Sometimes, Fortune smiles down, and early this summer, she smiled on us. Holmes and I were driving along a pristine mountain road, enjoying the fresh air and sunshine, when a movement caught our attention. It seemed to be a man, trussed up like a Christmas goose and wriggling about in the ditch. Half dazed, he was muttering something about a crazy blonde woman . . . Kristen Lamb, I think it was . . . and a white van. We helped him up and took him home. And, as Fortune would have it, that man was none other than New York Times bestselling author, James Rollins.
James Rollins is the author of seven Sigma Force novels, as well as the novelization of Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull and the Jake Ransom YA series. He is known for high adventure drawn from his extensive and accurate knowledge of science, technology, and history. He is also a veterinarian who regularly contributes his time to his local clinic to spay and neuter animals.
He was so grateful for our help that he agreed to an interview here on our blog. . . .
James Rollins in the woods near the site where we found him.
Good to see you, Dr. Rollins. Thank you for visiting our blog today. I appreciate your cooperation with the handcuffs and the blindfold. I’m sure, as the author of the Sigma Force series, you understand we can’t be too careful about people tracking us to our blog.
Please. Have a seat in the steel chair while I turn on the light. . . . Too bright for you? Oh, you’ll get used to it. . . . No. That burly fellow by the board and bucket isn’t the mysterious Holmes. Holmes leaves the
interrogations interviews to me. That’s my assistant, Rolf.
Rolf, you may go now. I’m sure Dr. Rollins won’t be any trouble, will you, now, Dr. Rollins? . . . Just leave that can of RedBull, Rolf, and fill the bucket with water on your way out.
Now, Dr. Rollins. Thank you, again, for being here with us today. . . . You seem to be shivering. What a shame we don’t have a sweater for you. We’ll just get on with the questioning, then.
What was the inciting incident in your own life that inspired your commitment to writing novels?
I don’t know if there was one defining moment, but more a series of ones: my mom loved to read and instilled it in us kids; reading a lot made me want to write; and finally I figured if I’m ever going to write, I’d better stop dreaming about it and do it. So I wrote a bunch of short stories that are now safely buried in my backyard and hopefully will never see the light of day—then one day I felt secure enough to tackle the bulk of a whole novel.
*crosses to intercom* Rolf. Send a team to Dr. Rollins’ backyard.
So tell me, Dr. Rollins, when did you first realize you had become a celebrity?
Celebrity? Me? I don’t think I’ve reached that status yet. When I get involved in a blog war with Paris Hilton (or Perez Hilton, I have trouble telling them apart), then I’ll know I’m a true celebrity.
That is a common issue with those two. Being able to tell them apart, that is. . . . Recently, you mentioned that you’re working on a book with your friend and fellow New York Times bestselling author, Steve Berry. When you two work together, what is the division of labor? In other words, how does this arrangement work in a practical sense?
It’s actually a short story, and as we’ve not officially begun that process, I can’t say how that will work out. I’m thinking we’ll end up on some dueling range with pistols at dawn over some trivial bit (a name of a character; the color of the hero’s shirt, etc.). Whoever wins that duel will get top billing.
I certainly hope you sell tickets to that duel. I have a lovely Sig Sauer you’re welcome to borrow if you need it.
Now, do you actually travel to all of the places in your books? If not, what sorts of things do you do to research those places?
I travel to about 65-70% of the places that I write about. But I seldom travel for research. I simply travel for the pleasure of it, gather notes, take pictures, and ask weird questions of locals (“What’s a strange story no one knows about this place?”). Then I shelve it all away until my characters cross that territory. For those places that I don’t travel, my research is a combination of Internet searches, digging through stacks at libraries, and doing interviews. Of the two ways, I prefer the traveling.
When you travel, do you pack more like a commando on a mission or a barfly on a one night stand? In other words, are you the guy passing out the sunscreen, or the one borrowing it?
I pack pretty light. I hate checking luggage. I did a two week book tour with only a carry-on bag.
