Ask Madeline Miller - September 21, 2012 discussion

Ask Madeline!

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message 1: by Margo (new)

Margo (maothrockmorton) | 1 comments Mod
Welcome to the group! Madeline will be answering questions on Friday, September 21, 2012. In the meantime if you have a question for Madeline or just want to introduce yourself feel free to do so in this thread.

message 2: by Jacqui (new)

Jacqui Lademann (bookblog76) | 2 comments I loved 'The Song of Achilles'. How hard is it (or easy) to write about characters that are so well known?

message 3: by Michael (last edited Sep 14, 2012 09:14PM) (new)

Michael Autry | 1 comments Your novel brought to mind some of the works of Mary Renault, one of my all time favorite authors. Were you influenced at all by her novels?

message 4: by SJ (new)

SJ | 3 comments I’m a huge classics geek and fan and I absolutely adored your book! Will you be writing more novels based on Greek mythology?

message 5: by Jake (new)

Jake (jakethecupcakecreator) | 2 comments I am hopeful that you will be writing more Greek mythology =) Actaully any myhtology would be interesting and especially with how well written this novel is! I absolutely loved The Song of Achilles! I also hated it because of how unfair things became but I guese it is what seperates the mundane novels from excelent ones.I'm glad there was a happily ever after, even if it was after both died tragically (although if we are honest, the ancient Greeks do tragedy like no others). Mythilocgical wise, did Thetis actaully detest and hate her husband?

message 6: by SJ (new)

SJ | 3 comments Oh, I was also kind of wondering, if there was no written language in Homeric Greece, how was it that they marked the graves in the last chapter?


message 7: by Gillian (new)

Gillian (gilliankyriakougooglemailcom) | 2 comments A sensitively written update of one authors slant on the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus before and during Homer's Trojan War, which I enjoyed
The story evolves around the fact that you have assumed Achilles and Patroclus were homosexuals. This makes the story more viable and exciting but was this a purely fictional notion or did you feel from the Homeric text and research that there were grounds for this assumption? Ancient Greeks accepted relationships between men but it was on the basis of mentor/young boy. Mentors also usually having wives. They were also trained to be loyal to their kings or generals (Alexander the Great and his band of loyal soldiers)

Also I felt the character of Patroclus was developed, as a foil to Achilles, a little too passive somehow. Look forward to your comment Madeline. I live in Greece and continue to learn about Homer/ Mythology/Ancient Greece. Would love to hear other people's comments as well.

message 8: by Nikolas (new)

Nikolas | 1 comments I really enjoyed your book! I would like to know if you identified with Patroclus while you were writing this book. If so, was it emotional for you writing the ending?

message 9: by Hannah (new)

Hannah Wilson Do you have any plans to write a novel based on any of the women of Greek mythology you've discussed on your blog? (Especially Atalanta.) Disappointingly Heroines can be just as "thin on the ground" today as they were in antiquity!

message 10: by Mender (new)

Mender | 1 comments If you could spend a season on Mount Pelion with Chiron, what would you want to learn from him?

message 11: by Hannah (new)

Hannah Wilson If I may ask, what are your other areas of interest in Classical Studies/Ancient History?

Do you have a particular interest in LGBT matters in Classical studies/Ancient History or is your interest in Akhilleus and Patroklos and one-off situation?

message 12: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth Hopkinson | 1 comments I loved Song of Achilles. I love the Iliad and I loved the tender love story you created between Patroclus and Achilles. It was particularly special for me because it seemed similar to the relationship between two characters in a novel I am writing at the moment ( only in mine it is an asexual love). Do you prefer writing about men to women? I do.

message 13: by Hannah (new)

Hannah Wilson What do you make of the 'Troy' film removing the mythological/divine aspect of the story of the Trojan War? What do you think this aspect brings to the story and what does the story lose in removing it? (Just to clarify, the second half is about the idea in general, not the movie specifically.)

message 14: by Charles Stephen (new)

Charles Stephen | 2 comments Like another commenter above, I'm kind of interested in the immortal character, Thetis. How difficult was it for you to infuse her into story lines about mortals. I'm normally not a fan of fiction, but I loved Song of Achilles.

message 15: by Nadine (new)

Nadine | 1 comments I loved this retelling of such an ancient story, and your take it. Did you do a lot of research into the historic time period to get the details so spot on? I felt like I was back in the bronze age (or whenever this story happened). You really transported the reader to another time and place.

