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Debut Print Book: Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

I’ve had some concerns by readers who are primarily print readers that the coverage at Dear Author has been too focused on ebooks. When I asked the readers what they were interested in seeing, they responded that they would like to know more about print debut authors. We developed a little questionnaire and every Wednesday at 10:00 AM CST (as long as we have content) we’ll post the questionnaire answers along with links to the author’s site and a buy link to her book. I hope this helps people discovery new books. Now, on to the answers.

Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller


Name of debut release: :The Song of Achilles” ( Goodreads | A | BN | S | K )

Release date: March 6th, 2012 (US), September 2011 (UK)

Publisher: Ecco in US, Bloomsbury in UK

2 sentence summary: A retelling of the story of the Greek hero Achilles, narrated by his best friend and lover, Patroclus. Though the novel is romantic, it doesn’t have the expected romantic ending.

Genre: Historical Fiction (or maybe, Mythological Fiction)


  • Achilles, a half-god prince
  • Patroclus, his best friend and lover
  • Thetis, Achilles’ sea-nymph mother
  • Briseis, a slave-girl befriended by Patroclus

What makes this story different:

Although some of the stories around the Trojan War are well-known, Patroclus’ isn’t.  He’s a very mysterious character in Homer’s Iliad: Achilles’ love for him is one of the poem’s major plot points, yet we see very little of the man himself, or their relationship.  I wanted to write a novel that would explore who he was, and how he came to be so passionately beloved by the greatest hero of the Greeks.

I also felt very strongly about making this book accessible to all readers, whether they knew the Iliad or not.  I didn’t want it to feel like homework, but an invitation into these ancient stories.

Is this a series? If so what book #:
Not a series

Why you wrote this book:

Since I was a child, I have been deeply moved by the attachment between Achilles and Patroclus, and wanted to bring their story to a wider audience. I was also drawn to Patroclus because he is not your typical ancient hero-figure—he seems more interested in healing than fighting, and in the Iliad the slave-girl Briseis calls him “always gentle.” I liked the idea of telling the epic story of the Trojan War from the perspective of someone who isn’t really epic himself.  Patroclus doesn’t seek center-stage, but is pulled there by his love for Achilles.

Why is this your first published book? How many did you write before?
I have been working on this book for the past ten years, so I haven’t had a chance to write any others yet. But hopefully…

What’s your writing process?

Very slow!  I do a lot of editing and re-editing, oftentimes throwing out whole chapters and beginning again.  One of the most helpful things for me as a writer is being able to put work aside for a little while.  When I come back to it, I have more perspective and can see where the structural flaws lie.

Your next published book:

I am just beginning work on an adaptation of the Odyssey focused on the female characters, particularly the witch Circe.  I love writing in Homer’s world, so I am looking forward to exploring it from a different angle.

The last book you read that you loved:

Till We Have Faces, by C. S. Lewis.  A beautifully-written and fascinating version of the love story between Eros and Psyche.

The last book you read for research:

I am currently rereading Ovid’s Metamorphoses, which is one of my favorite of his works.  The poetry is beautiful, and the mythological stories are told with Ovid’s inimitable and sparkling wit.

The romance book character you most identify with:

A hard question!  Does it count to say Eleanor and Marianne Dashwood from Sense and Sensibility? If not, then maybe Peabody from J. D. Robb’s In Death Series.

Madeline Miller

Thanks for participating, Ms. Miller. You can find more about Ms. Miller’s work at her website: and a fantastic review of this book at The BookSmugglers.

 I loved how The Song of Achilles is ultimately, Patroclus’ plea for Achilles to be not only remembered as the self-centred, egotistical Trojan War hero whose selfish actions were directly responsible for the deaths of thousands of Greeks but also as a wonderful musician, playful mate, someone capable of deep feelings and a devoted companion and lover.

My own plea is that you read this book immediately.

