Hello lovely bookish souls! I am beyond thrilled to be bringing to you all, an interview with Meaghan Wilson Anastasios! This amazing author penned her debut novel The Honourable Thief- where I met and got to obsess over her creations Benedict Hitchens, and the mystifying Eris. In The Emerald Tablet, I feel like my obsession went to a whole new level! This has been one of my very most all time favourite historical novels, ever! I urge everyone to read these books!
I have highlighted Meaghan’s answers in italics, now read on and enjoy!
1. In The Honourable Thief, we meet quite possibly the most handsome and daring archeologist in existence, Benedict Hitchens – but we know that he’s gone through a fair bit of turmoil and is fighting his inner demons – what I’m getting to, is in The Emerald Tablet, he finds himself in the midst of those demons again, so he’s still clearly haunted by what happened all that time ago. When I read the scene where Ben is so clearly enraged, I just felt so sad for him – Ben is a great guy, I think: so what made you revisit his inner demons? Because I personally think that it’s the one thing that veers him off course during his quest in this book?
Benedict thanks you, both for your flattering description of him, and for your concern about his mental health and wellbeing! As to why I didn’t want to let him off the hook just yet – quite simply, I wanted to depict responses that are a little closer to the real-world impact of traumatic experiences. If it was possible to just ‘move on’ from something that has scarred us, emotionally, then the lives we live would be much more straight-forward. Benedict endured a horrendous loss, and it just didn’t feel authentic to me that he would just pack that up in a little box and pop it in the back of his mental garden shed, never to be seen again.
2. We learn a lot more about Eris in this book, honestly when I met her again I could not stop grinning! It’s wonderful to have this beautiful, smart, fierce lady that can well and truly hold her own against any man- I realise, like us all, she has her weakness (possibly in another character, *wink*), but can I ask, how were you able to give us this amazing backstory? The scene where she visits her childhood home totally tugs at my heartstrings: what was your inspiration for her childhood life?
I need to be careful here not to give too much away! But it’s great to hear that you’re fan-girling a bit over her. I’ve got a bit of a crush on her as well! She is a very complex character, and really needed an epic backstory to explain how and why she’s evolved into the woman she is when we meet her in The Emerald Tablet. With where I wanted to take Eris, she needed to have cut her ties with her family completely, and I needed a good reason for why that might have happened. I’ve always been fascinated with the history and politics of the Middle East, and the events that transpired there in the first part of the twentieth century provided the perfect crucible to give birth to a character like Eris and help shape her view of the world.
3. Can I ask, what gave you the history bug? I’ve always been fascinated by it myself, and frankly you’ve become one of my favourite and most recommended historical authors, I’m often raving about your The Honourable Thief to customers at work and I can’t wait to tell everyone about The Emerald Tablet!
Thank you! That’s fantastic to hear. Let’s face it – for those of us who know it well and love it, history is the world’s longest-running and most entertaining narrative. Game of Thrones has nothing on history (though, I do love GoT, too!) What gave me the bug? Well, I grew up in a house stuffed to the rafters with history and art books, and I spent countless hours as a child sitting cross-legged in front of my parents’ bookshelves, poring through their pages. A real turning point for me was the AD79 Pompeii exhibition in Melbourne; I was transfixed by the plaster casts of the men and women who perished in the eruption of Vesuvius. It was history in the flesh, quite literally, and confirmed for me that history isn’t something that’s dusty and irrelevant; it’s a story of humanity populated by people like you and me.
4. I love how “The Emerald Tablet” is told from both Ben and ‘Essie’s’ POV, from the get go I essentially had a giddy grin on my face, just knowing how occupied these two are in terms of thinking of one another! Now, they’re looking for the same thing in terms of their quest, but their paths rarely cross – even though it certainly comes close: please tell me how fun these scenes were to write? And how did you effortlessly jump from Ben’s narrative to Essie’s?
It was enormous fun. It felt as if I was the only person who really knew what was going on – the puppetmaster pulling the strings! Although, that’s not entirely accurate, because the truth is that the characters drive the story itself. It sounds odd, but it really is as if they take up residence in my mind. Switching from one to another was no different, and no more difficult, than turning from one dining companion to another at a dinner party, and listening to their stories.
5. A question I always find satisfying to read author’s answers to: what piece of advice would you give to anyone who may be aspiring to be a writer?
Just do it. The more you write, the easier it becomes, and even if you have to toss out a fair amount of it, just the process of doing it has made you a better, and more confident writer. Nothing you will do is wasted effort. And don’t be daunted by the scale of what might seem an insurmountable project. Take baby-steps, even if you just write in tiny little grabs when you get moments to yourself. I do some of my best work in the back of the car on the laptop while I’m waiting for the kids to finish sport training! Writing really is a discipline, and it requires practise… and self-discipline.
6. I expect you probably can’t say much, but I must indulge my curiosity: can you clue us in to what might be happening with Benedict Hitchens next?
Oh, you’ve read the end, Brooklyn. So you’re one of the few people, at this point, who knows that it’s very difficult to say what might be happening next without committing some major spoiler-crimes! Things are never straight-forward for Benedict, and it won’t be any different this time. Though circumstances mean that he’s going to have to put his life on the line for someone other than himself. Suffice to say, there will be more history, more action, and more political intrigue and danger, with a good amount of romance thrown in. Of course, I’ll be taking you to some pretty spectacular places and including enough shocks and surprises to keep you on the edge of your seat. But unfortunately, that’s about all I can say at this stage!
7. And a bit of bookish fun to close: What are you currently reading? What have you been reading? What are some of your reading highlights this year?
I’m currently reading ‘The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu’ by Joshua Hammer – it’s a riveting non-fiction book about a group of librarians who risked their lives to rescue a priceless collection of Islamic manuscripts from the hands of al-Qaeda terrorists. Sharing the bedside table with that is Jock Serong’s gripping historical-fiction novel, ‘Preservation’. It’s a brilliant piece of writing that definitely counts as one of my reading highlights for the year. Another would be Madeleine Miller’s ‘Circe’. Homer’s ‘Odyssey’ has always been a favourite of mine, and Miller’s tale of the island-bound enchantress who bewitches Odysseus is – pardon the pun! – absolutely spellbinding.
A huge thank you to Meaghan Wilson Anastasios for answering these questions! 🙂
You can add The Honourable Thief to your TBR here:
And The Emerald Tablet: