Interview with Embahra Maat

Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
My parents gave me a hardcover copy of Heidi when I was seven. I must have read it a dozen times, staying up late at night to read by the light peeking into my bedroom from the hall, sneaking into the bathroom to read. I could never put it down and I couldn't stay away. It was the first time I felt wholly transported by a story, into a story. I wanted to be on that mountain, enjoying the bread and goat's milk, meeting grandfather. I still have that hardcover, and I still love that book. It was the first time I realized how much I love to read, and eventually, how exciting it would be to write.
How do you approach cover design?
I am very fortunate that within my spiritual community there are a great deal of talented people who were willing to contribute their gifts to making this novel a success. One of our graphic artists designs under the banner of Konscious Creations, and as soon as I told him of my plan to self publish, he immediately set aside time to design a cover for me. At first I didn't have any ideas about what the cover should look like, but after a while, I found myself inspired. I thought about translating the book's title and the theme into one piece of artwork. I wanted to give a glimpse of who the book was about, the energy of the story, the magical aspect, the environment. I wanted to give readers a peek into the world that they would be diving into. Qupid Art has done an amazing job with taking my thoughts and bringing them to life.
What do you read for pleasure?
Books that fall under the category of literary fiction peak my interest. I tend to reach for novels written by people from around the world. I seek out books that are written by authors who were not born in the US, or whose parents migrated here, and who write about their homeland and culture. I also like novels that travel back in history and explore a different time and place. I like to be taken away from the world I'm in. Recently I have read a lot of Naomi Ragen and Zakes Mda; I also have quite a few novels by Peter Tremayne on my shelves.
Describe your desk
Messy! But with a sense of order. I know where everything is, but no one else would be able to find anything. That's the way I prefer it to be. It gives me a sense of comfort - this is defined as my space and no one else's.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in Plainfield, NJ, with two brothers, one sister, my parents, and my maternal grandparents all in one home. My mother and father are both artistic and exposed us to art, theater, literature, and music of all types and genres. This taught me to be open to all forms or artistic expression and especially to people and backgrounds that differed from mine. It also made it important for me to find my voice. I learned very early that art can be a healthy way to say things that would otherwise be repressed. In a home with so many people, it was hard to feel heard all the time, but I am always able to say what I need to on the page.
When did you first start writing?
I wrote my first play when I was in the seventh grade, and presented it to my drama club director, who insisted on allowing the students to perform it in the spring. I was eleven when I first showed him the play, and twelve when I watched them perform it. Next year, there were other students who had written plays, so the drama club director held a contest where the students read the plays blindly (without knowing who had written which ones) and selected the one that they wanted to perform. My play won the contest and I was fortunate enough to have the experience for a second time. I fell in love with writing during middle school, and have made it a staple of my existence since.
What's the story behind your latest book?
Every year when we celebrate Wep RenPet (the Kemetic Opening of the Year ceremony) we receive a scroll which represents an oracular message that we should heed for the course of our year. A few years ago, I drew two scrolls from the basket: one with a message from Auset/Isis, and one from Nebt-Het/Nephthys. I understood immediately the message from Auset, and it was easy for me to connect with the spirit of devotion that she represents, but I struggled with Nebt-Het, and as I researched her and what she represents, I came to realize that Nebt-Het has long been largely misunderstood. There have been versions of this story that omit her existence altogether, and other versions that make her the villain, and I have never been one to accept that a character is completely a villain with no redeemable qualities. I sought to find the truth, which meant I had to hear her side of the story, and tell it.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
Once upon a time the dream was to get a publishing contract, and it has been a difficult road for me to give up that dream, but I know it is the right choice for me. I know there is a market out there for my work, in fantasy and mythology, and I wasn't interested in waiting for someone else to validate that. I know that my work is an important contribution to the cultural reconstruction of Ancient Kemet, and I was not sure that I could convince an agent and publisher of the value in that. Lastly, publishing has been a goal of mine for as long as I can remember, and having the opportunity to do that, with or without a house behind me, was something I could not pass up. I can now say I have done this great and incredible thing, something I've always wanted to do, something I thought I might never get to do, and I am so proud of myself.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Writing is meditative; it is a release of all the pent-up thoughts and anxiety and I can tell when I need to write because my shoulders are tense and my body feels stiff. When I write I give voice to feelings that I didn't even know I had. I am a better communicator because I am a writer. I love to get lost in my words and to sort through my thoughts on the page. I love discovering things about myself and about the world. I love hearing characters speak to me and through me. I love having this incredible gift. I am not even sure yet if I am very good at it, but I know I will continue to do it, because how can I not?
What do your fans mean to you?
Everything. I don't really know if there is more to be said about it. People who read your work and like it, love it, learn from it, enjoy it, have questions about it, share it with their friends. They mean everything. They are the whipped cream, icing, cherries, on top of a most delicious and decadent dessert. I don't write with the expectation that anyone but me will get something from what I've written, and yet here they are anyway, fans. Having other people enjoy my writing is a wonder that I will never get over.
What are you working on next?
Right now I am working on a collection of Kemetic children's stories. They are wholly original and not based in any of the traditional mythologies of Ancient Kemet. I am also exploring the possibility of writing a novel around Heru-Ur, one of the characters of Hidden By Moonlight who is actually absent for a great portion of the book. His mythology has been lost by history, and I would like to rediscover it; consider what is journey was in becoming the man he is, and what he represents to us. I am thinking of titling my second novel The Great Light, but we shall see. I am excited to get started on it.
Published 2015-06-27.
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Books by This Author

Hidden By Moonlight
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 114,270. Language: English. Published: July 2, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic
The five immortal children take their place in the world of men. The youngest is told to sit back while her siblings establish civilization. She yearns to make a contribution, but as she tries to make that happen, her choices threaten to damage and devastate everyone around her, and especially herself. The beloved epic myth of Ancient Egypt as told by Nebt-Het (Nephthys).