I interviewed them about the first book in the series, Oracle.
The Oracle of Delphi is a fantastic hook for myth and history lovers like me. Tell us a bit about the story and why the Oracle captured your imagination.
Sean: To be perfectly honest, I didn’t set out to write a book about the Oracle of Delphi. Like Jade, I just sort of ended up there. It was the “true” story of a teleporting Spanish soldier named Gil Perez that really sucked me in. I came across it in a book about Unexplained Mysteries and it immediately went into my “must write about this someday” file. I expected Delphi to be a red herring in the book, particularly since there are already some really excellent stories that deal with it, but the more research I did, the more I realized there was still a story to tell.
In brief: Jade, our intrepid archaeologist is part of a team exploring a previously undiscovered cavity underneath the Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacan (Mexico). In that chamber, Jade finds several strange spheres that appear to be a model of the solar system, but when she touches one, she has a vision of the future which not only saves her life, but launches her on a quest to discover the source of the visions.
The trail leads to Costa Rica, where she and Professor–our very own walking Wikipedia–investigate the mysterious stone spheres that were discovered there in the early 20th century, then it’s off to Delpih (with a brief stop-over in London to find a crystal ball that once belonged to famed mystic Dr. John Dee).
I love kickass female characters! Why did you take a break from Dane Maddock and spin Jade Ihara into her own adventures?
David: The Maddock universe is expanding. We’ve already added a successful “Origins” series, and I’ve always felt Jade was more than strong enough to carry her own story, and so far, readers seem to agree! Also, I’m a fan of adventure heroines like Lara Croft and that Morgan Sierra chick, so it was fun to join the club.
Sean: I came to the Maddock universe with one of those Origins stories, but I jumped at the chance to help develop a new series with Jade and Professor because there’s a lot more freedom to take things in a slightly different direction, which is what we did with Oracle. But it’s also a chance to let some of those supporting characters shine.
One reviewer commented that she really didn’t care for Jade in the Maddock books, and David always described her as being a little “bitchy”–you know you did, buddy. It was challenging, but in a good way, to try to keep the essence of the original character, while at the same time making her believable as the lead.
It seems like more male action-adventure writers are featuring women in the lead roles these days. Do you see a renaissance in action/adventure and a widening of the scope? Do you see any gender differences between the books?
David: If my audience is any indication, more women than men read “Men’s Adventure” stories, so it only makes sense to feature protagonists with whom the reader can identify. As far as gender differences between the books is concerned, I can’t say for certain. A lot of male writers craft characters who are female in name only – you can’t tell the difference between their male and female characters in terms of motivations and internal dialogue- and I think we did a good job of avoiding that pitfall.
On a related note, we’re working on ideas to expand the Maddock universe even farther, with Tamara “Tam” Broderick taking the lead role in a new series featuring her Myrmidon Squad. I don’t know if anyone else is writing an African-American female action hero, but she’s been popular among Maddock readers since her first appearance in Quest, and I’m excited about that series.
Sean: Funny story. I was at an author event a couple months ago with a stack of my Dodge Dalton dieselpunk adventures. A woman picked one up and then proceeded to make a disparaging comment about ‘yet another story where the men do everything.’ Something like that. I had to laugh. In addition to Oracle, I just wrapped work on the second book in my Dark Trinity series, which features a kickass female character, and this week, Flood Rising, a book I wrote with Jeremy Robinson featuring…you guessed it, a strong female lead, will be hitting the stores. I didn’t set out to balance the scales gender equality-wise, with this or any other of my novels, but sometimes a story just works better with a female lead.
Your books are full of international locations, and Oracle is just as wide ranging. Tell us about some of the locations in the book and why you picked them.
Sean: It’s funny. Some of the locations started out almost as random choices, but then when I started doing research, I was astounded at what I found. A good example is the opening scene at Teotihuacan. I had already decided to have Jade discover a room full of strange spheres, but when I started doing research, I discovered that archaeologists actually did find a new chamber under one of the other pyramids at Teotihuacan, that was full of gold-colored orbs. It was too perfect.
As I mentioned earlier, Jade also goes to Costa Rica to investigate the famous stone spheres that were discovered in the western part of the country–there are hundreds of them, some as big as that boulder that rolled after Indiana Jones in Raider of the Lost Ark, and no one has been able to supply a good explanation for who made them or why. The stone spheres were another one of those story elements that I’ve been wanting to explore for a long time.
Then there’s a stop in London, some hijinks in and around Delphi, including a walking tour–well, running and fighting tour–of the ruins there. The trail eventually leads to everyone’s favorite vacation spot, the Bermuda Triangle. Because the inspiration for the story began with the mysterious case of the teleporting Gil Perez, I felt like it was only natural that the mystery would eventually lead to the so-called Devil’s Triangle. Once again, the research led me to some pretty interesting connections, including a famous disappearance that happened on dry land. I’ll save that for the readers though.
What are some of the themes that obsess you and that keep coming up in your writing?
David: For me, action-adventure novels are about solving the ancient mysteries that fascinate me, visiting the exotic locales that interest me, and putting new twists on old stories. If you finish one of my books and don’t feel like you’ve been on a thrilling, fascinating ride, I haven’t done my job.
Sean: I would second that, but I would also add heroism. I like a story that is a bit on the gritty side, but I’m not interested in writing (or reading) anti-heroes. I want to write the kind of stories that I would want to read, and I think that in addition to ancient mysteries and hidden treasures, I just like a good guy (or girl) that I can root for. They don’t have to be super-capable or larger-than-life, in fact, I prefer them to be a little more vulnerable, but they are going to try to do the right thing, and if necessary, be willing to make sacrifices for the greater good.
How much of you is in the characters and the situations within the book?
David: There’s a little bit of me in the character of Professor. He’s more studious and uptight than I, but we both enjoy learning and knowledge, and have a certain degree of impatience with people who, shall we say, don’t catch on quickly enough.
Sean: I’ve always said that I am in every character I write, even the villains. A character won’t do something unless I can rationalize it. Which I suppose means that all my characters might start to look, sound and act the same. That’s where the collaborative approach really pays off. Now, for Jade, who is clearly still conflicted about her relationship with Dane, I had to channel some of my own life experience, so there’s probably more of me in Jade than even I realize.
You co-wrote this – was the relationship like Dane & Bones? and which of you is which?
David: Sean might disagree, but I think his personality is more like that of Maddock and I’m more like Bones. Sean is more of a planner and pays more attention to details, whereas I pull a few ideas together and then just go for it. As a writer, Sean is stronger with prose, while I bring the irreverent humor that readers associate with Bones. Physically, it’s the exact opposite. Sean’s a big dude with a ponytail and I’m the short, stocky guy with blue eyes.
Sean: It’s true. I have no sense of humor.
What’s next for Jade?
Sean: In my endless search for really weird stuff, I came across something called the ‘phantom time’ hypothesis. It’s the belief that maybe there were some errors in the way we counted time through the Dark Ages, which led to accidentally adding about three centuries that never happened. And if that were true, how would it change the world we live in?
David: And that’s just the beginning!