How much research did the Serpent of Moses take?
Most of the research for the book was for the purpose of getting the locations right. I’ve been blessed with a great many opportunities to travel, which makes it easier to write about places outside of the US, but the fact is I haven’t been everywhere my intrepid archaeologist has. And I take a lot of pride in making sure that when I set Jack in a place, I get the details right. So a lot of work goes into making sure I have the geography, clothing, culture, cuisine, etc, as accurate as I can make them.
As far as the Nehushtan, while I did some research, the fact is that the historical record is mostly silent after the staff was supposed to have been destroyed by Hezekiah. So, for the most part, I had a blank page on which to craft the relic’s history as I saw fit. Of course, I was mindful of the few legends that mention it and tried not to do anything that completely contradicted them, but there was little in the way of established timelines and locations about which I had to be concerned.
What are the most interesting facts that you learned while researching and writing Serpent of Moses?
With most of my research consisting of “location scouting” I was bound to discover some interesting things about the various settings. And that was the case when I learned about the caves outside of Al Bayda, Libya. Reading about their history as refuges for Libyans resisting foreign occupation was intriguing. Too, I’d been unaware of the Greek influence on the region—a find that proved fortuitous as it bolstered my proposed history of the Nehushtan.
What was the most difficult aspect of writing this story?
While I was writing Serpent of Moses, Libya was the middle of an unprecedented period of political upheaval. With the book coming out nearly a year later, and with a good portion of it set in Libya, I had to guess how the current events would resolve themselves. I guessed that Gaddafi wouldn’t stay in power but that much of the political and military establishment would. So those were the circumstances that I created for purposes of the story. For the most part I guessed right, but it would have been an issue had Gaddafi and his party somehow retained power.
Do you write by the seat-of-your pants letting the story unfold as you write, plot the entire story; write with an outline, or a combination of the above?
My preference is to write by the seat of my pants, with only the most vague idea how the story’s going to go. In my opinion, if you develop the right character and then create a few good circumstances to kick that character into motion, you’ll wind up with something entertaining. But my publisher generally likes to have a more concrete outline of the story at the start. So I’ll get something down, keeping it as basic as I can, and then work to flesh it out. Even within those initial constraints, I’m generally able to be flexible.