I look foward to your next endeavor. Any plans on mining more of the ancient path for another book? Thanks!

message 16: by [deleted user] (new)

Madeline. I was completely drawn in to this telling of Achilles. Patroclus was a surprise character but he made a good narrator. Thanks for a brilliant book.

However I have a question that I'd like to ask:

Why did you continue to have Patroclus as the narrator after he'd "met his maker" so to speak? After all Thetis was unlikely to be passing down his messages!

Sadly I'm not in Internet access range on the 21st but will pick up the discussions afterwards.

Regards. Bob

message 17: by Camila (last edited Sep 15, 2012 07:19AM) (new)

Camila | 1 comments SJ wrote: "Oh, I was also kind of wondering, if there was no written language in Homeric Greece, how was it that they marked the graves in the last chapter?


Hey, maybe I can help.... There are many variations from the greek you know now... The greeks began to write approximately since the Mycenaean Greek around the 14th century BC if I am not mistaken and Homer is from the 8th or 7th Century BC.

message 18: by Ginny (new)

Ginny Goettler (ggoettler) I so loved your story and wept at the end. I have long been a fan of the Iliad, though not a fan of Achilles, so I particularly loved your portrayal of Patroclus as a surprise character (as Bob put it above). The idea that the men were lovers made so much sense to me, but I wonder whether you are getting much grief for that.

message 19: by K (new)

K | 1 comments The Song of Achilles was beautiful in every way, plot, characters, etc. My only real question is when is your next book coming out??? If it's as well written as this one, I don't care what it's about!

message 20: by Nav (new)

Nav Hello Ms.Miller!

Your book was breathtakingly beautiful, and something that I have come to cherish dearly. My question: Do you have plans to write any other books based on greek mythologies? Do you have any vague inspirations on what your next book will be about? Thank you! =]

message 21: by Hannah (new)

Hannah Wilson For you, in what ways does reading an ancient text in its original language enhance your understanding and enjoyment of the text? Any particular examples for the Iliad especially?

message 22: by Ohenrypacey (new)

Ohenrypacey | 2 comments Hello Madeline,
I very much enjoyed your telling of this ancient tale. Please tell me of your decision on leaving out mention of Achilles' heel. I know that it's not in the Iliad, but it is still very much part of the mythology of Achilles and Thetis.
Thanks in advance.

message 23: by Shreya.Booked (new)

Shreya.Booked (shreyabooked) | 2 comments Hi Madeline,
I loved The Song of Achilles, it's become one of my all-time favourite books. I really look forward to your next work!
Here's my question - can you recommend any good books on homosexual love? I'd love to read a homosexual love story which is well written, and which has the right balance of romance and erotic elements - like in your book! (No offense meant to anyone, but most books that I have come across aren't very good - they're mostly badly-written erotica lacking in plot.)
Thank you, and congrats on winning the Orange Prize!

message 24: by Shreya.Booked (new)

Shreya.Booked (shreyabooked) | 2 comments Kernesa wrote: "The Song of Achilles was beautiful in every way, plot, characters, etc. My only real question is when is your next book coming out??? If it's as well written as this one, I don't care what it's a..."

