The Unlikeable Protagonist

A group of us were discussing characters the other day, and I was gratified to note in some of my reviews that readers really love the HETAERA story–but not necessarily the heroine. At least not at first. Little did they know this was somewhat intentional. *cue evil laughter

There are so many wonderfully complex histories out there, and for some reason the ones that resonated with me were the tales of redemption. Cleopatra, Lucretia Borgia, and Suleyman’s Roxelana aren’t necessarily “nice” girls, but the reader can identify with them after a fashion. Maybe even sympathize, a little.

When I unraveled the tale of Rhodopis, it struck me how young she was when she began a brutal life, and how that life may have shaped her. In the way of egocentric youth, I chose to portray Dori the way many teens strike me–with a vision of the world as it pertains to themselves. Some people called her “selfish”…well, yes! I prefer to think of her as “thoughtless” in the way that only a beautiful young woman can be. It is only in her later years that Dori/Rhodopis gains a woman’s wisdom and is able to see beyond the limits of her own selfish desires. That growth is essential to her story, and it makes the ending far more satisfying, I think, than a saccharine heroine who is too too good from the very beginning.

So, although Dori may not be easily identifiable to readers who expected a more “heroic” heroine, she is exactly as I hoped she would be. Flawed and utterly human. A woman who grows and eventually redeems herself to be the heroic figure we want her to become. A real woman.

In this next novel, I have set my bar even higher, choosing a subject that is admittedly difficult and fraught with controversy. The muse is speaking slowly, so slowly, and I can only hope that I do her justice. I hope I can.


O, Happy Day!

July is midway burned and HETAERA is still holding strong! Very excited to hear the first 20 minutes of recorded audio book narrated by the lovely Sabrina Sterling! I knew she was a spectacular choice when I found myself just listening to the story, instead of my internal editor. Although she’s been under the weather, she’s been such a trouper. I can’t wait to hear the finished audio book and just in time for the pre-holiday season sales!

Also very pleased as punch to be able to write yet another check from HETAERA’s proceeds to the Polaris Project. In the past month, we got to see and hear a videotape from women held against their will. It’s very gratifying to know that my readers are helping to support the fight against modern day slavery and human trafficking.

I’m often asked if historical fiction is difficult to write. The shortest and most honest answer is….kinda. 🙂

Seriously, the job of a historical author is to not only craft believable characters, authentic dialogue and a good story, but to also add in the many details that bring the time period to life. It’s almost like writing two books in one–a research text and a fiction novel. My desk is littered with assorted research books and random visual images on Ancient Babylonian and Assyrian culture. So, pardon me if I wasn’t paying attention when you were speaking, I was taking a reed skiff down river to meet with some Chaldeans…..


While I’ve been busy working on the release of a fun, sexy new book series, I’ve had some time over the July 4th holiday to reflect on what true independence means. As many of you know, a portion of all the proceeds of my historical fiction is donated to a wonderful nonprofit organization, Polaris Project, which fights against human trafficking and modern day slavery.

I’m so humbled and honored that readers have enjoyed my words, and allowed me to send off another donation. Thank you for helping me to help others. In a recent email to donors, Polaris Project released the following:

What does independence mean to you? 

For some survivors of human trafficking, independence means a safe place to sleep… Someone to talk to as they rebuild their lives… The ability to pursue their own dreams. 

This 4th of July, we’re asking you to contribute to our Independence Campaign by July 10.

We work hard to provide all of our survivors with the time and space they need to heal. The women and men we serve know we are there for them, any time of day or night. 

We stand beside them when they walk forward, fall back and rise again on their paths to independence. These individuals had been trapped by a trafficker who preyed on their dreams of a better life. We help our clients find the courage to hope again, so they can finally live their dreams. Your gift supports their path to independence.

Please give today—$50 provides food for a survivor and her children for a week.

How apropos that on the day our nation celebrates achieving independence we should celebrate by giving to those who fight for human dignity and independence. And they are truly making a difference.

Doricha’s father bade her to “live free”. At the time, I didn’t realize what a powerful message that was, even for today. Won’t you join me in the fight for all humans to live freely?



Happy dancing!

So, I’m very excited to announce that HETAERA is in audio book production!!  BBC trained narrator Sabrina Sterling has contracted to read, and we hope to have it available on Amazon and Audible by the end of Summer. More details to follow….

I’ve been a bit lax in posting, because I’ve been busy completing some other writing projects under a different name, but I’m so very tickled to “hear” my muse in Sabrina’s lovely voice. Interested to hear her?  Click here for a sample commercial.

New News

Well, after a lovely long weekend in Charleston with friends and loved ones, I’ve returned to the working world. The first tidbit of “new news” is that HETAERA: Daughter of the Gods is now available in various formats on Smashwords! Yes, I survived the Smashwords Meatgrinder and successfully uploaded my novel, which is now featured in their catalog.  Hooray! Now readers can find me on Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kindle, Kobo and other sundry formats.

I shipped off 5 autographed print versions of HETAERA to some Goodreads contest winners.  Congrats and happy reading to all!

