At the same time, I was reading some science accounts of new paleontological findings that surprised me. Humans emerged from Africa as much as 200,000 years ago, but then died off and shrank back to a remnant in East Africa that at one time may have numbered as few as ten thousand people. A small band of these left again, 70,000 to 50,000 years ago, and eventually repopulated the other continents. They carried the genes of a real-life Adam and Eve – the single man, and single woman that our DNA can be traced back to.
Somehow I combined these two notions into my first teen thriller, with plenty of fact and speculation to intrigue adults as well. What if this prehistoric male and female were an actual pair at a particular place and time? Could you use time travel to meet Adam and Eve? And knowing all the good and evil their children’s children have produced, what if you wanted to change history by eliminating them and starting over?
Or not starting over at all?
Which led to a mysterious alien race called the Xu, a deserted town that really exists near where I live, a sentry monster, a disorienting spaceship, and ultimately Africa.
I’d been intrigued by East Africa ever since a travel writer told me it was her favorite of all places because it felt like “home.” So my wife and I signed up for a safari that included a spell of walking through Thomson Safari. Usually in Africa, the humans are in the cage – the vehicle they are exploring in – and the animals are outside. Thomson offered a hike past a slumbering volcano that seemed ideal for book research. So we both explored game parks and hiked.
This was one of those books that took control of itself, developing twists and turns I initially hadn’t anticipated. It was challenging to write because I wanted to keep a sprawling subject very quick and tight, and I had to develop young characters who were believable as teens but who could express some of the book’s ideas.
I had plenty of books that inspired this tale, such as Lord of the Flies, Walkabout, and Ishmael. My own Getting Back has some similarities. I was also charmed to watch a young woman on our journey so entranced by The Hunger Games on her e-reader that she kept reading at the base of a volcanic crater, next to a lake with a flock of flamingoes.
I hope Murder is half that compelling. It’s a very different book for me, and in some ways an odd one. But I think it’s one of my best.