Friday, December 14, 2018

Margaret George Interview - The Splendor Before the Dark

Photo Content from Margaret George

Margaret George is a rolling stone who has lived in many places, beginning her traveling at the age of four when her father joined the U.S. diplomatic service and was posted to a consulate in Taiwan. The family traveled on a freighter named after Ulysses’ son Telemachus that took thirty days to reach Taiwan, where they spent two years. Following that they lived in Tel Aviv (and visited other places in the Middle East), Bonn and Berlin (during the spy-and-Cold-War days) before returning to Washington DC where Margaret went to high school. In Israel Margaret, an avid reader, began writing novels to amuse herself when she ran out of books to read. Neither of her youthful sagas got published, but the ten-year-old author received an encouraging note from an editor at Grosset & Dunlap, telling her she had a budding talent but should work on her spelling. It was also in Israel as a child that Margaret started keeping land tortoises as pets, an interest which she still follows today.


Where were you born and where do you call home?
I was born in Nashville, but I call Washington D.C. and Madison, Wisconsin, home. I have lived in Madison many years but shuttle back and forth to Washington where I grew up and which is also still home to me.

What inspires you about Nero and this period in history?
Nero seemed peculiarly modern in that he was torn between self fulfillment as an artist and his role as emperor. Self-fulfilment as a goal was unheard of at the time, and it was unthinkable that he valued being an artist above being emperor. He seemed like a young person today who wants to be a writer but his parents make him go to law school! That time period of Rome is the most interesting to me, as it was the beginning when it was still on the ascendant rather than later when it was falling apart.

Was there a particular event or time that you recognized that writing was more than just a hobby?
In many ways writing has remained a hobby, which means I do it not because I have to but because I love it. It’s been said that nothing is work unless you’d rather be doing something else! I do find that I’d rather be writing than doing most other things. But, I never expected that anyone else would take interest in my solitary hobby! And I suppose that was the time when I realized it was going to be more than a private hobby.

What was an unforgettable moment you experienced while writing or researching THE SPLENDOR BEFORE THE DARK?
Nero’s artistic masterpiece, the Golden House in Rome, is so tied up with his personality, and also his downfall, that being able to visit it and walk through the rooms he designed and walked through himself made me feel that I had actually encountered him. After he died, his political enemies sought to erase all his achievements and filled in the Golden House with dirt and built baths on top of it. But, ironically, that preserved it for later ages, and let me come close to meeting him in person.

What part of Nero did you enjoy writing the most?
I liked the childhood part, because it is always interesting to see a famous person when he or she is still a child and at the mercy of adults. Seeing what events shaped his character, and how he reacted to them, explains a lot about the person he became. I also liked writing the ending, because it was so Shakespearean.

What book would you recommend for others to read?
The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury. Not only does it capture the wonder of space, it also predicts how humankind will behave once we set foot on other planets, showing both the noble and the venal sides of us. It is lyrically and beautifully written.

What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us?
I have just finished my two part novel about the emperor Nero and will be leaving Rome for awhile. (But undoubtedly returning!) I am researching frontier Kentucky and Tennessee, as well as colonial Virginia---the era when America began to have its own distinct character, unique to itself. In other words, how did Davy Crockett evolve from Benjamin Franklin?

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
Oh, definitely I would hurry to introduce Cleopatra to Nero, because Nero was descended from Marc Antony and he would have loved to meet her. He revered Antony (and was like him in many ways) and rejected the hostile propaganda about him and Cleopatra put out by the victorious Octavian, even though it was the ‘party line’ in Rome by Nero’s time.

Choose a unique item from your wallet and explain why you carry it around.
I have a photo of my pet tortoise; I have had him for 36 years and have carried the photo around for at least twenty! It is getting rather dog-eared. Time for another photo shoot. Funny thing, he hasn’t changed a bit. He started out wrinkled and he’s still wrinkled.

Tell me about a favorite event of your childhood.
My farther was in the Foreign Service and when I was nine we were living in Israel. He took me on a trip to Egypt as even at that age I was fascinated by Egyptian history and longed to see the pyramids. This was a real feat on my father’s part as at that time Israel and Egypt had no diplomatic relations and you could not travel between the two, but my father concocted some embassy business there. I think my later desire to write novels set in that time started then. I will attach a photo he took of me then next to a statue in Saqqara.