Also of interest is an article featuring me in the June issue of Lake Norman Currents Magazine.  Yippee!  Look for me on pages on Summer reading…

And finally, HETAERA: Daughter of the Gods, appeared in the June 2013 issue of Sacramento Book Review. To subscribe and discover more great reviews, click here.

cover_200wAll in all, a busy month!



Happy Accidents

A writer friend once recommended that I internet search my own title and author name periodically to gauge exposure.  I’ve been a little lax (imagine that–too much work!) but this morning I settled in with my morning coffee and did a quick browse.

Surprisingly, I discovered myself featured on a diary-style blog by a gentleman named Alfred Snider. Now, let me state that I do not know, nor have I ever heard of Mr. Snider before this morning. So, it was extremely gratifying to read his albeit brief assessment of HETAERA in his descriptive journal entries. It was a mini peek into a reader’s mind. If you are curious, click the link on his name and scroll to May 11-12th. 🙂

I saw no way to contact him, so Mr. Snider, if you stumble across this blog post.  My thanks for taking a chance on me. An autographed print copy is available for you and Bojana!


First, let me apologize for not posting the contest winner sooner.  I did contact him though! For anyone who missed it the winner was….Jayson!  YAY!  Thanks to all of you who played along. 🙂


As we near the Memorial Day Weekend, I am going to take a much needed break to spend quality time with my hubby and some friends.  Don’t worry, I’ll be back in the saddle and working on some writing projects, but for now, I need some time to reflect.

And what better time than a holiday where we thank those who have made our freedom possible?

So, my next blog post is going to be from an extra special (at least SHE thinks so) guest who will teach us all what not to do in a book review. Meow! Lovers of snark, humor and books will lap this up like a bowl full of cream.

Did I remember to meow?

What is a hetaera?

I’m often asked what the title of my book means, and I think the most readily accessible response is that a HETAERA was something akin to a Japanese geisha in ancient Greece.  Due the inferences of geisha in pop culture, I think that’s the easiest to digest.

Demosthenes said:

“We have hetaerae for pleasure, pallakae to care for our daily body’s needs and gynaekes to bear us legitimate children and to be faithful guardians of our households.”



They were less concerned with the more base carnal pleasures, and more renowned for their wit, beauty and other talents. There was a certain amount of status and stature involved, and hetaerae could lose either in an instant. This is very different than a common pornai, or streetwalker. Prostitution was rampant in ancient cultures, (and was even temple-sanctioned, as I’m discovering for my next novel).royal-harem

So, to be hetaerae was to be an art form–an exemplar of grace, beauty, wit and charm–somewhere between an entertainer and a prostitute. Hetaerae (or the male equivalent hetaeros) had talents and had fewer societal restrictions than marriageable women. Sex may or may not have been part of that equation, and most hetaerae were associated with a specific patron or patrons.

There are many resources and websites devoted to this specific class of companions. If you’re interested, I invite you to dig around and learn more!



So, as a new and unknown author trying to make it in a cold, cruel world, I took a chance and did the unthinkable.  I submitted my book for review to Sacramento Book Review/San Francisco Book Review.  I know, I know….reviewers are typically unkind to indie authors.  And ebooks get a terrible rap.  It was a gamble.

Was it worth it?

Read for yourself…here’s a preview before it’s published in their upcoming May publication.

Hetaera: Daughter of the Gods

By J.A. Coffey Amazon Digital Services, $2.99, 351 pages, Format: eBook

Star Rating: 4 out of 5
“When she is just twelve years old, Doricha witnesses her father’s death at the hands of Greek raiders. She and her mother seek refuge in the temple of the Bacchae, where her mother was once a priestess, but a tragic turn of events and the vicious jealousy of another priestess results in Dori losing the one thing she vowed she would always have: her freedom. Her temple training increases her value as a slave, and Dori finds herself in a household where no one and nothing can keep her safe, not even her mentor Aesop. Before long, she finds herself being sold again, this time to a master who is willing to keep her safe in Egypt and shower luxury upon her if she will only love him in return, but Dori has no desire to be kept by anyone. In a world where a woman’s only value is her beauty, will Dori ever find someone who values her for her mind?

J.A. Coffey’s novel, Hetaera: Daughter of the Gods, is a richly-detailed escape to an ancient past. Dori is willful to the point of stubbornness, so beautiful that it endangers her, smart and witty in a world where women are to be seen and not heard. It is easy to get lost in this novel, and readers will find themselves rooting for this woman who only wants to be in control of her own future once more. While the author does have a tendency to gloss over long points of time without much detail that some readers might be interested in—such as Dori’s daily life in the temple, or how she and Aesop managed to build up her reputation as the mysterious Rhodopis in Egypt—most chapters are rendered in such brilliant detail that the novel is difficult to put down.” Sponsored Review



Everyone loves getting something for free.  From now until May 25th, you can register to win your very own trade paperback PRINT autographed copy of HETAERA on Goodreads!!  It costs nothing to sign up, so click the button below to register for your chance to win.  And if you like HETAERA, please consider leaving a rating/review on Goodreads or Amazon.

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Goodreads Book Giveaway

HETAERA by J.A. Coffey


by J.A. Coffey

Giveaway ends May 25, 2013.

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at Goodreads.

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