Let me introduce you to Embahra Maat, debut author of Hidden by Moonlight. This is a fantasy novel and shows how an author can use their own knowledge and experience to transform their writing. This is a unique take on classic fantasy ideals and I hope you will support her in her literary journey and download the first chapter!
Thanks so much for bringing me into your Emerging Writers Series! I’m really excited to meet you and to share who I am and my writing with you and your readers.
Why don’t you first tell us a little about yourself?
Sure! I’ve been a writer since I was eleven, and in the past twenty years I’ve written plays, poems, children’s stories, short fiction, and songs. My parents were diligent about exposing me to art, so I have always sought out writing, music, and theater as a means of expressing myself and having a voice. My writing tends to reflect the things that are important to me in my life at the time, so it is always very personal, but I think that’s probably true for most artists, and especially the good ones. I am an avid reader and I like being around other artists while they’re creating, because inspiration is contagious.
Did you always possess a passion for writing? When did you have the epiphany that you actually wanted to publish your work?
I’ve known since I was eleven or twelve, when my middle school drama club produced a play I’d written. It was probably the first thing I’d ever written and shared with anyone else, and my peers loved it so much. I couldn’t believe people enjoyed something that I’d written! Publishing has been a long term goal of mine, and it’s almost unbelievable that I’m actually sharing my first novel with the world.
You are High Priestess of Temple of Anu? What does this mean and what does it entail?
The Temple of Anu is where I first began to immerse myself into the tradition of Kemet (Ancient Egypt). As the High Priestess, I not only have the privilege of teaching others about our tradition, but assisting them with cultivating a relationship with Spirit. My primary role is to devote my life to actualizing my best self, which I do by staying close to Spirit and fully embracing the tradition, including prayer, meditation, and worship.
You are a co-teacher for First Eye on Kemet. Can you give us more details about this?
First Eye on Kemet is a course which introduces potential initiates to the spiritual and cultural tradition as taught by the Temple. This is an opportunity for people to learn about what it means to be Kemetic, and to have their important questions answered. We talk about the history of the Kemetic tradition, both in ancient times and modernity; our holidays and ceremonies; our morals and ethics, and how we understand right from wrong; and we lay the foundation on how spirituality is used to create a more empowered and prosperous life.
How does all this influence your writing?
Being Kemetic has greatly helped me to sharpen the view I have on the world and to refine my own voice. It has required me to cultivate discipline, which is a needed quality for someone who is going to write and publish a novel, and it has reaffirmed my sense of faith in myself. I am immensely inspired by my spiritual tradition, so many of the themes and teachings of the Kemetic tradition are evident in my writing.
The main character of Hidden By Moonlight is Nebt-Het, a goddess of Ancient Egypt also known as Nephthys. She is the youngest of five and feels marginalized and insignificant in comparison to her older brothers and sister. At first she tries to find satisfaction from supporting them, but that’s not enough, so her ambitions get the best of her. Unfortunately, Nebt-Het doesn’t take into account how her actions will impact everyone else, and they do, and devastatingly so.
In a broader sense it is about the despair that a woman feels when she wants to be seen after a lifetime of being in the shadows. It is an exploration of how choices have consequences, some good and others bad, but all which we must take responsibility for. And it is about the process of growing up and becoming who you are meant to become, even when that differs from who it is that you think you should be.
Where did this idea come from?
I had been doing a lot of reading about Nebt-Het and her sister Auset (better known as Isis) and most books and articles considered Nebt-Het to be a villain. Nothing that others had written about her had taken into account what she might have felt, her side of the story, her reasons for doing the things she did. I wanted to explore that, and I decided the best way to do that would be to write, and this is what came of that.
What kind of research did you do for your book?
I did a lot of research into the food and environment of Ancient Egypt; what did they wear, what kind of fabrics; what kinds of flowers and trees prospered; what kind of work did the people perform to make a living; etc. Even though the story focuses on the royal family, I wanted to make sure that the finite details were accurate and painted a clear picture of the world they lived in. So I had to consider everything from the beekeepers to the housecleaners to the farmers on the far side of the villages.
