Author Guest Post: Elise Stephens

By Elise Stephens, author of MOONLIGHT AND ORANGES

The friends who’ve read even a little bit of my writing know that I’m the “Greek myth girl.” I’ve loved Greek myths ever since a found a condensed version of popular Greek myths when I was thirteen. I was glued to the pages until the last line.

What kept me there? The element of real human struggle in the face of magic and overwhelming power really captivates me. Flawed heroes fighting unbelievable demons and forces that oppose their sanity, happiness, and existence have always been very interesting to me. (What can I say? I love a good drama with high stakes.)

I often get the tickle in the back of my mind that goes something like this: Pandora’s Box: A new bride is forbidden to open this one tiny box and she does it anyway. What would that look like in modern day? Or The Muse: Ancient Greek poets would call on one of these creative women to inspire them in their artistic pursuits. What would an artist looking for a muse do in today’s world?

I’ve written several short stories exploring these kinds of ideas, but my longest novel-length exploration is Moonlight and Oranges. I fell in love with the story when I realized that it was literally a young woman’s quest to get back her husband free of his own doubt, and even worse, out of the clutches of his disgustingly overprotective mother.

Who doesn’t secretly enjoy a story about fighting against a wicked mother-in-law? Whether the awful woman in our lives was a spiteful aunt, a critical grandmother, or a bitter, envious peer, most of us have experienced the torture of an angry female who was bent on spiting us, if not destroying our life. Because I got to base Amanda, the villainous mother of my hero, on Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty, I had a great time making her the manipulative, sexy matron who twists men around her little finger.

Kestrin, son of Amanda, was based on Cupid, god of love. In Greek myth, he shoots arrows to make people fall in love with each other, so it wasn’t much of a stretch to turn my hero’s arrows to self-interested purposes. Plunk him into the modern day and I suddenly get a charming player who easily gets girls to fall in love (and into bed) with him. But, as easily as he can twist love to his own devices, Kestrin also secretly dreams of finding the true thing.

Lorona, my heroine and protagonist, comes from Greek myth’s Psyche: a beautiful human girl who has the bad luck of accidentally enraging the dangerous goddess of love. I gave my modern-day heroine the beauty that gets her into trouble in the original myth and added a dose of shyness as well as budding courage to live a fuller life than the safe one she’s spent in her bookstore job.

I love rewriting Greek myths in the modern day because they are timeless. They’re classics because we can still relate to them in one way or another. Moonlight and Oranges is about a relationship between two people who have to overcome insecurities, doubts, and in Lorona’s case, a ruthless mother-in-law.

Myths inspire me. They must have inspired lots of people, because these stories have continued to be told and retold for hundreds of years, right up to today.

About the Author
Elise Stephens received the Eugene Van Buren Prize for Fiction from the University of Washington in 2007, where she also received her degree in Creative Writing. Moonlight and Oranges is her first novel and was a quarter-finalist for the 2011 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.

She lives in Seattle, Washington with her husband where they both enjoy swing dancing, eating tiramisu, and savoring the flavor of local live theater. Visit her at

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