From Dana Taylor: I was so impressed with the way Suzanne Tyrpak made ancient Greece come alive in HETAERA, I asked her to talk about what inspires her to delve into historical backgrounds. Turns out she’s another seeker of Feminine Empowerment.
Congratulations to Alex Fatcow and Sue Vanderpool on winning a copy of one of Suzanne books. Interesting discussion!
Drama Queens are often high maintenance so, in these days of economy, they’ve fallen out of favor, but as a writer of historical suspense, I adore these high-strung ladies. Their dramatic antics bring history to life.
In school, history was one of my least favorite subjects. Who cared about wars and politics, the death of kings, boring dates and facts? For me, opening a history book guaranteed a nap.
My interest in history developed from my love of theater and my desire to be an actor. Plays brought the past to life: dialogue, emotions, scenes filled with intrigue and drama. I threw myself into my characters. Wanting to know what they ate, what they wore, how they spent an average day—I did research on the times in which they lived. To my dismay, I found very little about day-to-day life in history books and close to nothing written about the roles of women. Even queens got little mention in comparison to kings, warriors, and other men. Hoping to understand the world of the characters I played, I spent time in museums studying jewelry, fragments of pots, and other household goods. I found taking on the roles of women in plays granted me a deeper insight into history than wading through tomes written by historians.
After reading and performing the plays of Shakespeare, I became interested in the origins of theater. I stumbled on the Greeks. As an aspiring drama queen, I felt at home with murderous Medea, revengeful Electra, and two-timing Clytemnestra—the fabulous, strong (and often insane) women who populate ancient Greek drama.
My latest book, Hetaera—suspense in ancient Athens, part one of the Agathon’s Daughter trilogy, is the result of my long-time interest in the Greeks. I love bringing ancient women to life. Through the eyes of women history is revealed to us in a way often lacking in the history books. I want to take my readers on a journey, steep them in another time, allowing them to taste the food, smell the air, experience how it might feel to live in another time. Of course, because I love a fast-paced story, I add a fair amount of intrigue, romance, and murder into the mix.
Although I just released HETAERA, I began writing the book about eight years ago. I got side-tracked from that book while visiting Italy. I fell in love with Rome and the result was my debut novel, Vestal Virgin—suspense in ancient Rome. A travel book I read contained a short blurb about vestal virgins; it mentioned they were sworn to thirty years of chastity and, if that vow were broken, they would be entombed alive.
That got me going! Plus, on a tour of the Coliseum, a guide pointed out the seats designated to the vestal virgins—the six priestess of Vesta were educated, and therefore powerful, at a time when most women weren’t even taught to read. Vestals were wealthy, paid a stipend, and, unlike other Roman women, they could own property. When I began my research, very little had been written about them—that gave me a lot of leeway. With the reopening of their temple inRome last year curiosity about these amazing priestesses continues to accelerate.
Through my historical suspense novels, I hope, not only to entertain, but to give voice to women who have been silenced through the passing of time. These women, these drama queens, have so much to share with us about what it means to be human. How can we, as a society, hope to understand ourselves if half of our story is missing?
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