Featured Author: Maria Luisa Lang
Q: In one sentence, tell me something that describes you as a person?
A: I’m a self-published author, a cat-lover, an amateur Egyptologist, and a New Yorker born in Rome who has spent a lot time enjoying England’s beauty, friendliness, and flea markets.
Q: How many books have you written? How many of those are published?
A: I’ve written two novels. Both have been published. The Pharaoh’s Cat (May 16, 2015) and The Eye of Nefertiti: A Pharaoh’s Cat Novel (November 29, 2016). The latter is both a sequel and a stand-alone novel.
Q: Do you have an upcoming release? If yes, tell me the title and impending release date.
A: I’m planning a third Pharaoh’s Cat novel. My working title is The Tears of Nefertiti. I hope to publish it later this year or early next year.
Q: Tell me about how you come up with your titles for your stories. Do you create the title before or after you write the book, and does it ever change from the initial title?
A: I had the title of my first novel almost as soon as I started writing. The Pharaoh’s Cat identifies and connects the two major characters. The Eye of Nefertiti, the title of my second novel took far more thought. I considered “The Lady of Mystery.” Initially I felt I shouldn’t mention Nefertiti so her appearance would come as a surprise. But when I started to design the cover image, I felt I had to include her famous bust with the missing left eye. It would have been foolish to depict Nefertiti without naming her, and quite frankly I felt her name in the title would be alluring.
Q: Out of all your characters in all of your books, who/what (sometimes a setting can also be an important “character”)do you think is the most interesting and why?
A: The cat, obviously. He has my sense of humor and my sense of justice. Though my novels are fantasy, the other characters I find interesting are close to reality. The Pharaoh and the High Priest of Amun-Ra are based on real people in the sense that they have counterparts in ancient Egyptian history, and I did have Tutankhamen in mind when I created the cat’s pharaoh. Nefertiti was a real person, and my Nefertiti is based on her, in that I used the little known about her in my characterization.
Q: If you could “create” your own genre of what you write, what would you call your books?
A: I describe my novels as comedy, fantasy, historical. Had I limited myself to a single genre, I couldn’t have written the novel I wanted to, a novel that reflected my interests and personality. I’d been inspired not only by my love of cats and fascination with ancient Egypt, but also by the creative freedom of comedy and fantasy.
Q: Without quoting your back cover synopsis, tell me about the last book you published.
A: The Eye of Nefertiti begins about where The Pharaoh’s Cat ended. The cat, the Pharaoh, the High Priest, and Elena are living together in her home in New York City when their domestic bliss is interrupted. The cat learns he’s about to embark on a journey, Elena is summoned to Bath, and the cat and the High Priest attempt to follow her in the magic boat, which, as in The Pharaoh’s Cat, takes them through time. They finally make it to Bath, but then go on a mission back to ancient Egypt . . . One will have to read the book to learn how Nefertiti and the eye missing from her bust fit into the story!
Q: Tell me something about yourself that is separate from writing.
A: I don’t think I can! I write from life. I live on the Upper West Side of New York City, and as I did in The Pharaoh’s Cat, I used my neighborhood as one of the settings in The Eye of Nefertiti. In Nefertiti my cat leaves New York for Bath, England, before returning to ancient Egypt. I’ve spent a lot of time in Bath and know the beautiful Georgian city quite well. It’s one of my favorite places. When I was planning my sequel, I knew Bath would play a major part in it. Also, I enjoy going to flea markets, and my cat visits a Bath flea market.
Q: Who is your favorite Author?
A: I have two favorite authors, Kingsley Amis (Lucky Jim, Ending Up) and Mikhail Bulgakov (Heart of a Dog and The Master and Margarita).
Q: What is the last book that you read? (Not counting anything you wrote)
A: The final book in Ruth Rendell’s Inspector Wexford series.
Q: When writing, do you have a system or something you plan, or do you just write?
A: Three things came together prompting me to write The Pharaoh’s Cat: my love of cats, my fascination with ancient Egypt, and my desire, given how much I enjoy comedy, to make ancient Egypt funny. I couldn’t help creating an wise-cracking ancient Egyptian cat as my protagonist and narrator. After the cat came two people who love him, the Pharaoh and the High Priest, and the ogre who hates him, the Vizier, the Pharaoh’s uncle. Out of their distinctive personalities came their relationships with one another, and the plot is the story of how those relationships evolved.
When I was still writing The Pharaoh’s Cat, I knew that there would be a sequel. I couldn’t abandon my cat or his little family and felt he could further evolve emotionally and psychologically if he faced new obstacles and experienced new feelings. I also knew Nefertiti would be a character. I’ve always been fascinated by her famous bust and the part she played in Egyptian history. I spent many months researching Nefertiti and figuring out how to bring her and my cat together.
Q: Why do you write?
A: I’ve sketched and painted, and writing seemed a natural extension. Writing may be in my blood. My mother wrote a memoir of her experiences in Rome during the war, and one of my brothers is an Italian art critic and the author of several books and numerous articles.
Q: Do you read your own work a lot? If so, what does it do for you?
A: I do, and then I rewrite a lot! There’s always something, major or minor, that needs improvement. There also always seems to be a way of making my writing more concise. Secondary characters are a good example. Though they play a small part in the story, they still have to be given distinctive personalities, and because their parts are small, that has to done with few well-chosen words.
Q: What is your favorite type of music? Is there one genre (or song, band etc...) that brings out your creativeness more than others?
A: I love Italian opera. My cat’s fascination with Norma is a key element in The Eye of Nefertiti. But when I write, I prefer silence. I get my best ideas at night when it’s very silent.
Q: As an author, I find that the hardest thing to write (for me) is the synopsis that will be on the back cover or book’s description. When you write, what is the hardest line to write, the first line, the last line or the synopsis for the book?
A: When writing The Pharaoh’s Cat, I learned that a novel’s first chapter was the most important and the hardest. That goes double for the first chapter of The Eye of Nefertiti. For the novel to stand alone, I had to have the cat summarize key plot points of the first novel and explain his human attributes, but without interrupting the flow of the narrative. Then I had to make sure that what’s known about Nefertiti and her famous bust with the missing eye would be fully compatible with what I invented.
Q: Any final thoughts that you want to give to your fans or even future authors?
A: The Eye of Nefertiti is fast-paced, but I’d like to ask that it be read it slowly so it can be savored. This is the only advice I can give to future authors: Draw on yourself. Don’t try to please an imaginary reader. It will only inhibit you and your writing will reflect that.