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The Dust of Egypt

“It’s important to read a book, but also to hold the book, to smell the book… its perfume, its incense, it’s the dust of Egypt…” — Ray Bradbury

 

July brings the publication of my first novel, Rings of Anubis: Gold & Glass. As we approach that magical day, come with me on a tour of the pages–what inspired me, what I got right and wrong along the way, and how I pasted it all together.

Always Paris, Always Egypt

It was always Paris and it was always Egypt, but while one location had a fixed time in my plotting, the other did not.

My earliest draft of Anubis made it to the half way mark before I realized it was all wrong and needed to be scrapped. Well, not entirely wrong, but I had definitely fouled the calendar up! I had decided to set Paris in the distant future, keeping Egypt in the distant past, and my brilliant prose would unite them in a way that had never been done before! It was Blade Runner meets Death on the Nile! It was thrilling! It was heart-stopping! It was…not working. The divide between time frames felt like too much; they weren’t meshing the way I had hoped.

So instead of the future, I went to Paris of the past (let it be Indiana Jones meets Death on the Nile!)–though not quite as distant as Egypt would remain. Paris, but when exactly?

What’s more steampunk than the Eiffel Tower? Looking at photographs of its construction got me to reading about its debut at the Exposition Universelle in 1889. People loved it! People hated it! People wanted it torn down. At that idea–that it had been constructed for the exposition and people wanted it gone–Our Hero began talking to me in earnest. Yes, Virgil Mallory agreed; it was a blight and needed gone. Our Heroine, Eleanor Folley, immediately protested, thinking it would be around for a long while to come.

Their relationship and my setting were instantly clarified. Miss Folley seeks to preserve the treasures of the past, unable to move forward in time because of a tragic event in her childhood. Mister Mallory wants only the future, running ahead to avoid an equally tragic event in his own past. They quickly discover the only way out is through, with each other.

But Why Paris? Why Egypt?

When I was very small, I was gifted with a copy of Secrets of the Past, a National Geographic book that took me across the world. I still have this book here on my shelves. From Machu Picchu to Angkor Wat and through Europe, we went everywhere, but Egypt always stuck with me. I spent days and weeks pouring over those glossy pages; there was also a bonus sheet of stickers. Those stickers went on everything (often things that didn’t require stickers). That book transported me to Egypt and while I’m no fan of blistering heat, I could still imagine myself there, wandering about on a camel, to see the pyramids, temples, and tell the Sphinx hello. As a teen, I discovered Agatha Christie via Death on the Nile, and fell further in love with the country. Paris seemed a good alternative to London–which I appreciate, but don’t love without reservation. France pulled me in once I started taking French. I learned about Joan of Arc, and croissants, and wasn’t the Seine kind of like the Nile, and…and…and. These two cultures, so different from my own, have always been twined together in my head.

And Archaeology?

Who didn’t want to be Indiana Jones? Digging things up, watching one’s world implode, but always finding the right and proper end to things, putting the bad guys under the dirt! I played at being Indiana Jones a good deal–though was laughed at because Indiana was a guy, and I was a girl. So what, I said, and dreamed of mashing Indiana and Marian Ravenwood into one kick-ass archaeologist. Did I succeed? You can let me know!

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