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One of the best things I have found about being a bookworm is the ability to explore so many different genres. What I often find surprising is that genres like fantasy or science fiction, books that feel out of my comfort zone of reading, are often my favorite books of the year. Today I am sharing a book that takes a modern spin on Greek mythology in a fresh new way and Greek mythology certainly feels out of my comfort zone! Growing up I had a very limited exploration of it in my literature classes so the idea of Greek mythology is a little intimidating to me. Is it to you?
I don’t want you to be intimidated by that though because today’s author, Jordanna Max Brodsky, not only builds a compelling story built on these themes, but she also provides a very thorough glossary for you to help assist those of us that aren’t as familiar with Greek mythology as she is.
She creates a thriller experience exploring a serial killer on the loose in Manhattan whose murders follow Greek themes and rituals as you try to uncover the killer involved in the killing spree.
The Immortals is an ambitious modern day retelling of Greek mythology set in the city of Manhattan. Selene, also known as Artemis, is a woman intent on making men pay for crimes against women. Amidst her vengeance on these men, she stumbles upon the body of a young woman washed ashore, who has been gruesomely mutilated and wreathed in laurel. She finds her ancient rage returning and forms an unlikely partnership with the woman’s former lover as they try to figure out who this serial killer is that is performing ritualistic killings in their city. Fans of Greek mythology will swim in this fresh retelling of these ancient stories.
Publishers Weekly states, “This intelligent, provocative fantasy breathes exciting new life into old, familiar tales.” Her book also has been selected as a Barnes & Noble Bookseller’s Pick as well as Amazon’s Best Book of the Month.
I am so honored to have Jordanna join us today to share about the research and travel she did to create this fresh spin on Greek mythology. Jordanna is also sharing a copy of her book to share with one lucky reader! Scroll down to enter!
Now grab your coffee and let’s settle in for a chat with Jordanna about the debut of her new Olympus Bound book series!
As a debut novelist, tell me about your excitement to have your novel selected not only as Barnes & Noble’s Bookseller’s Pick, but also as an Amazon Best Book of the Month? What has been the most surprising part about writing and publishing your first book?
It’s always thrilling to have your book recognized, and I certainly hope the extra publicity will help spread the word.
I always thought the most exciting single moment would be seeing my book on the shelf at a store—everything would finally seem real. But surprisingly, the best thing by far is hearing from total strangers about how much they’re enjoying it. As a passionate reader, I’ve always loved sinking into a book and having it come to life around me. Knowing that I’ve provided that pleasure to others is absolutely awesome.
You explore Greek mythology and all the gods & goddesses that go along with it through a uniquely modern day twist set in the city of Manhattan. What compelled you to write a modern day retelling of Greek mythology and why did you choose this city, in particular, to set the scene for this story?
Like so many people, my love of Greek mythology began when I was a kid. I tore through D’Aulaires Greek Myths, and I still remember getting to the end and wondering, And then what happened? The book implies that the gods’ statues fell, their temples crumbled, and they just disappeared. Ever since, I’ve dreamed of changing that ending.
Approaching the story as an adult, I began to see that the Greek gods provide all sorts of opportunities for exploring themes far deeper than those I recognized as a child: the intersection of myth and history, the question of who creates identity, the evolution of perceptions of gender and virginity, and age-old arguments about the desirability of immortality. The Immortals explores all those questions and more.
the blockhouse in central park- image from wikipedia
As for the setting, putting the ancient Greek gods in quintessentially modern New York City may seem like a stretch, but for me it was a no-brainer. Manhattan is actually the oldest big city in America—it stretches all the way back to the early 1600s. It’s old enough and big enough to hold secrets. As a New Yorker myself, I’m always struck by how many historical sites are tucked between the skyscrapers, unbeknownst to tourists or even long-term residents. My favorite: an 1814 defensive blockhouse perched on a hill in the north end of Central Park, surrounded by thick forest. You can see the midtown skyline from there, but you feel like you’ve stepped back in time.
My Artemis, the Goddess of the Wilderness, came to a tree-covered island inhabited by the Lenni Lenape Indians four hundred years ago, and she’s lived here ever since, watching the city grow up around her. Now she prowls the last wild spaces in Central Park, still clinging to her memories of the past.
Your chapters have very unique titles that I understand all came from epithets, which you had a plethora of them to choose from since Artemis has over 300 epithets alone just to describe herself! Did you have a favorite and how did you decide to settle upon epithets for chapter titles?
My favorite epithet is “Relentless One” because it embodies both the best and the worst of Artemis’s personality.
