Today I am interviewing Maya Deane, author of the new fantasy novel, Wrath Goddess Sing!
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DJ: Hi Maya! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview!
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Maya Deane: “As I was sitting down to this interview, I heard about the murder of a trans woman and the acquittal of her killer. They had gone out on a date together a month before he killed her; then he tracked her down a month later and broke every bone in her face. At a time like this, when trans women’s lives are under constant peril and what little progress we’ve made is threatened by total annihilation, I think the most salient thing about me is that I am a trans woman, and will live or die with other trans women. In happier times, I might also add that I am a genuinely strange woman, a linguist’s daughter, a poet, obsessed with history, mad for cats, glorious in jewelry, skilled in the ways of food, cunning with makeup, and, no lie, an instructor in meme analysis. But all of that is beside the point when the lives of my sisters can be ended, free of consequences to their murderers, because one man decided to go back and murder his Tinder date and there was at least one transmisogynist on the jury, happy to rebrand the trans panic murder defense as something like ‘fear of mistaken gender identity.’”
DJ: What is Wrath Goddess Sing about?
Maya: Wrath Goddess Sing is about divine anger and love. It is the story of Achilles, a woman like me – and a legendary warrior – who fled to the island of Skyros to live as herself, far from the cruelty of the world outside. But war followed her to Skyros, and the heroes of the Achaians demanded that she fight for them to recover the lost Hittite princess Helen, whom the Achaians viewed as an innocent kidnapping victim cruelly ripped from her husband’s people. Naturally, Achilles had no interest in fighting for her old oppressors, but when her divine mother the Silent One offered her everything to fight – and destroyed the bubble of safety she built for herself on Skyros – Achilles went to war. There she found death – and love.
DJ: What were some of your influences for Wrath Goddess Sing?
Maya: They are innumerable, but I owe a particular debt to Tanith Lee, who taught me that stories can be spells and that love can become more powerful than any god. I also owe a debt to the late Shannon Andrews, who encouraged me to tell the truth and never coddle my readers, and to Alina Boyden, who taught me so much about the way transmisogyny constrains trans women’s lives – and taught me how we must, with absolute resourcefulness and indomitable bloody-mindedness in the face of it all, persist, thrive, grow, and live.
DJ: Could you briefly tell us a little about your main characters? Do they have any cool quirks or habits, or any reason why readers with sympathize with them?
Maya: “Achilles is cruel and generous, selfish and utterly devoted, ferocious and frightened, tender and monstrous. Like all of us, she contains great light and awful darkness. When her thoughts wander, when her heart tires, she gazes at the world around her, admiring the shape of a leaf, the invisible flutter of the wind in the grass, the underwater pressure of a wave blowing through the seaweed. The poetry of physics lulls and delights her; the poetry of combat brings an aesthetic joy to moments of utmost brutality; the constant awareness of suffering and sorrow darkens happy moments others take for granted.
Where Achilles is fire and shadow and song, Patroklos is warmth and tenderness and prudence, genuinely kind and calm and thoughtful, slow to anger, sometimes diffident, courageous in ways he barely credits, for his virtues are things he considers common decency, and his limitations fill his awareness.
Patroklos’s wife Meryapi is the daughter of Henuttawy the daughter of Nefertari, and as such is a granddaughter of the Great King of Egypt whom the Greeks call Osymandyas. A sorceress, proud and clever, every nerve vibrating with intellectual life and knowledge, Meryapi refuses to accept ignorance in any form, and will never back down from the consequences of knowing. She, more than anyone, refuses to allow Achilles the divine gloom and the doomed glory to which Achilles so easily resigns herself.
Finally, the Silent One, called Athena by the Achaians, is an ancient immortal, survivor of countless divine wars, who has, at last, given birth to a daughter of her soul – Achilles. Inscrutable to most, impossibly lonely, full of the souls of fallen mortals she loved but never truly understood, the isolated goddess now risks her own eternal life to protect her strange tempestuous half-mortal daughter, though she cannot quite say why.
DJ: Aside from the main characters in the story, who is a favorite side character or a character with a smaller role in the story? Why?
Maya: “At one point, we meet and become close with Automedon, a Myrmidon warrior who is quick to remind Achilles that he did not join in her childhood persecution, that he was a child too, and that, although he might not understand her, this is why he asks questions, no matter how foolish, and has no shame in his ignorance. It’s one of the few times Achilles realizes that not everyone in her old life despised her, and that many people are willing to grow with her, and just need to learn how. Automedon is sweet, blunt, and crude, and I love him a lot.”