*thumbs up to your comment* I agree! :)

message 25: by Amy (new)

Amy McMullen (amymc) | 1 comments Hi Madeline, congrats on your achievement with Song of Achilles!
Having recently gained a thirst for Classics and mythology, i found your book truly wonderful. Is the relationship you have portrayed between Achilles and Patrolus something you felt was real from your own studies or did you just feel it was open for adding the twist? If the former do you feel any other of the tales have been portrayed differently in modern society, through films or re-tells, to "please the viewer" so to speak? (LGBT etc having been touchy subjects on the wide-scale)

Also if you dont mind me asking, what inspired you to want to study/specialise in mythology/classics and do you have any personal reading recommendations for brain-food on the subject? There are just so many to choose from! Although Mary Renault is in the 'To Read' list.

Cant wait to see what you have in store for us next :)

message 26: by Leila (new)

Leila | 1 comments I'd really like to know what were the hardest pieces of information to find on Achilles' story. Where was the farthest (or oddest source) that your research took you to?

message 27: by Merisa (new)

Merisa | 1 comments I really did love the book, it was very well written and I enjoyed reading about Achilles and Patroclus outside of the war ... or with them as the main focus as opposed to the war.

However, there was one thing that irked me. Which is where my question lies -- why did you choose to make Patroclus so ... passive, as someone else commented. I would more so use the word wimpy, or unimportant. He certainly was as much of a warrior as Achilles, only with lacking immortal blood. Was it something to do with character development, or just the evolving relationship he had with Achilles? Or something else entirely? I would have liked to have seen him portrayed as mighty as he was in the Iliad.

I look forward to your answer, thank you very much for your time :)

message 28: by Vivienne (new)

Vivienne | 1 comments I too loved this book and look forward to reading your next work. The story of the Iliad is one of the greatest ever written and I wondered if you've considered telling the story from the perspective of Priam and his family?

message 29: by Gillian (new)

Gillian (gilliankyriakougooglemailcom) | 2 comments Merisa wrote: "I really did love the book, it was very well written and I enjoyed reading about Achilles and Patroclus outside of the war ... or with them as the main focus as opposed to the war.

However, there..."

I agree with you regarding the passivity of Patroclus in the Song of Achilles, but his development did progress as the plot developed. We only have Homer's viewpoint of the man and he would certainly not have wanted anyone to steal the limelight from Achilles. But in the Iliad it was Patroclus who insisted on fighting - helping his fellow warriors, wearing Achilles armour in order to give the Greeks courage. He must have known the dangers involved, don't you think?

message 30: by Jacqueline (new)

Jacqueline | 1 comments Hi Madeline,

Your book was one of my first favorite reads of the year and part of the reason was the ending. My question is, did you always know the book was going to end the way it did or did it come as a surprise.

Also, I loved how sexy the book seemed to be without really going into detail, was that a choice on your part or did it just come about as you wrote the book?

message 31: by Lorraine (new)

Lorraine Congratulations on the success of the Song of Achilles. I loved it; just could not put it down. You studied Classics, and obviously have a love of mythology. But what motivated you to write this particular story? And write it from Patroclus' point of view?

message 32: by Alicia (new)

Alicia | 1 comments Hello Madeline,

Thank you so much for writing the Song of Achilles! I can't remember ever being so totally absorbed in a book before; I adored it. I want every book I read to be as well written as yours, so please write more! :)

My question for you is: Did you struggle to find a way in which to write your own ending to a tale which had a predetermined one? I wondered how you would continue telling the narrative from Patroclus' p.o.v. after his death, but you dealt with it in a very ingenious manner which gave closure and some consolation of happiness to a tragic ending. Had you always planned on ending it that way, or had you thought about switching to Achilles' p.o.v.? Thank you.

message 33: by Charlene (new)

Charlene | 1 comments Are you writing another book? When will your next book come out? I loved " The Song of Achilles ", and I can't wait for you to write another book!

message 34: by Matt (new)

Matt (weasleybeesly) | 1 comments I can't express how much I enjoyed reading your book. I have more of a comment than a question, but I'd love to share it with you anyway. I was really touched and inspired by the way you depicted the romance between Achilles and Patroclus. As someone who is in the process of coming out of the closet, it meant a lot to me to see a relationship (however fictional it might be) between two men that was tender and real and heartwarmingly romantic. One never sees relationships between two men portrayed that way and reading your story was an affirmation of sorts for me that those kinds relationship do exist, even if its just in literature. So thank you for writing something so meaningful and touching! It was truly a pleasure reading your book :).

