of the Temple and Harp of Joy, set in ancient Egypt. The novels reflect her deep love for ancient Egypt, its dramatic history and rich heritage. The author is currently writing a novel about Romano-Britain, where great myths meet and cultures collide.

What is your book about?

It’s about a young girl who falls down the stairs and begins to remember a past life in ancient Egypt, and her journey to discover the past. Written as a time-slip it also follows the life of Bentreshy, a priestess in 1290 BC and her love affair with the pharaoh, King Sety I. Their lives are inextricably linked through time.


What inspired you to write this story?

I read about the life of Omm Sety, who had vivid memories of life in ancient Abydos and being the soul mate of King Sety I. I realised it was one of the world’s great love stories, a love that would never die, spanning three thousand years. I wanted to know more about Bentreshy and King Sety, and so I wrote their story as a novel.


Describe your writing in 3 words:

Magical, romantic, dramatic.


Do you have specific techniques to develop plot?

I write a detailed outline with a short chapter by chapter synopsis. But this often changes as I go along and the story takes on a life of its own. Sometimes I rein it in, other times I let it flow. The process is organic.


Are characters based on anyone you know?

The heroine is based on a real person, Dorothy Eady. But the fictional characters are all based on people I have met throughout my life…I often draw on real characters I have met as they feel more authentic to me. Sometimes I see someone in a restaurant and think, ‘yes–he is one of my characters!’ and then I discreetly take notes.


Was there any research?

I read many books on ancient Egypt, also on the Edwardian period up to the 1930’s. The ancient Egyptian part involved the most research: how they worshipped in the temples, about Isis and Osiris. I did a lot of research about the clothes, the food, how they lived and loved in ancient times.


What authors inspire or influence your work?

I loved historical fiction as a child, fantasy too. I love Mary Renault, Mary Stewart, Sarah Dunant, Charles Dickens. I think all these writers have influenced my work.

The inspiration? My mum has inspired me as she wrote children’s stories when I was growing up and always encouraged me to write.

Do you need visual media to describe people or places?

I am a great believer in visiting the places I am writing about to get the atmosphere first hand. I visited Abydos several times and wrote inside the temple, wandering around the columns, describing how I felt, what I saw. I like to use a collage board and collect images and objects that represent what I’m writing about. The characters come from every where, even someone I see in the street.


Favourite snack?

I always have a cup of tea on my desk and a packet of nuts, I’m a real little squirrel!


Do you have a Muse?

My main character actually becomes my Muse. She nudges me now and again, ‘come on, get me out of this place, I want to get home!’ That sort of thing.

Once a character is fully developed do you set them free or do they still dance around your mind?

I believe once a novel is written it belongs to the world, so yes, I set the character free. But they still inhabit my mind, until I get started on another project, then there isn’t enough room for old characters.


Is the Thesaurus one of your best writing friends?

I love the Thesaurus. Sometimes a word is on the tip of my tongue and the Thesaurus helps me find it. And if I feel I have used a word too often, I have a quick check. I use the online version and have it open while I write.


Who gets to read your drafts?

My husband is quite good at reading first drafts. I also have a good friend who is a poet and book editor. She reads everything before it goes to the publishers as I trust her honest feedback.


What is your biggest hurdle in the writing process?

Getting that first chapter written so that it runs smoothly. Once that is done the rest seems to flow.


What is your biggest marketing hurdle?

When I first started, I had no idea how to promote myself. It takes time out of writing and takes up so much time. I am not a fan of self-promotion. I prefer to write. But I have learned a lot in the last year: how to network with writers, bloggers and reviewers; the importance of using social media and having a website.


What projects are you working on now?

I am writing a novel set in ancient Rome and Britannia. I feel very excited about starting something completely different.


Is there anything you’d like to say to your readers?

Thank you for all your support, positive feedback. I love to hear from you all. The follow up, Harp of Joy will be out on kindle soon. You can find my book on: