Children's Literature Reviews for Teaching History

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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Interview with Chris Eboch

Today, I'm pleased to offer an interview with author Chris Eboch about the inspiration and work behind her novel The Well of Sacrifice, set amid the Mayan CivilizationMs. Eboch has also recently released a new historical fiction novel about Ancient Egypt called The Eyes of the Pharaoh.  Her website ( is full of great resources for teachers and is definitely worth checking out.

*** Suzanne Borchers did a great review of The Well of Sacrifice, which can be found here.*** 

What inspired you to write The Well of Sacrifice?

I've always loved foreign cultures and ancient history, perhaps because I lived in Saudi Arabia between the ages of five and 11 and got to travel a lot. After college, I spent a summer touring Mexico, Guatemala and Belize with a friend. Mayan culture fascinated me, and so did one of the great questions -- why did the Mayan civilization collapse before the Spanish arrived?

I didn't start The Well of Sacrifice for a few years, but when I decided to write a novel, I began with the image of a girl being thrown into a Mayan sacrificial well and surviving. I loved revisiting that region in my writing, diving into the past to imagine what Mayan culture might have been like over 1000 years ago, and creating a character strong enough to fight against great odds.

What sort of research did you do to help you write it?

Traveling to many Mayan archaeological sites certainly helped immerse me in that ancient world. Even though the great cities have decayed, I could get a feel for the scale of the architecture, the smells and sounds of the jungle, and much more. I took pages of notes while there, even though I wasn't yet planning to write a book about it. I did more research before and during the writing process. I was living in New York City when I wrote The Well of Sacrifice, so I had access to great libraries (this was before the Internet). I also visited museum exhibits, where I picked up additional useful details, like what a cocoa pod looks like.

What was the most difficult part of writing it?

This was the first novel-length work I'd written, so I wasn't sure what I was doing. I originally thought the book would open with the scene of a girl being thrown into the sacrificial well. But I kept deciding I needed to start earlier. Eventually, my "opening scene" got moved to the end of the book. The whole thing was a learning process, so it's amazing that it actually turned into a publishable book. I got lucky!

What was your favorite part of the writing it?

Even now, just thinking about the book reminds me of the sights, sounds and smells of Latin America. As a reader, I've always loved the power of literature to take me to different places and times. This book allowed me to do that as well, and to play the part of an amazing heroine. All my writing lets me get into the heads of other people, whether it's the 13-year-old boy narrating my Haunted series, or the 30-year-old history professor/treasure hunter in my first book for adults, Rattled. I like being able to explore what it might be like to be someone else for a while. I can have adventures as someone else, from the safety and comfort of my own home.

What are some children's books that you've read recently and really enjoyed?

I've been reading more adult fiction, since I'm now writing romantic suspense for adults under the name Kris Bock. I did recently read the YA novel iDrakula, by Becca Black, since I was speaking on a panel with her at a convention. I was impressed by her ability to convey so much primarily through the character's text messages.

Some time ago I read Cabinet of Wonders by Marie Rutkoski, a fantasy set in medieval Bohemia, and I'd like to get back and read the rest in that series. The Stravaganza series by Mary Hoffman had great drama along with an interesting look into an alternate version of medieval Italy. The Shamer's Daughter, by Lene Kaaberbol, had intense action and beautiful writing. That's another where I need to read the rest of the series.

You just published a historical fiction book about Ancient Egypt, called The Eyes of Pharaoh.  Can you say a bit about what it is about?

The Eyes of Pharaoh is a mystery set in ancient Egypt -- 1177 BC, to be exact. The book stars Seshta, a 13-year-old temple dancer, and the two boys who are her best friends, Reya and Horus. When Reya hints that Egypt is in danger from foreign nomads, Seshta and Horus don’t take him seriously. How could anyone challenge Egypt? Then Reya disappears. Seshta and Horus are determined to find him, and in the process they start to uncover a plot against Egypt. They spy on merchants, soldiers, and royalty, and start to suspect even The Eyes of Pharaoh, the powerful head of the secret police.

This book, for ages nine and up, draws on real history and touches on some issues still relevant today, such as immigration and the importance of each individual speaking up when they see something wrong. Interested readers can read the first chapter at or on Amazon, where they can buy the book for $6.99 paperback or $2.99 e-book. The e-book is also available for the Nook.

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