Friday, September 16, 2011

Melanie McDonald - Eromenos - Giveaway & Author Interview

My thanks to Melanie McDonald for stopping by Tribute Books Reviews & Giveaways for an author interview about her book, Eromenos.

1. How did you come up with the title?
The word eromenos in ancient Greek referred to the beloved youth in a relationship between a man and a youth, in which the older man of the pair, the erastes, also taught the younger the responsibilities expected of him as a citizen. Later, the aristocratic Romans often emulated this pair bonding; Antinous was the eromenos, and Hadrian the erastes, in their relationship.

2. Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
No, there is no particular message, although it is a novel that addresses certain ideas or themes, such as questions of identity and self-determination, or how power affects love relationships and the individuals in those relationships.

3. How much of the book is realistic?

Most of the novel’s historical events and many of the characters are based in reality, including not only Antinous and Hadrian themselves, but also many of the individuals who make up the imperial court. Hadrian surrounded himself with philosophers, poets, physicians, artists and architects—those considered the brightest minds to be found in the empire. Characters such as Hadrian’s foster mother, Plotina, his wife, Sabina, and his mother-in-law, Matidia, also are real.

Some other characters and incidents, however, were invented in service of the story. For example, very little is known of Antinous’ family and early years before he joined the imperial court, so I only was able to attempt to imagine what his family and early childhood in Asia Minor (now Turkey) might have been. Antinous’ fellow students at the imperial school and many of the servants with whom Antinous interacts in the book are invented characters as well.

4. If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your book?
No, I wouldn’t. I researched the era and the empire as thoroughly as I could, and then used the information I found to write the novel, and although a book once written never seems to be the quite the same work in reality as it seemed in the writer’s imagination, I tried to write the best book possible, given my own understanding and limitations, and that’s all I could do if I did it all over again.

5. What was the hardest part of writing your book?
The ending was difficult to write, although more uplifting than I would have imagined before I began (perhaps I shouldn’t go into more detail here, in case there are any readers who may not yet be familiar with the historical account).

6. Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Yes, I learned that research is a pleasure when a story has become an obsession; at times it felt tempting to just keep doing more research, rather than write.

7. Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
When I was very small, I can remember being fascinated with the physical act of writing itself. I would scribble on sheets of paper and go show the scribbles to the nearest adult I could corner, often my mother or grandmother, hoping that this person who already could read would read it and tell me what I had written. I also drew in my books, either to redesign them to my satisfaction, or to add stories-in-pictures of my own. Thank heavens, the grown-ups were all very understanding.

8. Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Oh, that is a hard question—there are so many writers whose books have given such pleasure, and from whom I’ve learned so much about writing. Instead of going through that pantheon, I’ll just mention one writer I discovered in junior high school, whose work held me in thrall. Saki was the pen name of H. H. Munro, a British writer who was a World War I hero besides. His stories are mordant, sly, brutal and funny, and he wrote about werewolves long before they became cool. The details of his own death during the war almost seem lifted from one of his stories. As an officer, one of his many battlefield duties included discouraging the enlisted men from a wartime habit of sharing scarce matches to light cigarettes—a practice that gave enemy snipers time to sight on the flare of the struck match and pick off the second or third man. The men in his unit were doing exactly this when Munro himself was killed by a sniper’s bullet. According to later eyewitness reports, his last words were, “Put out that bloody—”

9. Tell us your latest news.
A short story, “The Purple Hat,” just appeared in the first issue of a new online magazine, Fiction Brigade, on September 1. I was delighted to have my work accepted for the premiere issue. The website is

10. Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Thank you for reading Eromenos—it’s always a thrill to hear someone enjoyed it. Nicole, thanks for inviting me to Tribute Books during the Eromenos virtual book tour.

About the Book

Book Details:
Price: $14.99, paperback & $2.99, Kindle
Publisher: Seriously Good Books LLC
Published: March 2011
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 176

Eros and Thanatos converge in the story of a glorious youth, an untimely death, and an imperial love affair that gives rise to the last pagan god of antiquity. In this coming-of-age novel set in the second century AD, Antinous of Bithynia, a Greek youth from Asia Minor, recounts his seven-year affair with Hadrian, fourteenth emperor of Rome. In a partnership more intimate than Hadrian's sanctioned political marriage to Sabina, Antinous captivates the most powerful ruler on earth both in life and after death.

This version of the affair between the emperor and his beloved ephebe vindicates the youth scorned by early Christian church fathers as a "shameless and scandalous boy" and "sordid and loathsome instrument of his master's lust." Eromenos envisions the personal history of the young man who achieved apotheosis as a pagan god of antiquity, whose cult of worship lasted for hundreds of years—far longer than the cult of the emperor Hadrian.

In Eromenos, the young man Antinous, whose beautiful image still may be found in works of art in museums around the world, finds a voice of his own at last.

I first encountered Antinous in Marguerite Yourcenar's novel Memoirs of Hadrian. Then I read that St. Athanasius described Antinous as a "shameless and scandalous boy." I decided to get to know him better.

At the Uffizi Museum in Florence, Italy, busts of Hadrian and Antinous reside along opposite sides of a long hall off one wing of galleries. What a shame to have separated them, I thought at first.

After a while, I saw what the museum curator must have known, as the river of museum visitors rushed past between them: how their relationship must have been affected, even eroded, by a constant torrent of people all seeking an audience with the emperor of eternal Rome, even before the two were parted forever by the Nile. The curator in charge of placement there in the great hall had got it right...

Creation, like compassion, calls for acts of imagination. The heart knows no gender or boundary, and lays claim where it will.

About the Author
Melanie McDonald

Melanie McDonald was awarded a 2008 Hawthornden Fellowship for

She has an MFA from the University of Arkansas. Her short stories have appeared in
New York Stories, Fugue, Indigenous Fiction, and online. An Arkansas native whose Campbell ancestors were Highland Scots, she now lives in Virginia with her husband, Kevin McDonald, the author of Above the Clouds: Managing Risk in the World of Cloud Computing.




About the Tour

Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Twitter Hashtag: #EromenosVirtualBookTour

Tour Participants:

Monday, July 18th

Author Guest Post at C.W. Gortner's Historical Boys

Thursday, July 21st

Monday, July 25th

Author Guest Post at Christy English's A Writer's Life: Working with the Muse
Review & Giveaway at Unabridged Chick

Friday, July 29th

Monday, August 1st

Author Interview at Unabridged Chick

Thursday, August 4th

Review at Bibrary Bookslut

Monday, August 8th

Thursday, August 11th

Review at Bonjour, Cass

Monday, August 15th

Thursday, August 18th

Author Guest Post at The Musings of a Book Junkie

Monday, August 22nd

Review & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books

Thursday, August 25th

Review & Giveaway at Broken Teepee
Author Guest Post at Nan Hawthorne's Booking History

Monday, August 29th

Review at The Book Garden

Thursday, September 1st

Author Guest Post at One Book Shy of a Full Shelf

Monday, September 5th

Author Guest Post at The True Book Addict
Review & Giveaway at One Book Shy of a Full Shelf

Thursday, September 8th

Review at The True Book Addict

Monday, September 12th

Review at Bibliotropic
Review at By the By Books

Thursday, September 15th

Review & Giveaway at A Bookish Affair

Friday, September 16th

Interview at Tribute Books Reviews

Monday, September 19th

Wednesday, September 21st

Author Interview at Historical Fiction Obsession

Monday, September 26th

Review at Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell

Congratulations to our winner: Colleen Turner!


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