Margaret George age nine at Saqqara, Egypt

Where did you go on your first airplane ride?
It must have been on that short flight from Tel Aviv to Cairo because I remember looking out the window and seeing the Nile way below me.

What do you think is the single best decision you've made in your life so far?
Probably to try to write a ‘psycho-biography’ of Henry VIII, which launched me on my writing career. It also enabled me to be able to do credible scholarly research without having to go the route of academia. There’s a part of me that wanted to be a professor but getting a PhD takes a long time!

What advice would you give to someone who wanted to have a life in writing?

Everyone has a type of writing or a genre that he or she is best suited for, and the trick is finding that niche. I would be a terrible crime writer, for example, because I’m not a good plotter. But writing ‘docudrama’ type novels frees me from having to make up plots. Different types of writing come in and out of style but if one style isn’t your strength, don’t attempt it. Stick with what you are called to, follow your strengths, not your weaknesses.

Ascending to the throne was only the beginning... Now Margaret George, the author of The Confessions of Young Nero, weaves a web of politics and passion, as ancient Rome's most infamous emperor cements his place in history.

With the beautiful and cunning Poppaea at his side, Nero Augustus commands the Roman empire, ushering in an unprecedented era of artistic and cultural splendor. Although he has yet to produce an heir, his power is unquestioned.

But in the tenth year of his reign, a terrifying prophecy comes to pass and a fire engulfs Rome, reducing entire swaths of the city to rubble. Rumors of Nero's complicity in the blaze start to sow unrest among the populace--and the politicians...

For better or worse, Nero knows that his fate is now tied to Rome's--and he vows to rebuild it as a city that will stun the world. But there are those who find his rampant quest for glory dangerous. Throughout the empire, false friends and spies conspire against him, not understanding what drives him to undertake the impossible.

Nero will either survive and be the first in his family to escape the web of betrayals that is the Roman court, or be ensnared and remembered as the last radiance of the greatest dynasty the world had ever known.


“George’s reconstruction of the man, in terms both of his public life and private character, is more than a revisiting of fact: It’s a subtle exploration of identity and the insidious effects of power...‘Confessions’ is all about identity: How is it made, lost, reinvented?...Margaret George occupies that blurry space between history and fiction. And between Tacitus and Margaret George, I rather think it’s George’s account that is not only most sympathetic but most truthful.” —Diana Gabaldon, Washington Post

“Margaret George has performed about the most audacious act imaginable for a historical novelist—an epic work of fiction not merely sympathetic to Nero, but told largely in his own voice. I applaud. And so, I imagine, does that connoisseur of the arts Nero, watching from Elysium.” —Steven Saylor, author of Roma: The Novel of Ancient Rome

“[George] brilliantly recreates past eras and bygone civilizations.” —Sharon Kay Penman, author of A King’s Ransom

“A wonderful novel, from the riveting first scene to the breathtaking finale.” —Jennifer Chiaverini, New York Times bestselling author of Fates and Traitors and Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker

“Wow! Margaret George—the reigning queen of historical fiction—is back with this epic saga that vividly re-imagines the life of young Nero in all its operatic, dramatic glory.” —Stephanie Dray, New York Times bestselling author of Lily of the Nile

"Margaret George has an incredible talent in that she can stand in the shoes of her protagonist and speak in his or her voice.” —Barbara Taylor Bradford, author of The Cavendon Luck and A Woman Of Substance

You can purchase The Splendor Before the Dark at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you MARGARET GEORGE for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of The Splendor Before the Dark (Nero #2) by Margaret George. 


  1. A family had brought home a deceased member's belongings to their home. It was piled high in throughout the house with only a small path to a few rooms. The weird part was that it was 6 months plus since they brought it home.

  2. "What is the weirdest thing you have seen in someone else’s home?" Hmm. Some people have terrariums with lizards!

  3. My grandma has a porcelain doll that looks like an old granny with wrinkles and reading glasses and a grey bun. It's the creepiest thing ever!

  4. That's a tough one! This is disgusting but someone's house i went to was filthy and there was dog poo on the floor...

  5. I saw a water garden in a big tub in someone's living room!

  6. Animal bones! It was creepy but they study them for a living