DEBORAH CROMBIE: I've just finished reading James Rollins'new Sigma Force novel, THE EYE OF GOD, and when he sent me this post, darn if he hadn't answered SOME of the questions I was going to ask. (There are more, Jim. I'm not going to let you off on Mongolia...) The book is packed with fascinating threads--not to mention a can't-put-it-down story--but if you had to pick just one...
The One Question All Authors Dread
At every book signing, one hand will raise and ask this question during the Q&A following a talk: Where do you get your ideas from? I personally (and I know I’m not alone in this) hate that question. Because basically I don’t know, and I fear if I look too closely at the process it will evaporate and disappear. And I don’t have enough talent to take such a risk.
I do know that I always have my antennae up for that next seed for another novel. I collect these ideas in a cardboard file box at home: articles I’ve ripped out of magazine, notes jotted from watching a documentary, handouts from a lecture I’ve attended. It’s messy and disorganized (and probably has families of mice nesting somewhere down deep). But I like that chaos because strange tidbits end up mixing next to each other: that bit of science and that scrap of history. Connections come to mind that would never have risen by imagination alone.
In the case of The Eye of God, one of those “seeds” arose from an invitation to attend a private tour of Fermilab (the national particle accelerator lab) outside of Chicago. It was a wonderful chance to explore the world of neutrinos, high particle physics, and the mysteries of the universe. Over lunch I was seated with a group of physicists and had a chance to ask them a question I often pose to scientists when given the chance: Tell me something about your research that scares you, that keeps you up at night.
And they did.
After a bit of indigestion, I began to get an inkling for a story. One of the physicists raised the supposition that nothing in the universe was real—that everything is just lights and shadows, virtually a hologram. In fact, Fermilab is perfecting a device called holometer this year to test if the universe is in fact a hologram. The general consensus of the group was that this theory would be proven true.
To elaborate on this, they shared a quote from physicist Brian Greene about the unreality of reality, demonstrating how little of the world is solid. To paraphrase: “If you remove all the dead space inside atoms, every person whoever lived on the planet—from past to present—would fit into the size of a baseball.” That’s how little of us is solid versus shadow and light.
Still from that very tiny seed, The Eye of God grew. I paired up this scientific speculation with historical mysteries surrounding Attila the Hun and Genghis Khan, along with the conclusion (dare I say, climax) of a long-going romantic thread of the series, answering the age-old question: will they or won’t they?
By the way, I’m typing this blog aboard a tour bus somewherebetween Oklahoma City and Wichita, Kansas. It’s been an interesting means of conducting a book tour. Rather than flying from place to place, I get to see a bit more of the country, and it allows me to hit smaller towns and venues, which has been a great deal of fun. Of course, it has created some challenges. Like yesterday I had to do a phone-in radio interview by cell phone, but the unusual acoustics of the rocking and rattling bus required some accommodation. In this case, I ended up locking myself in the bus’s tiny bathroom and bracing myself inside there. Guess there’s a first time for everything.
So what’s the strangest or hardest question you’ve been asked on the road, at a signing, or online? The one question I oddly get asked all to often: Boxers or briefs? Unfortunately, some mysteries will remain unsolved.
DEBS: Um, have to admit I've never been asked that one... What about you, fellow REDS? And readers (and the writers among you,) what's the strangest question you've either been asked or heard asked of an author?
Jim will be checking in today from somewhere... and I have to say, I am really, really jealous of the BUS! (The above photo, by the way, was taken at the Lincoln Park B&N right here in Dallas!)