message 35: by Jake (new)

Jake (jakethecupcakecreator) | 2 comments I agree with matt =P It really was a beautiful relationship thats basis wasn't sex =) Although I am past the closet stage, it makes a person feel warm inside knowing that at least there is spark of possibility of it happening within reality and not within our wonderful book collections =)

message 36: by Charles Stephen (new)

Charles Stephen | 2 comments To piggyback on Matt's and Jake's praise, I noted in my review how I had devoured these mythical stories as a teen. Since I didn't come out as gay until 33, I wondered how my young life would have been different if I could have read a book like this one.

message 37: by Felicity (new)

Felicity | 1 comments Thank you for a wonderful book that I raced through in half a day (in floods of tears half the time) - honestly couldn't put it down. I re-read the Aeneid last year, so it was also a very well timed different point of view!

In both the Aeneid and Songs of Achilles, the glimpse of Penthesilea intrigued me - there are so few strong, human women in these myths (maybe Penelope) - I wondered if you know any more about her or have considered exploring her story?

message 38: by Judie (new)

Judie | 1 comments Hello Madeline,

I read your book after a recommendation from The Readers. I absolutely loved it. I have never read the Iliad so the story wasn't really known to me.

My question is similar to Ohenrypacey's: Can you explain the Achilles' heel??
My second question is about Agamemnon: He was so evil, I would have liked for him to get his 'come-uppance'. Could you elaborate on this character? Did he get his come-uppance in the Iliad or was he portrayed as cruelly as you made him?

message 39: by Gui (new)

Gui Hi Madeline,

First I want to say how much I love The Song of Achilles. It has become for me one of those books that I pick up when I'm feeling sad and after reading my favorite chapter (chapter 10, which at this point I know by heart) I feel so much better. I want to thank you for that. You said that one of your goals was to inspire people to check out the Greek myths, The Iliad especially, and that's what I did after I finished your book. The Iliad fascinated me, but with all due respect to Homer, I like your story better.

Here's my question: What do you think of the concept of honor and glory in ancient Greece? I mean, Achilles chose to go to Troy knowing he wouldn't return. Couldn't he have had a good life if he had chosen otherwise?

message 40: by Wendy (new)

Wendy Feltham Thank you for writing an amazing book! I am interested in what Achilles and Patroclus learned from Chiron. How did you research the natural history of ancient Greece?

message 41: by Steve (new)

Steve | 1 comments The Iliad has been my favorite since I was a kid, and I must have read every "spin-off" in the last ## years, from the Classics Illustrated comics to short works by Malouf, Elizabeth Cook, Chris Logue, and, of course, David Gemmell's terrific page-turning series.

You are the first writer I have come upon who has managed to successfully infuse the myth with the right amount of passion and humanity so that we now understand why we still have the expression, "the wrath of Achilles", to this day.

But my question comes from your style: Over and over in the book, you somehow let us discover, in a very matter-of-fact manner, that we are in the realm of myth, not reality. An example would be the first time we meet Chiron - you don't come right out and say "the centaur, Chiron." I had forgotten, and it was through your narrative that we go, "oh, yeah - he's a centaur." The touch used to orient the reader is so light but efficient, here and in other places in the book - how do you do that and where does that magic come from? Was it a conscious effort?

Also - great ending! Thanks for making Thetis cool - you know the mother of Achilles can't be all bad. You finally gave the epic story an ending with emotional impact.

Sorry to run on.

Victoria_Grossack Grossack (victoriagrossack) | 1 comments I loved how Patroclus kept on telling the story even though he was dead!

