Each month, I interview an author here on the blog. You can find past interviews here!
This month we have Deborah Jackson, author of The Furies’ Bog, a really interesting sci-fi which she did quite a lot of research for! Learn more about it below and of course, hear from the author herself!
The Furies’ Bog by Deborah Jackson
A bog may be Earth’s undoing, but it will be a gift to Mars.
Digging up bog bodies and analyzing corpses are the last things archaeology graduate student Felicity Cratchett wants to do. And when unusual mummies are discovered in the subpolar region of Polar Bear Provincial Park, it’s the last place she wants to go. But since her faculty advisor insists that she log more hours in fieldwork, she has little choice. In a remote bog with a small team of scientists, Felicity unearths the greatest secret of our time—a secret with ties to ancient Rome, roots in Botswana, and a link to the first people to exercise abstract thought. This revelation will challenge the conventional theory of human origins and human evolution.
Meanwhile, astronaut Lucas Wilson, a man tormented with a deep-seated anger, is terraforming Mars. He reluctantly descends to the Red Planet’s surface with his fellow astronauts, preparing to direct their exploration. Mars, in its birth pangs, will challenge every step he takes, with gas explosions and raging rivers, with damaged fuel processors and limited oxygen supplies. In the midst of these disasters, Lucas must keep his companions from discovering a feat of genetic engineering that will transform Mars like nothing has in over a billion years. The double helix of this masterwork twists all the way back to Earth and Felicity’s mummies. But if he fails, Lucas must decide whether to take up Mars’s sword, or to cast the weapon into a bog.
Sam/Spines: Let’s start off with a little game to learn more about you: what are two truths and a lie about yourself?
DJ: Okay, so I’m Canadian, eh, although I never say “eh” in my books. I’m a passionate hiker and photographer. You’ll always find me in the woods somewhere among the wildlife, snapping photos, creeping forward, scaring the snakes, even rattlers. So yes, I’m fearless in the wild, but petrified at a party. And I absolutely despise reading, of any sort, ever.
S: How did you get started in writing? Have you always wanted to be a writer?
DJ: I’ve been writing since I was a child. I still have various stories and writing assignments buried in a box from eighth grade. My favorite teacher, Mr. Martin, encouraged me to write at that point, and we had this fun little sarcastic repartee within the pages. But in high school, the assignments were less amusing and I lost my passion temporarily. I think, deep down, I always wanted to be a writer and journalist, but ended up with a science degree, and that’s why my stories tend to lean toward science.
S: Can you tell us a little about your book?
DJ: The Furies’ Bog is a mixture of science, particularly genetics, futuristic speculation regarding the settlement of Mars, archaeology, biology and a sprinkling of mythology. I always leave just a little room for mysticism. It begins with the discovery of bodies in a bog in northern Ontario, in a place called Polar Bear Provincial Park. These bodies appear to be ancient, but also could be linked with a recent murder. At the same time, astronauts are preparing Mars for future settlement, terraforming the planet with asteroid and comet bombardments. These two situations are linked, and Felicity, an archaeology student, along with Baruti, a biologist from Botswana, and Bob, an astronaut who descends to Mars, must discover the connection. It involves an international conspiracy and an evolutionary puzzle with ties to !Kung aborigines in Botswana as well as to the origin of life.
S: As your story brings together different perspectives, did you find it difficult maintaining two separate voices?
DJ: There are several different voices in the story. Six separate main characters are involved: Felicity, an archaeology grad student, Frank, her rival and fellow student, Dayna, her faculty advisor, Baruti, a biologist from Botswana, Lucas, one of the astronauts on Mars, and Bob, another astronaut, who is suspicious of Lucas. Each character was unique, with their own voice, so it wasn’t too difficult to keep their perspectives.
They also had different motives and goals. Felicity wants to be respected as an artist, but must settle for a secondary career choice. Frank has dispensed with trying to achieve academic success to impress his parents, since they will never be satisfied, and has swung around to treasure-hunting. Baruti’s main goal is revenge for the death of his friends, but he has several other interests and desires regarding wildlife and other
people. Their jobs, their backgrounds, and their purpose in life determine who
they are, so it’s easy to separate the characters and events.
