There’s something about Greek gods that just always works.
Ariadne Unraveled: A Mythic Retelling By Zenobia Neil will release on Wednesday in the Mythic retelling/ Historical Romance genre.
Ariadne, high priestess of Crete, grew up duty-bound to the goddess Artemis. If she takes a husband, she must sacrifice him to her goddess after no more than three years of marriage. For this reason, she refuses to love any man, until a mysterious stranger arrives on her island.
The stranger is Dionysus, the new god of wine who empowers women and breaks the rules of the old gods. He came to Crete seeking vengeance against Artemis. He never expected to fall in love.
Furious that Dionysus would dare meddle with her high priestess, Artemis threatens to kill Ariadne if Dionysus doesn’t abandon her. Heartbroken, the new god leaves Crete, vowing to become better than the Olympians.
From the bloody labyrinth and the shadows of Hades to the halls of Olympus, Dionysus must find a way to defy Artemis and unite with his true love. Forced to betray her people, Ariadne discovers her own power to choose between the goddess she pledged herself to and the god she loves.
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Zenobia Neil was named after an ancient warrior queen who fought against the Romans. She writes historical romance about the mythic past and Greek and Roman gods having too much fun. Visit her at ZenobiaNeil.com
What makes you so passionate about Greek mythology?
When I was three years old, my mother wanted to get a divorce. My father asked for another chance and somehow it was decided that the solution was to move to Paris for a while. They told me that we were going to Paris for my fourth birthday. (This ended up setting an unreasonably high bar for birthday presents.)
In Paris, my mother and I spent a lot of time at the Louvre. She shared the stories behind the paintings we saw and also told me myths at bedtime. So many gods and goddesses have therefore always been familiar to me. I first heard about Persephone’s journey to the Underworld being the reason for the seasons changing as well as a cautionary tale to not stray too far from my mother in the museum.
When I was in 7th grade, I had an amazing English teacher, Katie McGovern, (who is the mother of the actress Elizabeth McGovern who played Lady Grantham in Downton Abbey). We studied D’AULAIRES Book of Greek Myths, and my love of Greek mythology was rekindled. A few years ago I found a play I wrote in 7th grade about the Greek gods, only I had Ares be afraid of spiders and Athena be kind of dense—I like how the Greek gods have characteristics that are familiar and also ironic. From an early age, I enjoyed flipping those symbolic descriptions around.
I’ve always felt a strong connection between art and writing, so when I’d see Greek gods represented in paintings and statues, I was always inspired because they felt familiar and timeless. I’ve always wanted to know more about the actual (still imaginary) lives of the gods. Myths are so surface level in many ways, though they also have such deep symbolism. I wanted to imagine more about what things looked, tasted, smelled, and felt like. How did things actually happen? How did mythological characters feel? And most of all, what “really” could have happened? Of course there’s no way to know what happened thousand of years ago, so writing stories and doing research is the closest I can come.
One of the things I love about Greek mythology is that it’s familiar but also weirdly honest. The old gods are usurped by their sons, the father of the gods is a horrible father and husband, the Goddess of Marriage is constantly being cheated on by her husband, the Goddess of Love and Beauty is in love with the God of War, the wise goddess loves war.
The wonderful thing about myths and fairytales is that they belong to all of us. They are ours for the telling, for retelling, and interpretation. What was the intention of the big bad wolf? Let’s hear the story from his side. The stories of the ancient gods are still here for us, for all of us to see what we can relate to.
This is one of many reasons I was inspired to write two Greek myth retellings of my own. My debut novel, Psyche Unbound (2016) is an erotic retelling of the myth of Cupid and Psyche and my new novel, Ariadne Unraveled: A Mythic Retelling, which is a diverse, Minoan inspired look at Ariadne’s relationship with Dionysus. I wanted to re-empower Ariadne who has often been overlooked or mentioned in passing. And I wanted to write about Dionysus, one of my favorite gods. The Romans made him fat and drunk, but I wanted to show him as the Greeks did, as a powerful young god. I imagined him discovering his godhood and empowering women. One of many things I love about Greek myths is that they are ancient, but we can reinvent them, make them new and still relevant after all this time.
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