*Note to self: Bring extra sunscreen for James Rollins at DFW Writers Conference 2012.*
One of your Sigma Force protagonists, Painter Crowe, is a Native American. What inspired you to write a Native American main character into your books?
For too long, the main characters of action adventures were all Caucasian—and male. I wanted to stomp all over that stereotype by creating a team that is as diverse as real life, where the women are not regulated to the role of arm candy for the hero or the damsel in distress who needs rescuing.
I certainly appreciate that about your Sigma Force books, and on behalf of women and my small percentage of Native American ancestors, thank you.
Pardon me a moment. *crosses to intercom* Rolf. Bring in the Love Pooch.
Daisy, The Love Pooch
Dr. Rollins, my dog, Daisy, is a big fan of yours. She’ll be questioning you now for a bit. . . . What? The RedBull? Perhaps after the interview, if you give us enough information.
Hi Dr. Rollins. *lick, lick, wag, wag* It’s so nice to meet you. You seem like a nice writer vet. The vet my pet human takes me to is nice, too, but he gets too personal with me. You’re not going to get personal with me, are you?
Well, it depends on the presenting complaint of the client. Sometimes there’s no way NOT to get up close and personal.
I love meeting writers who get it. Writers who understand that dog readership is a driving force in today’s market. Would you please explain the benefits of having animals in books?
As a veterinarian, I simply enjoy folding them into the story. I knew from third-grade that I wanted to be a vet, and though I only do volunteer work with my vet degree, that passion still runs strong. So animals keep creeping in on silent paws into my books. Also, I think an animal is a great way to personalize and characterize the men and women in a story. Are they a cat person or a dog person? Can they ride a horse? What type of dog or cat do they have? These details can really make a significant difference in how a reader views a character.
I know they certainly matter to me and to my pet human.
There’s been lots of news about Cairo, the war dog who took down Bin Laden. (Sincere thanks to Cairo’s pilots and assistants.) War dogs are really hot, the way they sky dive and save their pet humans from bombs. Have you ever considered adding a war dog to the Sigma Force team?
In fact, that’s coming up in my very next book: Tucker Wayne and his canine partner, Kane. They are an incredible team.
Oh! That’s so exciting! Do you know any war dogs you could introduce to me?
Well, Daisy, Kane is not spoken for at this moment—but first he needs to survive his first Sigma adventure. Then we’ll talk…maybe over biscuits and a rawhide bone.
That would be lovely. I love biscuits and rawhide bones and war dogs and nice writer vets. Especially all in the same place.
I loved your new novel, The Devil Colony, too. For those who don’t know, it’s about a brave dog named Kawtch who flies in helicopters and goes spelunking and saves the world from total apocalypse with a little help from a few minor characters. He’s like a war dog. Does he have a mate? And does he like tall girls?
Unfortunately, Kawtch has his eye on a cute golden retriever. He has a thing for redheads.
Oh. . . . Do they need a maid?
That’s not appropriate, Daisy. Rolf, you may take Daisy back, now.
Dr. Rollins, many people, myself included, are already looking forward to your next Sigma Force novel. Is there anything you can share with us about it?
Well, I think I’ve given a small hint about a new character. As to the rest, that’s still tightly under wraps—except in this next book, Sigma goes head-to-toe with the true leaders of the Guild. And only one group will be left standing afterward. And how that all ends is a shocker.
Ah. Now, that’s the answer that gets you the RedBull.
Thank you so much for your time here today. I do apologize, but we’ll need to put you back in the handcuffs and blindfold as we leave. You can take them off when we push you out of the plane over your house. Just count to ten and pull the cord for the chute. You’ll be fine.
Thank you, again, James Rollins, for your time, and for being such a good sport about the chute getting tangled up. It was an honor to have you visit.
Any questions or comments?
Piper Bayard–The Pale Writer of the Apocalypse
Holmes–Student of Sex, C4, and Hollow Points