Q&A with Joan Hess and Barbara Rosenblat
At long last The Painted Queen, the twentieth and final novel in the beloved Amelia Peabody series, will be published on July 25th, 2017. The Painted Queen was begun by author and Egyptologist Barbara Mertz (writing under the pen name Elizabeth Peters) before her death in 2013, and has now been finished by her longtime friend and fellow mystery author Joan Hess. The audiobook of The Painted Queen will be read by renowned actress and voice artist Barbara Rosenblat, who narrated many previous Amelia Peabody novels and was also a personal friend of Barbara Mertz.
- You both knew and worked with Barbara Mertz for many years. How did you first meet Barbara, and what impact did your friendship with her have on your life?
I met Barbara at my first mystery convention in 1986. I approached her timidly and complimented her on her “steamy tent scenes” in the Amelia series. She was amused. Over the years, we often talked on the phone about politics, other writers (gossip), and publishing. She was my mentor. When I needed a new agent, she took care of that in a day. We would gather with our closest friends for house parties and our secret “Grouchercons.”
- The publication of The Painted Queen is a big event for many longtime fans of the series. As Barbara’s friend, can you tell us what the character of Amelia Peabody meant to her, and what aspects of Barbara’s personality were reflected in Amelia’s character?
Barbara was as strong and determined as Amelia, if perhaps less impetuous. Because of gender discrimination, Barbara could not utilize her Ph.D. in Egyptology to supervise excavations, so she allowed Amelia to do so. Barbara was outspoken, opinionated, passionate, and warm. I suspect she envisioned herself atop a pyramid, wearing a pith helmet.
- What was it like to create the character of Amelia, either on the page or as a voice artist? Were there any particular challenges, or anything you especially enjoyed?
The character has been created. I had read and loved all the novels. Ms. Rosenblat’s voice is perfect for Amelia, but I still hear Barbara.
- What historic significance does Amelia have as a female Egyptologist working in a male-dominated field? Did Barbara’s early experiences as one of the first female Egyptologists resonate in Amelia’s adventures?
She sent Amelia in as knowledgeable amateur, giving her the opportunity to learn from Emerson.
- Do you think Barbara intended for The Painted Queen to be the final installment in the Amelia Peabody series? If so, what did Barbara want us to learn by finishing the series? What themes did she want to wrap up, what messages did she want to impart…if any?
The Painted Queen is set in 1912, between two completed novels. Barbara called them “the lost years” because she did not want to tackle WWI. Relationships are resolved in the final book of the series.
The message is clear: women can do anything if they have determination, common sense, and compassion.