Author James Rollins

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Best-selling author James Rollins will discuss his latest book, “The Bone Labyrinth,” which spans 50,000 thousand years of human history and weaves together scientific, historical and other facts to tell the story of a single prime number that is not only locked in our genetic code, but can also be found in the unusual symmetries of the earth, sun, and moon.

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Ted Simons: Best selling author James Rollins has just released a new action adventure novel that also explores a variety of scientific issues including origins of human intelligence. It's titled the bone labyrinth, everything from espionage to anthropology. Good to have you here.

James Rollins: thanks, Ted. Appreciate it.

Ted Simons: So much to talk about here. Let's start with the fact that this is a sigma force novia. For those of you not familiar with that, what is that?

James Rollins: It's a covert group of operatives, former special forces soldiers that have been taken by the department's research and development wing, retrained to become field operatives. They are scientists with guns, sent out to protect from scientific threats and other nonscientific threats.

Ted Simons: You've written numerous others. 12?

James Rollins: This is the 11th book. Not that you have to read them in order. Most of my readers have not read them in order. Sort of structured them to be read in any order.

Ted Simons: why or considering the topics here, because we're going to get to this, so much in the way of history and religion and myth even, then science as well. Why not a stand-alone novel? Why get the sigma force guys involved?

James Rollins: All my initial novels were stand alone. What I call a Jessica Fletcher syndrome from murder she wrote, I have never stumbled over a dead body. She was always doing that. The final revelation should have been the last episode of murder she wrote was that she was a serial killer framing everybody. With a group I can knock off major characters, threat comes from many directions. They can always recruit somebody else. I like that.

Ted Simons: James bond either exists or he doesn't.

James Rollins: exactly.

Ted Simons: Let's get to the plot.

James Rollins: sure.

Ted Simons: Human intelligence, the roots of human intelligence, it's a major player in this book.

James Rollins: it is. That was the seed that the story came from. There's a big anthropological mystery back 50,000 years ago there was a sudden upsurge in art, ingenuity, weapons development, production of grave goods but our brains had been the same for 200,000 years much. The question why was this sudden spike in this activity at 50,000 years. Anthropologists don't know. We have no answer for. That I'm always looking for that historical mystery that ends in a question Mark and I have an answer.

Ted Simons: you have some answers regarding that. But at the end of the book you kind of write, here's what is real, here's what I kind of made up, here's where you can go for further information on the real part. With that in mind, for all of your novels what kind of research do you have to do?

James Rollins: A lot. I enjoy it. Probably too much. What's true, what's not at the end of the novel is actually a lot of people's favorite parts of the book because I pull apart the curtains say, this is what's real, this is not. I traveled to China for this book. I love to travel. I don't usually travel for research per se, run around Paris, come back and write about it, I travel for the fun of it. I'm notorious for walking up to a local and asking them, tell me a secret of this town that nobody knows. I did that. I was three weeks in China. A week in Beijing, a week in Shanghai, a week in Hong Kong. I approached a gentleman in Beijing, tell me something about your town that nobody knows about. Well, let me tell you, beneath Beijing is an entire underground city. During the cold war we built it and our entire population could recede underground if the Soviets attack and it still exists. They moved their tanks into position through the underground city that was there.

Ted Simons: I know this whole idea of genetic modification, they are discovering bones on almost a daily basis it seems. How do you do the research and write the novel? At the end you mention you had to tweak the story line a little bit.

James Rollins: it was changing so rapidly. When I first began the novel we now two to 4% of the human Genome mostly came from neanderthals. Then I find there's another hominid species contributed to our Genome, then there's a third I found. Path is not set in stone. We're learning very rapidly that will was much more going on back 50,000 years ago than anybody suspected.

Ted Simons: Do you ever have Reuters say that page 16 about some scientific issue, you got that wrong?

James Rollins: Oh, yes. They always double check me which I like. I like that. I'm I love people challenging, opening a discussion, talking about those aspects of the story.

Ted Simons: I ask that because Ian Fleming has a new biography. He says he would have people writing him all the time, that caliber of gun could not do that. He ended up having correspondence with them to get it right.

James Rollins: that's one of the great resources we have is social media in that I have access to experts in almost every field more than willing to help, which I'm surprised.

Ted Simons: you touch on the moon, on Chinese espionage, on Atlantis, all sort of -- do you ever hit a point where you -- I got a little too much information going here?

James Rollins: I'm always trying to balance that between the historical mystery and the question Mark and that cutting edge from the headlines type of story. But not so much interested in the cogs and the wheels, the technology. I don't try to get so much in depth that I lose the reader. What interests me and hopefully the reader is how that affects us, how does that challenge us morally or spiritually? How might that change the path of the human civilization? That's what I like to explore.

Ted Simons: I think we glossed over this at first but the plot without giving too much away --

James Rollins: Two sisters, twins, geneticists, attacked on two different continents. One is assaulted at a research dig in Croatia where she discovered a medieval church underground that holds the bones of a neanderthal woman. Her sister is abducted out of a primate center in Atlanta where she and her primate were. forces called in to find out why are they pursuing these women, what's the plot. They expose a plot by the Chinese government which is actually true where they are beginning to engineer human embryos. I thought it was fictitious at first but a big article came out brouhaha that there was a group of Chinese scientists experimenting with changing the human genome to the point where it's inheritable, which is scary stuff.

Ted Simons: this young gorilla, Baco, a major player in the novel, was it tough to go into the character of a gorilla?