Who are your favourite characters and why?
Nebt-Het’s husband Setesh is easily my favorite character! He is such a great villain, because he doesn’t want to be a bad guy. Setesh responds to the things happening around him from this place of pain and anger. He makes all the wrong choices but first he tries really hard to make the right ones. I think Setesh stops trying because he feels like no one else is doing the right thing, so why should he? But his dark side is so dark. Writing him was a lot of fun.
What is you favourite scene and why?
Chapter three explores the honeymoon of Nebt-Het and Setesh, and I really learned a lot about these two characters as they shared their vulnerabilities with each other. They don’t even know each other very well when they get married, so this was an important opportunity for them to see how they can support and complement each other and possibly start a happy marriage.
I really found that this story is about figuring out who you are, and not always getting it right, but having the courage to keep exploring. Sometimes we want to be something but that just isn’t right for us, like if you want to be a singer but can’t hold a note - and once upon a time I wanted to be a ballerina but I am a terrible dancer. Sometimes you have to be open to seeing what is meant for you, and letting go of what you think is best so you can find what really IS best. Sometimes who you end up being is better than who you’d ever thought you’d be. That’s what Nebt-Het goes through in this story, and I think a lot of people can relate to that.
How did you go about writing your book? What is your planning process (if you have one)
I started by defining each one of my chapters and what portion of the story we would dive into - what was the theme of each chapter, if you will. I started off with 10 chapters so I did a map of each chapter before diving into that chapter. The first five chapters took eighteen months! I kept rewriting and reimagining and revising, not sticking to my map and getting nowhere. So with the second half, I committed to writing one chapter a month. No editing, no rewrites, no revising. Just one chapter a month until it was done. Then I went back and realized there was another chapter there towards the end. So I took another four months to revise - mostly the second half - and polish that last chapter. When I start work on my next novel, I’m going to devote two months to planning out the arc of the story and map out each chapter, and then stick to writing one chapter a month. No editing until I get to the editing phase.
Who do you think would like your story and what kind of readership are you aiming for?
Definitely people who love mythology will love this story. It is a retelling of a well-known Egyptian myth, and as someone who has always loved Greek and Roman mythology, I believe that others who have the same interest will love this story. I also think this is a good choice for people who enjoying diving into fantasy, into a world that is wildly different from our own. There are hints of magic and the cosmic world where these gods and goddesses descend from that make it really fascinating. Lastly, while there is romance in the story, Hidden By Moonlight is NOT a romance! It is about a woman loving herself. So I believe that will interest a lot of people, that this woman is not about defining herself around her man.
You are self publishing, congratulations! What made you go down this route?
Honestly, the deciding factor was that I wanted my novel to be read. I did not want to hold it hostage to the committee of validators who may or may not like it when there is a whole world out there of people who are not represented by the committee. I believe in this story, and I believe it will speak to and for someone out there, and I wanted to get it into those people’s hands, no matter what.
Do you have any advice for writers who want to self publish?
Don’t do it because you think it will be faster or easier or cheaper! Self publishing is not the fast food of the literary world. It takes just as much of a commitment - some say MORE - because you are solely responsible for editing, marketing, designing, everything. All of the book’s success rests on your shoulders and your ability to make sound decisions. So do your research, don’t cut corners, and be prepared to spend money. You’ll produce a better quality product and it will pay off in the end - but, if you don’t think you’re up for all that, just admit it and get an agent/publisher. Self publishing was better for me, but that may not be your path. Walk YOUR path!
Thank you so much for doing this interview with me! Your book seems so unique and I think that it will be a great read for lovers of fantasy. I wish you good luck on your future projects and I can’t wait to see what you bring out next! You obviously have a love for writing and deeply rich cultural plots.
Thank you so much for having me! I’m really grateful for this opportunity and I look forward to seeing what YOU do next!!
If you want to watch Embahra on her writing journey you can follow her on her other accounts: