Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Buried Treasures (Part 2)

By Marion Ueckermann

About a month ago, I introduced you to some authors who have the knack of finding buried treasures (seemingly insignificant verses in the Bible) and turning them into best-selling novels. I also promised an interview with Don Hoesel and some buried treasure for one lucky reader. I know you’re going to find what Don shares extremely interesting.

MARION: Don, it’s good to have you here with us at International Christian Fiction Writers.

DON: Thanks for inviting me, Marion. I appreciate you giving me the opportunity to connect with your readers.

MARION: You’ve told the story of Elisha’s Bones across three different continents, in four foreign countries: Egypt, Venezuela, Ethiopia and Australia. Tell us a little about why you chose these countries as settings for your debut novel.

DON: As an archaeologist, Jack Hawthorne has the opportunity to work all over the world and for the opening scene in Elisha’s Bones, I thought it fitting to have Jack practicing his trade in the country synonymous with archaeology, namely Egypt. Too, by Jack finding an important clue regarding Elisha’s bones in the Valley of the Kings, it lets the reader know that the conspiracy surrounding the bones spans thousands of years.

Setting part of the book in Venezuela began as a bit of a private joke. My wife grew up in the small town of Rubio, in the state of Tachira, and I thought she’d appreciate having her home detailed in the book. But once I got Jack to Venezuela, it allowed me to leverage ancient Mayan history—a history that, in some ways, mirrors that of Egypt—while adding a twist of my own. Because, of course, the Mayan ruins Jack explores shouldn’t be in Venezuela.

Ethiopia was the last country I selected as a setting and it didn’t occur to me until I’d almost finished up in Venezuela. As Jack was looking for the clue that would take him across the sea, I was looking for a country that made sense from a historical perspective, but it wasn’t until the Orthodox Church became a prominent part of the story that I settled on Ethiopia. I’ve known about the Rock Churches of Lalibella for a long time but once I sent Jack to Ethiopia I had the opportunity to do a lot of research about the churches—as well as many other locales in Ethiopia, especially Addis Ababa. And the more I researched, the more I became fascinated by the entire country. In fact, I had so much fun exploring Ethiopia that I used it as one of the settings in my third novel, The Alarmists.

I think I had more fun with Jack in Australia that in any of the other countries featured in the book. Australia was one of the two countries selected before I started to write the book and once I finally got Jack there it felt like he’d come home. And so, I wanted to explore as much of it with the reader as I could, from Bondi Beach in Sydney, to Canberra, across the desert, and finally to the bones themselves. It just seemed fitting that he should find them in Australia—a country that can strip a person to their bare essence.

MARION: Don, why the return to Ethiopia in The Alarmists?

DON: As I mentioned, my research for Elisha’s Bones really piqued my interest in Ethiopia. I spent a great deal of time delving into the history of the country—especially as it related to biblical history. But for The Alarmists, it was the geology of the country that made it a perfect fit. The Afar Rift provided Arthur Van Camp the opportunity to create global panic on an unprecedented scale. It’s only the presence of the American military unit from the Pentagon that prevents him from finishing this portion of his plan.

MARION: Afghanistan? Why not some other country that could have served the same purpose?

DON: Brent Michaels, the protagonist in The Alarmists, travels to Afghanistan to procure information from a former associate. I chose Afghanistan in which to set this portion of the book—rather than some other countries that would have served the same purpose—because the current political atmosphere in the country makes it easy to imagine a mid-level tribal leader rising to a position of prominence. Too, the historic reluctance of the Afghani people to accept foreign influence made it a logical choice in which to set a man who is willing to risk his newfound power and influence in order to protect Afghani autonomy.

MARION: Antactica…now that’s an interesting choice!

DON: Indeed it is. The time spent in Antarctica in The Alarmists was the most fun for me from a writing perspective. It’s rare that someone gets a chance to attempt something as grand—as world changing—as the separation of an ice shelf from a continent. It was fun trying to figure out the logistics of such an event—the explosive yield necessary to accomplish it, the equipment a seasoned drilling team would require to pull it off, and the technology to keep the entire project secret from the rest of the world. It was that need for secrecy that made Antarctica the perfect fit for this plot line. It’s a land mass that is only easily traveled—relatively speaking—during certain months, and where a drill team can work unimpeded, provided a few satellites are pointed in the wrong direction.