The idea of using the epithets for chapter titles actually came from my friend and agent, Jennifer Joel. I immediately latched on to it because Artemis’s abundance of epithets is one of her most appealing traits.
Each name embodies a different aspect of her personality, and many are completely contradictory. She’s the Punisher and the Good Maiden. I think each of us contains a multitude of titles as well—those we’ve chosen for ourselves and those society has thrust upon us—even if we don’t articulate them. We can’t help but empathize with Artemis.
I understand that much research was involved in this book as well as traveling, even though you have a degree in both literature and history from Harvard. How much research did you have to do into Greek mythology to begin telling this ambitious story and what was one of the most surprising facts you discovered when researching for this book?
My desk is literally teetering with books on Greek myth, religion, and culture. The good and bad news is that very limited written evidence exists for a lot of what I’m writing about. Ancient Greek civilization reached its peak well over two thousand years ago, and they transmitted most of their stories orally. Most of what they did write down disappeared after the destruction of Greco-Roman society by barbarian hordes. So we have fragments, scraps, and retellings by later authors who used their own imaginations to reconstruct the stories. For the historian side of me, such gaps drove me crazy, but they also gave me the leeway I needed when it came to telling a fictional story about the gods.
Even knowing full well that much of the ancients’ knowledge has been lost to us, I was still shocked to discover the extent of our ignorance. For instance, in The Immortals, Selene investigates a serial killer who is reenacting the rituals of an ancient Greek cult. This cult was the most popular religious society in classical Athens. It lasted for thousands of years and involved thousands of participants, many of them literate. Yet no one ever wrote down the details of the cult’s secret practices, because to do so was punishable by death. Can you imagine modern people keeping such a secret? It would be a tell-all HBO documentary within a matter of months! For centuries now, scholars have tried in vain to figure out what the cult did behind closed doors and what spurred its incredible popularity. To me, that’s an irresistible mystery—one that plays a large role in The Immortals.
I love a powerful heroine and you definitely have carved out a beautiful one in Selene who acts as a protector to women who are being abused. Why did you settle upon this career path for Selene and can we expect her to continue in this same mission as the series progresses?
Despite the fading of her supernatural powers, I wanted Selene to hold on to her most important title: the Protector of the Innocent. Because of her immortality—not to mention her anti-social proclivities—I figured she’d have a hard time as a cop in the modern world. That left me with private investigator/bodyguard/vigilante.
As for her future path, you’ll have to read the upcoming Winter of the Gods to find out the details.
Are you finding it easier to write the second book now that you have such a strong understanding of Greek mythology or are you continuing to expand upon your research to develop the next book?
I’m definitely expanding. First of all, a slew of other Olympians appear in Winter of the Gods, so I’ve had to do all sorts of research on them. Secondly, I’m examining a whole new Roman cult religion that I knew nothing about before I started. It’s taken me back to Italy for an exploration of the extant temples and led me to all sorts of other research topics including astronomy and early Christianity. The research is never done: I’ve already started delving into ancient philosophy and mathematics for Book Three!
If we are interested in exploring Greek mythology further, what are some of your recommendations for books or documentaries that we could check out to learn more about this time in history?
If you never read it as a kid, you should check out D’Aulaires Greek Myths. It’s full of magnificent illustrations, and although it’s written for young people, it presents the myths in a rich, detailed way that’s appealing to people of all ages. If you’re looking for a great, readable treatment of Greek religion and civilization that’s full of fantastic photos of artifacts and sites, try Exploring the World of the Ancient Greeks by John Camp and Elizabeth Fisher.
And after you brush up on your basic mythology, I certainly recommend trolling through your local museum’s Greek and Roman collection. I’m lucky enough to live ten minutes from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which has one of the best. There’s nothing like coming face-to-face with Artemis as depicted by the ancients themselves. If you want a quick refresher on the different gods, visit my website, where I’ve also posted my own photos of favorite statues and artifacts that I’ve encountered in museums around the world.
Glad to see another author already posted about The Song of Achilles, which is my favorite novelization of Greek myth. I recommend it heartily to anyone who enjoys The Immortals!
As for non-myth books, I’d have to pick Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. It’s one of the few books I’ve read that I immediately told everyone in my life to pick up. Set primarily in 1940s New York, it tells the story of two Jewish cousins (one of whom escapes from Nazi Europe) who create superheroes for the Golden Age of Comics. Add in a Harry Houdini subplot, love stories both gay and straight, a wealth of historical New York City detail, and the most sublime prose style I’ve ever encountered, and you get an irresistible work of brilliance.
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