If you would like to participate in this feature, please email jane at

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. SonomaLass
    Mar 07, 2012 @ 13:41:24

    I was intrigued by the concept of this book, but the interview with the author sold me. ‘Til We Have Faces is an old favorite of mine, and I am a sucker for well-done retellings of Greek myths. Katharine Beutner’s Alcestis was a recent good one, too.

    Off to get a copy!

  2. DS
    Mar 07, 2012 @ 16:47:32

    I saw this on Audible the other day and was tempted. I might succumb. I’ve been a little put off of troy by the Swords and Sandals movie of a few years (Ok, 8 years) back.

    Ms Miller, is this Mycenean Troy or Homeric Troy? I mean the background, I understand you are working in the Homeric traditional story.

    I’m waiting for someone to write a fiction of Troy based on the Hittite correspondence where Paris is middle aged and someone burns the topless towers of Tursha.

  3. Merrian
    Mar 07, 2012 @ 17:23:16

    Would love to read this and will steel myself to pay the $16.39 the ebook costs in Australia. The glimpses of loves and feelings of the ordinary people in the Iliad is what gives the big stories their meaning I think. I enjoy the work of authors like Madeline with these lives that still matter thousands of years later and even if they never existed at all.

    I also love the poem by the Irish poet Valentine Iremonger about Hector and Andromache’s last night together before the fight with Achilles that they know will mean Hector’s death:


    Talking to her, he knew it was the end,
    The last time he’d speed her into sleep with kisses:
    Achilles had it in for him and was fighting mad.
    The roads of his longing she again wandered,
    A girl desirable as midsummer’s day.

    He was a marked man and he knew it,
    Being no match for Achilles whom the gods were backing.
    Sadly he spoke to her for hours, his heart
    Snapping like sticks, she on his shoulder crying.
    Yet, sorry only that the meaning eluded him.

    He slept well all night, having carressed
    Andromache like a flower, though in a dream he saw
    A body lying on the sands, huddled and bleeding,
    Near the feet a sword in bits and by the head
    An upturned, dented helmet.

  4. amousie
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 07:43:26

    This does sound rather interesting.

    That said, might I suggest that the debut print author be a little more ‘unknown.’ This title has been reviewed/highlighted by The Guardian (multiple times), The Independent, The Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, The Library Journal (multiple times), etc. Seems there a big PR push, which I must say is lovely; however, maybe the DA feature could be for authors who don’t have such a large PR machine behind them.

  5. Jane
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 07:47:07

    @amousie I take what is sent to me and unfortunately I don’t have debut authors beating down my inbox to partake of this feature. That said, I think this book sounds fascinating.

  6. amousie
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 08:19:28

    I do understand that you have to have input from these debut authors.

    As far as this book is concerned, I discovered the other reviews via your link to Barnes & Noble and went from there. They only made me more interested in the book.

    To be honest, I’m a tad torn really. Had I walked into a Barnes & Noble, I’m sure I’d see this book on one of the tables in the entryway. That’s assuming I walked into a Barnes & Noble. So while I do appreciate that you’ve added a book to my TBR, I’d really like to see a feature (not necessarily this one) for print authors that don’t get the endcaps or the table promotions. I know that there’s no way for you to guarantee that based on the ‘applicants’ for these weekly posts.

    Here are a few of the other reviews in case anyone is interested.

    Mary Doria Russell for the Washington Post
    Natalie Haynes at The Guardian
    Viv Groskop at The Independent

    There are more but I’d have to relook them up.

  7. Madeline
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 10:50:57

    @DS: I agree with you about the Topless Towers of Tursha! I would read that book in a second. Overall, I went with Homer’s world (anachronisms and all), rather than Mycenaean Greece, since the Iliad was my touchstone. But wherever Homer was silent, I filled in with Mycenaean-era details–I even studied Hittite for a few scenes (though, sadly, none of it made it to the final draft). Maybe for the next one….

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