Creative Writing Student and Soon-To-Be-Published Author Katie Teller on Researching Ancient Egypt

Creative Writing student Katie Teller is guesting today. She discusses what it was like to research her debut novel, Kiya: Hope of the Pharaoh, a new adult historical romance set in ancient Egypt. Welcome, Katie!

Katie Teller
Katie Teller

First up, thank you to Jill for allowing me to guest post here! I’m really excited about my debut NA Novel, Kiya: Hope of the Pharaoh. It’s is a Historical Romance due to be released in April by Curiosity Quills. It’s the first book in the trilogy following Naomi’s (Kiya) life. It’s set during the late 18th Dynasty of Egypt, and begins when she is taken to be a wife of the infamous heretic pharaoh Akhenaten.

This story took a lot of effort to write. With most of the characters being real historical figures, like Kiya herself, Akhenaten, Nefertiti, Horemheb, Ay, the three Queen daughters and Tutankhamen just to name a few, I needed to do a TON of reading and research on each and every one of them. I then had to figure out a timeline of events and line all their lives up. There was math involved (Yuk, I’m a writer, not a mathematician) to work out ages and corresponding dates.

I read up on Egyptian culture, especially during the Amarna period and the tension which ensued. The Amarna period was an enormous upheaval from the traditional ways as they moved the capital and disposed of all the gods except Aten. So I needed to understand a great deal about their religion too, and which god each of the characters favored and had to keep concealed.

I also read about daily living, what they wore, ate, how they went to the bathroom. All the small details counted to make it believable. With Naomi being Hebrew, that culture needed to be researched as well. The contrast between the Hebrews and Egyptians was dramatic, and a great source of internal conflict for Naomi. Being a stark believer in Elohim according to her people’s traditions, living in Amarna under the strict Aten only regime is hard for her and causes her trouble. After doing all this research I was finally able to begin. But as I wrote I found I needed to research more and more so I was in a continual state of shifting events to match which historical theories I wanted to slot into the plot line. Incredibly, I enjoyed every second of it. I’d recommend reading about the time period. Being more than 5000 years ago the history is in fragments, especially as later pharaohs (especially the 19th Dynasty kings) tried to erase the Amarna period from history, and tomb robbers desecrated the Valley of the Kings for its wealth. So historians often have contradicting ideas, but that was part of the fun of it! I could pick which theory I liked the most and use it in my plot.

Some books I used while doing my research are below:

  • Littleton, C. Scott. Mythology: The Illustrated Anthology of World Myth and Storytelling
  • Tyldesley, Joyce. Egypt’s Golden Empire: The Dramatic Story of Life in the New Kingdom
  • Hawass, Zahi. Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs

That’s only three books, but most of my research came from online journals, museum and university websites etc.

Here is a small excerpt as a teaser for you. This is where Naomi sees Akhenaten for the first time. (Oh and she’s only 18, just so you know)

He stepped in front of me and I found myself staring at the strangest looking man I had ever seen, and I felt repulsed at the prospect of becoming his wife. He was almost feminine in appearance, with round dark eyes and a long slender face, which seemed emphasized by the large white and gold crown he wore on his head. He had a fake beard attached to his chin but it appeared he was unable to grow facial hair. His shoulders were narrow and his hips wide and curved, and as he raised his hand to detach my veil I saw his fingers were like his toes, unusually long and slender.

As he removed the veil, his expression fell at the sight of me. “Horemheb, she is far too old.”

“She volunteered, my Lord,” Horemheb answered stepping up beside me. “The people were not pleased to see her leave either, she is regarded very highly. She is a fine choice for a bride.”

Akhenaten turned and walked away from me. “She does not please me.”

I saw Nefertiti smile to herself, before she said, “Come now my King. Horemheb is a loyal servant; he must have seen something worthwhile in her to have brought her to you.”

Akhenaten spun and glared at me. “Hebrews are supposed to be beautiful, above any other women. She is old and would be lucky to be called pleasant to behold.”

I glanced away, biting my tongue to hold back my words. Horemheb saw me and turned to me, bending down to say quietly, “Speak Naomi. Show him the fire I saw in you when you were protecting your sisters.”

My eyes darted to meet his as he nodded. I took a deep breath and looked to Akhenaten. I threw the white cape off and said, “You will not speak of me in such a demeaning manner. You required a wife from my people, so here I am.”

He turned back to me, surprised. He rushed at me and grabbed my shoulders roughly. “I could have you executed for such insolence!”

I heard Nefertiti laughing. “Oh Horemheb, trust you to pick one with such spirit.” She came over and gently pulled Akhenaten off of me. “She is a foolish slave girl who has forgotten her place because we have left them unchecked down in Thebes. She will learn her place soon enough.”

But Akhenaten was staring at me strangely as something began to dawn on him. “Hebrew, you spoke Egyptian.”

“I did,” I nodded.

He pushed Nefertiti aside and examined my face. “I thought only the men were taught such things.”

I lifted my chin defiantly. “I was an exception.”

He stepped around me to Horemheb. “She is educated?”

I saw Horemheb smile. “Does it please you my Lord?”

He turned and looked me over. “Come here, Hebrew.”

I looked to Horemheb who gave a subtle nod. I stepped over to Akhenaten and he pulled my hood off before examining my hair. “I guess she isn’t so bad.”

More About Katie

Born and raised in Australia, Katie’s early years of day dreaming in the “bush”, and having her father tell her wild bedtime stories, inspired her passion for writing. After graduating High School, she became a foreign exchange student where she met a young man who several years later she married. Now she lives in Arizona with her husband, daughter and their dog. She has a diploma in travel and tourism which helps inspire her writing. She is currently at school studying English and Creative Writing. Katie loves to out sing her friends and family, play sports and be a good wife and mother. She now works as a Clerk with a lien company in Arizona to help support her family and her schooling. She loves to write, and takes the few spare moments in her day to work on her novels.

Thanks for guest blogging today, Katie! Kiya: Hope of the Pharaoh will be out in April.  Cover art and purchase information should be available soon at Katie’s blog and/or the Curiosity Quills website. Katie’s also on Twitter: @katieteller1

So, writers, how about you? How much time do you spend researching? Do you like to research settings for your novels or is it just something you do because you need to?

Published by

Jill Archer

Jill Archer is the author of the Noon Onyx series, genre-bending fantasy novels including DARK LIGHT OF DAY, FIERY EDGE OF STEEL, WHITE HEART OF JUSTICE, and POCKET FULL OF TINDER.

5 thoughts on “Creative Writing Student and Soon-To-Be-Published Author Katie Teller on Researching Ancient Egypt

  1. Thanks guys for your support! Sorry I didn’t drop by sooner, crazy day 🙂 But yeah, historicals are a lot of fun if you have the patience for the research!

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