James Rollins: My past was a veterinarian. I still do volunteer work so I love populating my books with animals, especially I like to write scenes from the point of view of animals. In this book I got to write scenes from the perspective of this research animal, three-year-old mountain gorilla. Great deal of fun. I like to put my readers in the paws of the creatures. Not to do a Disney version of them going to song and dance, I want them to try to experience what it really is like to be that creature.

Ted Simons: To me, the minute I read about Baco, I don't want anything bad to happen.

James Rollins: never kill a dog. You can't kill the dog.

Ted Simons: exactly. Baco-- all right. I won't ask what happens to Baco. Still reading the book.

James Rollins: One viewer said, bring Kleenex.

Ted Simons: oh, Jeez. All right. Your books have been translated Into 40 languages. You're a best selling author. You write -- you write a lot of these books and people love them. I have read reviews of people saying they act like it's the real -- why do you think you're so successful? What are you doing out there?

James Rollins: My goal when I write a story is to entertain. Build a roller coaster ride, take my readers on that ride. I think for a story to have a lot of impact, to have resonance with your readers when they turn that last page, close the cover, you left them something to think about. That's why I have that section in the back of the book if you have any interest in science and history I leave you bread crumbs to follow and I think a lot of people do. That's one of the appeals of the novel.

Ted Simons: when you're writing are you writing for someone in particular, whether a real person or someone on your shoulder? Are you writing for the mirror?

Ted Simons: For myself. Basically I firmly believe a writer should write from a point of passion, something they want to read. I laugh, I cry when I'm writing the scenes which I won't tell you what happens to Baco.

Ted Simons: Gave away a little bit there.

James Rollins: The movie in my head, I'm the director. The best thing is have no budget. I can do the wildest stunts, blow up the biggest things. It's all my imagination.

Ted Simons: I love asking writers about how they write. This is such a complicated -- so many people doing so many different things. There's even a gorilla doing different things. Do you plot this? You outline? Do you know what's going to happen and follow the outline?

James Rollins: I have to do some. I know the first and last lines often before I begin writing the book. I know a few tent poles in between. I don't necessarily know how A connects to B connects to C. For me the joy of being a writer is discovering that path. To me the most exciting day is when I have a blank screen in front of me and I don't know what's doing to happen or I painted my characters into a corner and don't know how to get them out. Those are the fun days to write.

Ted Simons: do you occasionally break the outline?

James Rollins: Sometimes your characters will take you in a direct that you were not expecting. That's a good thing too. I do need to make sure the train doesn't get too far off the track because there's a end spot I want to hit.

Ted Simons: a veterinarian can't stop writing successfully. How does that happen?

James Rollins: well, I was raised with three brothers and three sisters. I was the storyteller. My goal was to terrorize my brothers and sisters. If tears were involved all the better. The part that loves telling story but I also read a lot, twisted corner of my brain that spins stories but I love animals, medicine, science. I got that assignment in third grade, what do you want to be when you grow up, but I didn't want to spell veterinarian. My clients became suspicious something was up. Get your cat spayed, get a free book. Dr. Jim, you're doing this writing business, what's your long term goal? I said for 15 years veterinary medicine, writing was a hobby. I thought that would be cool to flip that on its ear and have veterinary medicine be my hobby.

Ted Simons: with writing as your paycheck does it ever become a slog?

James Rollins: writing is hard. Some days feels like gold flowing from your fingertips, others dragged out of your skull. But it's fun to do.

Ted Simons: Do you wait for the Muse? How do you work it?

James Rollins: I have to write five double spaced pages every day an come hell or high water it gets done.

Ted Simons: do you start or end the day with that?

James Rollins: I usually start, lot of times I might get distracted by Facebook or probably too much by Facebook, then I'll get back to it. Before I go to bed I have to have that fifth page written.

Ted Simons: if you don't it's a rough sleep?

James Rollins: It is. Otherwise I have to do six or seven pages the next day.

Ted Simons: like exercise. People that run or work out. You just have to --

James Rollins: For writing you have to have that regimen.

Ted Simons: something I asked earlier about being a Cigna force novel as opposed to a stand alone. Are you veering more toward stand alone --

James Rollins: I write two books a year roughly. The Cigna book and the other book. Sometimes stand alone, sometimes a different project. I did a middle school series featuring a young boy archeologist. I have co-authored projects. Fun of working with another author. I like to use the other part of the year for different projects to keep me fresh.

Ted Simons: these Cigna force novels especially, there's so much action, stuff going on constantly. How come we're not seeing any movies made of these books or are we?

James Rollins: Everything has been optioned and I'm not officially allowed on air to say anything. You can assume what I'm saying from there. There will be a formal announcement shortly.

Ted Simons: I was going to say. It would certainly make sense to the casual reader and viewer that something like this would make --

James Rollins: I would not argue about that at all.

Ted Simons: congratulations on this book. You probably are in the middle of writing another one?

James Rollins: one is already in the bag and I'm working on one after that.

Ted Simons: continued success. Thank you so much for joining us. You're at poison pen tonight?

James Rollins: 7:00.

Ted Simons: Scottsdale.

James Rollins: Correct.

Ted Simons: James Rollins, thank you so much.

Ted Simons: Wednesday on "Arizona Horizon" hear from an ASU researcher who attended the Paris climate change talks and we'll check out a stunning installation by artist Bruce Munro, 5:30 and 10:00 on the next "Arizona Horizon." That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thanks for joining us. You have a great evening.

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James Rollins:Author of The Bone Labyrinth

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