DJ: What is the world and setting of Wrath Goddess Sing like?
Maya: “This book is set in the late Bronze Age of the eastern Mediterranean, like the Iliad before it. But the 13th century BCE is nothing like the popular conception of the “Iliad setting,” which most modern readers think of as taking place in an unspecified Hellenistic Mythology Land. To Homer, of course, this was history, or at most historical fiction, set in a real place and at a real time, when Ramesside Egypt was the superpower of the world system, when massive transcontinental trade routes linked Wales and Korea with everything in between, when the interdependent polities of Anatolia and Mesopotamia and Greece and Egypt and Syria existed in a complex cosmopolitan order. It was a beautiful world of high technology not matched for another thousand years, of trade that the Romans would envy, a world before money as we know it. A world dominated by kings in great palaces, to be sure, but one that in many ways disrupts our ideas about history proceeding in the direction of “progress” – for in that world, many societies had equal pay for women, contraception, a better place for trans people than European societies would have again until the 2010s CE, and more.
DJ: What was your favorite part about writing Wrath Goddess Sing?
DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it?
DJ: Did you have a particular goal when you began writing Wrath Goddess Sing? Was there a particular message or meaning you are hoping to get across when readers finish it? Or is there perhaps a certain theme to the story?
Maya: “Like so many trans women, I have put all my remaining hope in the power of magic to save our world. And so this book is a spell. I wove it to reshape the world – my world, and hopefully many other worlds besides. I’m keenly interested in what readers think of this book and what they take away from it, but I’m even more interested in how it reveals them to themselves – or changes them.”
DJ: When I read, I love to collect quotes – whether it be because they’re funny, foodie, or have a personal meaning to me. Do you have any favorite quotes from Wrath Goddess Sing that you can share with us?
Maya: “No good comes from talking to dolphins.”
DJ: Now that Wrath Goddess Sing is released, what is next for you?
Maya: “My next book reimagines the Joseph in Egypt legend from Genesis, bringing it to life amid the strange, beautiful, blood-soaked, imperialist world of late-18th dynasty Ancient Egypt. Hopefully I get to publish it.”
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
Amazon Author Page: Amazon
DJ: Before we go, what is that one thing you’d like readers to know about Wrath Goddess Sing that we haven’t talked about yet?
Maya: You can preview the first two chapters here!
DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!
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***Wrath Goddess Sing is published by William Morrow & Company and is available TODAY!!!***
Buy the Book:
Amazon | Goodreads
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About the Book:
Drawing on ancient texts and modern archeology to reveal the trans woman’s story hidden underneath the well-known myths of The Iliad, Maya Deane’s Wrath Goddess Sing weaves a compelling, pitilessly beautiful vision of Achilles’ vanished world, perfect for fans of Song of Achilles and the Inheritance trilogy.
The gods wanted blood. She fought for love.
Achilles has fled her home and her vicious Myrmidon clan to live as a woman with the kallai, the transgender priestesses of Great Mother Aphrodite. When Odysseus comes to recruit the “prince” Achilles for a war against the Hittites, she prepares to die rather than fight as a man. However, her divine mother, Athena, intervenes, transforming her body into the woman’s body she always longed for, and promises her everything: glory, power, fame, victory in war, and, most importantly, a child born of her own body. Reunited with her beloved cousin, Patroklos, and his brilliant wife, the sorceress Meryapi, Achilles sets out to war with a vengeance.
But the gods–a dysfunctional family of abusive immortals that have glutted on human sacrifices for centuries–have woven ancient schemes more blood-soaked and nightmarish than Achilles can imagine. At the center of it all is the cruel, immortal Helen, who sees Achilles as a worthy enemy after millennia of ennui and emptiness. In love with her newfound nemesis, Helen sets out to destroy everything and everyone Achilles cherishes, seeking a battle to the death.
An innovative spin on a familiar tale, this is the Trojan War unlike anything ever told, and an Achilles whose vulnerability is revealed by the people she chooses to fight…and chooses to trust.
About the Author:
Maya Deane first retold the Iliad at the age of six.
Athena was the protagonist; all six pages were typed up on a Commodore 64; there were many spelling errors. (She has only doubled down since then.)
A graduate of the University of Maryland and the Rutgers-Camden MFA, Maya lives with her fiancée of many years, their dear friend, and two cats named after gods. She is a trans woman, bisexual, and fond of spears, books, and jewelry. Aphrodite smiles upon her.