S: You did quite a lot of research for this book; can you describe what this process was like? Any new concept you learned that you found especially fascinating?
DJ: When I research a novel such as this one that involves an inordinate amount of material, I start by absorbing everything I can about the subject matter. At first I began with the archaeology of bog bodies, but when I began reading journal articles on genetics that supported the main concept of the story, I realized I didn’t know enough to write with authority and confidence. So, for this particular book, I enrolled in online biology and genetics courses at MIT to better understand genetic engineering and the studies I’d been reading that would support the main concept for Furies’. Then, rather than continue writing the book, I wrote the conception up as a study and incorporated it in the novel.
I began writing toward the idea/study and, with each new concept or elements of the environment, such as cloning or simply the wildlife in Botswana, I would search both the web for articles and books and magazines. They would provide me with either deep information if necessary, or just enough to describe something accurately. The Mars terraforming aspect was also quite challenging. In the end, I ran it past an aerospace engineer to help point out discrepancies or fallacies.
I’ve always found genetics extremely interesting. By simply substituting or rearranging a few bases in our DNA, we can change the code to build a different protein, or create alternative functions in a cell. The new applications of genetic engineering are growing exponentially, and it is useful in so many ways, from creating biofuel to eventually curing cancer. I approached my concept from a medical perspective, because of my background in the health care field, so it is much more detailed than you might see in other fictional stories. But it started with a comment by Elon Musk about Mars. I can’t tell you any more without spoilers.
S: Do you have a favourite character in your book or one you connect with most?
DJ: I could choose several, but I think I connect the most with Baruti, the biologist. He adores wild animals, just as I do, and is disheartened by the accelerating extinction of species. His passion is to somehow wake up the world to the loss and the impending disaster we’re heading toward. I also like him for his kind but realistic attitude toward others and difficult situations. He doesn’t shy away from painful decisions.
S: What have you found most rewarding in your writing career?
DJ: I could say having a bestseller, like my first novel, Ice Tomb. But that’s only a temporary high. Writing is full of ups and downs, particularly once your “baby” is released to the world. I think the most rewarding part of writing is the day to day grind, from coming up with an idea that no one else has thought of to researching extraordinary and fascinating items. It can also be the creative process, like being productive one day and writing an excellent chapter and the next day discovering you can hardly write a word, or your writing is horrendous. Writing is humbling and far more difficult than most people realize. But when you’ve tapped out the last sentence of something you’ve worked on for years, and it is a decent job, then you feel satisfied.
S: What are you working on next?
DJ: Well, The Furies’ Bog doesn’t end. It’s just the first book in a series I’ve called The Silent Gene series. So I am working on #2, untitled at the moment, and the research is just as staggering right now.
S: And now for some fun questions: What is your Hogwarts house?
DJ: Gryffindor, of course
S: Favourite flavour of ice cream?
DJ: Moose tracks
S: Dogs or cats?
DJ: Dogs, absolutely. Although, I’m awfully fond of birds.
S: And finally, where can we find you?
DJ: My website: www.deborahjackson.co
About the Author: Deborah Jackson received a science degree from the University of Ottawa in 1986, graduated from the Winghill Writing School in Ottawa in 2001, and is the author of several science fiction and historical fiction novels. Deborah is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and SF Canada. Her novels include Ice Tomb and Sinkhole, adult science fiction thrillers, the Time Meddlers series for children, ages 9–14 (Time Meddlers, Time Meddlers Undercover and Time Meddlers on the Nile), and the eerie ghost story, Mosaic. Articles about Deborah and reviews of her books have appeared in the Ottawa Citizen, MORE Magazine, RT BOOKclub Magazine, Canadian Teacher Magazine, SF Site, Neo-opsis Science Fiction Magazine, and many more.