MARION: Don, why did you choose Brazil for the climax of The Alarmists?

DON: There were a few reasons why this seemed an appropriate choice. For one thing, I needed a country in which a small American military team could conduct a cross-border operation and stand a chance of not being seen by indigenous military. One of the things that's always fascinated me about Brazil is that so much of it is unknown. I've tried to think about what it would be like to have parts of the US remain unexplored and I have a hard time doing that and that really emphasizes how thick the jungles of Brazil are. My thought was that if ancient tribes could continue to exist in Brazil without contact from the outside world, it was possible for a military unit to conduct a covert operation and leave without ever being noticed.

Too, I'll admit that The Boys from Brazil influenced me somewhat. The idea of the remaining minds from an evil empire using Brazil as a launching pad for future atrocities seemed appropriate for the antagonists in The Alarmists.

MARION: Eight foreign countries in just two books…now that’s definitely what I’d call value for money armchair travelling. Thank you, Don, for taking the time to share with us. I, for one, am looking forward to travelling to Afghanistan, Brazil and Antarctica and will be looking out for a copy of The Alarmists to join Elisha’s Bones on my bookshelf.

DON: I enjoyed it Marion. Thanks for giving me the chance to talk about Elisha’s Bones and The Alarmists. Hopefully when the next book comes out (this one kicks off in Libya) we can do it again.

MARION: I certainly look forward to that, Don.

Don Hoesel will be giving away a copy of The Alarmists and will post anywhere in the world. To be included in the draw, just drop a comment by 27 May and don’t forget to include your email address. The winner will be announced on Sunday, 29 May.

Visit Don’s website http://www.donhoesel.com/ to read more about his work.

MARION UECKERMANN’s writing passion was sparked in 2001 when she moved to Ireland with her husband and two sons. Since then Marion has been honing her skills and has published some devotional articles in Winners at Work as well as inspirational poetry online and in a poetry journal. She has written her first Christian Women’s novel (unpublished), is currently completing the sequel as well as a Historical Romance novel. Marion now lives in Pretoria East, South Africa with her husband, sons and a crazy black ‘Scottie’. A member and moderator of the Christian Writers of South Africa, Marion can be contacted via email on marionu(at)telkomsa(dot)net.


  1. Thanks for the interview! I updated the wiki to include this new book of Don's.

    I think my husband would be up for reading this book!

    valerie at valeriecomer dot com

  2. Thanks for the interview! I'm always on the lookout for books set outside the Western World! Please include me in the draw - lisamckaywriting@gmail.com.

  3. Looks like a great read. I really enjoy Christian thrillers and if I win I might just read it quick and send it off to my brother for his birthday. Re-gifters are always okay when it comes to books. Right? ;)

  4. Just thought I'd share. My word verification was "bless". How cool is that? We truly are.

    BTW- I have a question for Don. Have you been to each of the places in your books or do you just research like crazy?

  5. Hi Jessie. Thanks for reading the interview.

    I'll tell you the same thing I tell everyone when they ask about the countries I've been to.

    I love to travel and have been given a great many opportunities to scratch that itch and so I'm used to a wide range of cultures.

    And as far as the countries specifically mentioned in my books, I've been to some but have researched others like crazy. And if you can't tell the difference, I'm not going to tell you which fall into which category!

  6. Don Hoesel has done an excellent job of keeping me on the edge of my seat. Ilisha's Bones is a great read.I discovered the book on my Kindle. I will read everything else that Don has written. I have always enjoyed anthropology and forensic anthropology, theology, science, and Christian fiction, especially of the adventure/mystery type. I will certainly recommend Don Hoesel and his books.

  7. ddrfred143 - please can you send your email address in a comment so that I can enter you in the draw for The Alarmists.