Happy book birthday to The Emeralf Tablet!! I recieved a copy of this book from the publisher and I enjoyed it so much that there will be two blog posts about it!!
I was lucky enough to be asked to send off some interview questions to the author for this very special occasion. My next blog post on this will be my review of The Emerald Tablet.
Many thanks to the publisher and the author for answering my questions.
1. I loved the Emerald Tablet, where did the inspiration for this novel come from?
Thank you! I’m so glad you enjoyed it. The story evolved from my fascination with three things – archaeology (obviously!), alchemy, and the history and politics of the Middle East. I wanted to take Benedict and his female nemesis to a seismic moment in modern history. The world is still grappling with the consequences of the Suez Crisis, which is the backdrop for The Emerald Tablet, but the invasion of the Sinai Peninsula was so mind-blowingly short-sighted, I decided I wanted to come up with a reason for why it occurred! Enter alchemy. I don’t want to elaborate too much on that here (no spoiler alerts!), but The Emerald Tablet is an exploration of a time, and a way of thinking, that had the potential to change the world we live in. This is alchemy, not as esoteric mumbo-jumbo, but as science and philosophy. After all, Isaac Newton was an alchemist – true story!
2. Was there a lot of research involved in writing the Emerald Tablet?
Absolutely. You’d have to work hard to find a single line in the book that didn’t involve research! The historical background involved months of reading contemporary material about the Suez Crisis and the evolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict. In The Emerald Tablet, you see a very different world order to the one we know today, with the dying gasp of the colonial empires of Great Britain and France, and the rise of the US and USSR as superpowers. I crafted the newspaper articles that punctuate the book from hundreds of actual newspaper accounts; all the quotes attributed to actual people are direct quotes from the time. But even at the most basic level, everything I wrote required research – for example, if Benedict was to settle down for a drink on the foreshore in Alexandria in 1956, where, exactly, might that have been, and what would he have been looking at out the window? Everything you read in The Emerald Tablet, in terms of historical detail and setting, is true to the period. I only started making things up when I got to the narrative aspects of the story!
Benedict’s an amalgam of various people, some real, some fictional. The seed of his character was inspired by my own father, who was a clever, charismatic and very charming man, and could also be his own worst enemy (sound familiar?!). It also won’t be any great surprise to learn that I was a ridiculously huge fan of Indiana Jones when I was a very young thing… yes, for better or worse, childhood obsessions can lead you to a career – and a husband (that’s another story)! But what has continued to fascinate me about characters like Benedict, and Indiana, is how they are relics of a bygone age, much like the things they’re uncovering from beneath the soil. Benedict’s self-sabotage is borne of an inability to adapt to a changing world. And my female protagonist in The Emerald Tablet signifies that shift – she’s a brilliant woman fighting to assert herself in a world that’s dominated by ruthless men. Benedict’s the past, and she’s the future.
4. What draws you to writing historical adventure novels?
The simple answer is that I love history. But as a historian and an archaeologist myself, I know that the way history is often presented to a non-specialist audience is as dry as a bowl of chips… and not nearly as irresistable! And that’s a tragedy. Humankind is missing out on so much by not looking to the lessons of history to build a better world. Never has that been more evident than today, when we’re happily surrendering so many of the hard-won institutions that have protected our freedoms and way of life. So, more than anything, I want to bring history to life for readers by crafting stories that are exciting and engaging, but also look at how our society came to be as it is today. I try to do the same thing in my work as a writer for film and television – tune in to watch a food program I’ve written, and without even realising it, you’ll be taking a journey into history as well!
5. If you could give your past self a writing tip what would it be?
Don’t be afraid or daunted by what seems an insurmountable task… just do it. That thing you’re writing that will never see the light of day? It’s not a waste of time; it’s training – it would be called a practice match if you were a footballer. It will only make you better. So don’t give up.
6. Do you have a particular drink or snack that you have to have while you are writing?
Well, right now, I’m drinking a particularly delicious home-brewed strawberry and apple kombucha! But my usual go-to would have to be a good coffee. Latte, no sugar. Which means I drink far more coffee than is probably good for my health. But, coffee. Who can resist, right? Particularly living in Melbourne as I do. Mmm. Coffee. Might have to make myself one now!
7. If you could meet any author dead or alive who would it be?
Oh, no. That’s a hard one. Just one? Really? OK. Because, in another world, I would really have liked to live her life: Gertrude Bell.
8. What are you currently reading?
The Bad Ass Librarians of Timbuktu, by Joshua Hammer. Why? Well, The Emerald Tablet and my previous novel, The Honourable Thief, are fictional accounts of the world of antiquities theft. But Hammer writes about real events – the book is a compelling account of the salvage of hundreds of thousands of precious Islamic documents from the hands of Al Qaida militants. It’s part of the research I’m undertaking towards the development of a documentary series sparked by my two novels that looks at the worldwide trade in stolen antiquities
9. What is your current tv binge?
A supreme irony is that I work in TV, but, between writing novels and scripts, I don’t end up with much time to watch it! So ‘binge’ is overstating it. Think, instead, of me grabbing an episode when I find that I have an hour spare, or my brain hurts and refuses to work anymore. I think of it as ‘strolling’. So I’m strolling through Game of Thrones (is there a history enthusiast out there who doesn’t love it?) and the third season of The Handmaid’s Tale – a fearsome cautionary tale for the future crafted from lessons from history.
10. Any hints to what you might be working on in the future?
Absolutely. I’m developing a sequel to The Emerald Tablet, and I also have another idea for a novel that’s germinating. It’s set in the contemporary world and has a female protagonist who is – surprise, surprise – an archaeologist!
Thanks so much for answering my questions!!
About the author – Meaghan Wilson-Anastasios spent her formative years in Melbourne before travelling and working
as an archaeologist in the Mediterranean and Middle East. She holds a PhD in art history and cultural
economics, has been a lecturer at the University of Melbourne and was a fine art auctioneer. More
recently, Meaghan now uses her expertise to write and research for film and TV. She lives in
Melbourne with her husband and their two children. The Water Diviner was her first novel, which
she co-wrote with her husband Andrew. The Honourable Thief was her first solo novel.
Let me know if you think you might be planning to read this one and keep an eye out for my review!