In “Wake Siren: Ovid Resung,” Nina MacLaughlin retells a 2,000-year-old poem from the perspective of its often-silenced female characters. MacLaughlin is the author of the best-selling memoir “Hammer Head: The Making of a Carpenter” and a current columnist for The Boston Globe. She sat down with WGBH’s Henry Santoro to talk about what compelled her to revisit the “Metamorphoses” and give voices to the women inside of it. The transcript below has been edited for clarity.

Henry Santoro: We should let our listeners know that you and I worked together at the Boston Phoenix, you at the paper and me at the radio station the Phoenix owned. And we have crossed paths several times.

Nina MacLaughlin: That’s right.

Santoro: In order to arrive at “Wake Siren,” you had to immerse yourself in “Metamorphoses,” probably more than most. It's a book you studied in college. What was it like to have this book stick with you for so long?

MacLaughlin: In fact, I didn't read it in college. I think I had read a chunk in high school. And then when I was working on the second draft of “Hammer Head,” I was sort of thinking, “Gosh, I need to read something that isn't going to interfere with the rhythms of my sentences and ideas.” And I was like, “Oh, I’ll pick up this, you know, 12,000-line poem. That won't affect anything.” And in fact, it ended up being sort of the backbone of the first book as well. And so I just kept returning to it. It was the book I would pick up when other books weren't landing, just because I found it to be this beautiful text.

Santoro: But it's so damn intense.

MacLaughlin: It's so damn intense. But also I think there's this “epic distance,” you know. These foundational stories that we all know are told in this really sensual, alive way. And it's just this pulsing, incredible piece of work.

Santoro: When stories about women are written or translated by men, the women oftentimes take a backseat. But the story is supposed to be about the women. What do you think about that?

MacLaughlin: I think that's absolutely true. And I think one of the things I thought a lot about in working on “Wake Siren” was the act of translation and how important individual words really are. I mean, the book is rape after rape. It's really sexually violent. And it's translated often very euphemistically, like “attained her love” or “seduced her.” And it's just like, wow, gosh, that's not what happened here. And so I think those choices of language sort of wash over us when we're reading along, and we don't recognize that some really horrific violence was taking place here.

Santoro: Those translators, for the most part, were men. And you really had to dig deep in order to hear the women.

MacLaughlin: Exactly right.

Santoro: And then Nina MacLaughlin comes along and gives a chorus of voices to these women. When you were giving each woman a separate voice, did some come easier than others?

MacLaughlin: I mean, the honest thing is I don't actually remember writing a lot of it, which was a strange experience. So yeah, I think some came more naturally. Some were definitely harder to write, as in they were more wrenching and exhausting.

Santoro: Was writing “Hammer Head” wrenching and exhausting?

MacLaughlin: In a way different way. You know, it's funny. When I think of writing “Hammer Head,” it comes from this little snarled walnut part of my brain. And when I think of writing “Wake Siren,” it was like a bodily event.

Santoro: I get it. I get it.