I also loved how you made the old story relatable to people today. Did you find that a challenge or was it easy?

message 43: by Γιάννης (new)

Γιάννης Πλιώτας | 1 comments Would you consider re-writing Odyssey?

message 44: by Alison (new)

Alison R | 1 comments I loved the book and felt that the way you chose to portray the interventon of the gods was inspired. I wondered if you influenced at all by Caroline Alexander's book/concourse 'The War that Killed Achilles' which takes a similar, un-heroic line on the nature of Bronze Age war?

Also, if I'm allowed to ask two questions, do you have a favourite English translation of the Iliad, or was there one that particularly influenced you as you wrote the book, or did you always go back to the original Greek?


message 45: by Marilyn (new)

Marilyn | 1 comments Margo wrote: "Welcome to the group! Madeline will be answering questions on Friday, September 21, 2012. In the meantime if you have a question for Madeline or just want to introduce yourself feel free to do so i..."

Hello - is there a particular time by which we have to ask Madeleine our questions.


message 46: by Nisa (new)

Nisa | 1 comments Hi Madeline,

I don't have words enough to express how much I loved your book. I've re-read it many times and I think I already know parts of it by heart. Your Patroclus has become my all time favorite character.

I've read somewhere that Achilles and Patroclus can be considered the oldest slash pairing in the world because even the ancients debated whether they were lovers or just friends. What do you think of slash fiction and fanfiction in general?

Thank you very much ♥

message 47: by Linda (new)

Linda Covella (wwwgoodreadscomlindacovella) Hi Madeline: I just want to say how much I loved your book and look forward to reading your next one! As others have asked, are you working on something new, and is it another Greek mythology inspired story?

message 48: by Kevin (new)

Kevin Cosgrove | 1 comments It's a testament to your achievement that heaping my praise here would seem redundant. But I found the voice of Patroclus to be a source of unending awe.

As a fortunate byproduct of swooning over your book, I've found myself newly reinvigorated to read through Classics. After revisiting Homer's works, I noticed that he does not give a full picture of the lives and events that shaped characters that inhabit your book. So I'm wondering which non-Homeric texts you used for as references while writing the novel. Are there any particularly enduring texts with comparable readability that you would recommend?

message 49: by Madeline, Author of The Song of Achilles (new)

Madeline Miller | 16 comments Mod
Hello everyone! Madeline here. Before I start, I just wanted to thank everyone so much for all of these lovely comments and thought-provoking questions. I am going to enjoy answering them!

I also thought that I might answer one question here that I saw a few times above, namely: What am I writing next?

One of the characters that I most enjoyed writing about in The Song of Achilles was Odysseus, and I am eager for the chance to finish his story. I'm hard at work right now on a new novel that is inspired by the Odyssey, but focuses on some of the terrific female characters of that work--Penelope, of course, but also the witch Circe.

In the shorter term, I'm finishing up a short story about Philoctetes, who is one of my all-time favorite mythological characters, (and who makes a very brief cameo in The Song of Achilles). If you're interested, here's my Philoctetes "myth of the week" blogpost:

Thank you again, and I am so much looking forward to the discussion!

Best regards,

message 50: by Madeline, Author of The Song of Achilles (new)

Madeline Miller | 16 comments Mod
Jacqui wrote: "I loved 'The Song of Achilles'. How hard is it (or easy) to write about characters that are so well known?"

Hello Jacqui, and thanks for your question. Writing about figures that were so well known definitely had its challenges—as you say, I was dealing with nearly three thousand years of previous characterization! One of the ways I handled this was to focus on the ancient texts as much as possible, and not to read contemporary versions, which I was afraid would influence or intimidate me. I broke this rule a few times (most notably for Margaret Atwood’s amazing PENELOPIAD, and Christa Wolf’s equally terrific CASSANDRA), but in general I saved all the contemporary versions to read as a treat when I was finished.

Although this wasn’t something I planned, Patroclus also made a perfect narrator in this regard, since he’s simultaneously a pivotal and unexplored character. His being so shadowy gave me more room to work, even within the structure of well-known stories.

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