Thursday, August 02, 2007

BOM: How the Idea Germinated

I owe The Truth Teller to the O.J. Simpson trial. I’ll never forget how frustrated I felt one afternoon when I watched the endless parade of witnesses on television. “I wish,” I said aloud, staring at the TV, “that there were a human truth detector who could just walk into that courtroom and settle this once and for all.”

But from where would such a person come? And how would he obtain this gift? As I mused over those questions and devised plausible answers, the germ of The Truth Teller was born.

Another part of the idea for THE TRUTH TELLER came to me when I read about the real "ice man" discovered in the Italian Alps (that's his photo). I was fascinated by this account of a well-preserved body . . . so well preserved, in fact, that he was probably the oldest body we had to examine (5300 years old).

With that idea in mind, I started to think about the Second Law of Thermodynamics (otherwise known as the Law of Entropy), and about the indisputable truth that people of former eras were much more intelligent than we are. (They didn't have as many gadgets, but could you build a pyramid? Neither can our construction people--they have no idea how the Egyptians did it with the tools available at that time.)

So I thought that perhaps the human race is "winding down," and our DNA is being eroded by many factors. It's not evolution, it's "devolution." So if the iceman could have a child--if we could harvest his sperm or even his DNA--we might see a "wonder child" as a result.

So I created a modern woman, Lara, whose husband has died from cancer, but who made deposits in a sperm bank before his demise. After mourning her husband's loss, Lara wants to have his child. Unknown to her, a mad scientist who believes in "devolution" arranges to have her husband's sperm sample manipulated . . . so she will become pregnant with the Iceman's baby.

Cool idea, huh? Trouble is, this book was way ahead of its time when I was trying to sell it. I wasn't even sure I could say "sperm bank" in a Christian novel. Plus, I had been writing historical romances (heavier on the history than the romance), and this would be a huge departure for me.

So at the convention one summer, I met with my editor and started off the conversation like this: "Well, what do you all want from me next? Another historical?" And my editor replied, "We want to know what YOU want to write."

And a gleam filled my eye as I said, "Well . . . I've had this idea about a woman who has a caveman's baby . . ."

And thus THE TRUTH TELLER was born. Bethany House took a huge chance on the book, and after it finally went out of print, Thomas Nelson brought it back again. And in the process, more than a book was born--I discovered the sort of writer I was supposed to be. I wasn't supposed to follow the crowd, I was supposed to find ideas and topics that interested me and write those books.

And that's the same advice I give new writers today. You have to write books that put the gleam in YOUR eye.

Tomorrow: The research.

~~Angie

4 comments:

CrownLaidDown said...

I really enjoyed The Truth Teller, Angie! It is near the top of my list for favorite book of yours. I'm glad you wrote about your gleam! My very favorite book of yours? It's The Debt. I still chew on the ideas sparked from that book.
Blessings on you!

~ Brandilyn Collins said...

What a wonderful thing, Angie, that you discovered your "bent" with this book. We've all benefited since then!

In my Idaho home I have baskets all over the place with books to pass on. Did I ever tell you that one year my mom, who was visiting, pulled The Truth Teller out of a basket? I said, yes, read that one--you'll like it.

My mom stayed up ALL NIGHT to read your book. Literally ALL NIGHT. And at the time she was 88 years old! She simply could not stop reading.

Waytago, Angie babe.

Kathy said...

You sat there thinking about the second law of thermodynamics?? Whoa. Okay, keep in mind that I write preteen girl's non fiction and I just launched a new super sweet series for girls ages 6-9.

So, I don't really sit around thinking about cavemen and science. More like, "what cute little craft can I have the girls make that will help draw them closer to Jesus."

In fact, when I'm working on a book everyone has to move craft foam, glue, beads etc. off the table to eat!

You blow me away Angie!

Kathy

(P.S. I read Brandilyn's Web of Lies twice and still don't get it!)

jan said...

...which is exactly why i love your books! the subject matter is well researched and extremely stimulating to the brain! when you said "expect the unexpected" you were not kidding! as long as you keep them coming i will keep reading them! thanks!