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Michelle Moran '00 Delves Into History for Her Best-Selling Novels

Michelle Moran '01, best-selling author
Cleopatra's Daughter book cover

In her newest novel Cleopatra’s Daughter, Michelle Moran ’00 reconstructs a portrait of the orphaned children of Marc Anthony and the infamous Egyptian monarch. Moran picks up where many accounts end—the fateful days after Augustus Caesar’s troops marched into Egypt. The novel follows the children as they leave their homeland and adjust to life as political prisoners on Palatine Hill.

Written with a considerable foundation of research and hands-on experience at archaeological sites and historic places, Moran based her characters on what was preserved in the historical record.

“I begin by purchasing what feels like every book ever written on the subject I’m interested in. Sometimes that means our mail carrier will be delivering 60 books to my house in one week,” says Moran, who lives Northridge with her husband Matt Carter ‘01.

“It takes me several months to go through them, and when I feel like I have a pretty strong outline of my subject’s life, I make a storyboard and begin to look for holes. Whatever holes I find, I try to patch with an event that wouldn’t seem too far-fetched. If I run into trouble with a setting or a scene, I have friends in the archaeological world who can advise me on whether or not something I want to include is realistic.”

An English major at Pomona, Moran took an early interest in writing, archeology and history. She began submitting stories to publishers at age 12, and spent summers taking history and paleontology classes at the L.A. Natural History Museum. After Pomona, she spent a summer on an archaeological dig in Israel before returning to California to earn her MA from Claremont Graduate University. She’s since traveled the world extensively with her husband.

Moran was a high school teacher for six years before devoting herself to writing full time last year. Her first two novels, the best-selling Nefertiti (2007) and its sequel The Heretic Queen (2008), capture the intrigue and drama of the ancient Egyptian royal court. Cleopatra’s Daughter was published by Crown in September 2009.