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Where Do Writers Find Inspiration?

The inspiration for White Powder Of Gold came from the ritual building texts on the Ancient Egyptian temple of Edfu.

Translated by Eve Reymond in her book, The Mythical Origin of the Egyptian Temple, these tell of gods known as the Shebtiu, who emerged from the watery chaos at zep tepi (the first time), and their mysterious ShemsuHor followers.

Image: Matthias Kabel License: CC-BY-SA-3.0

I have shelves of books on Ancient Egypt, forbidden history and weird science. As a teenage I always had my head in a book and fed my imagination a diet of fascinating ideas from writers such as Graham Hancock, Robert Bauval, Erich von Daniken, Zacharia Sitchin and, more recently, Lynne McTaggart’s The Field.

I tend to over-research and glean reams of interesting facts which then have to be condensed into a few pithy sentences that drive the plot forwards rather than slowing it down.

My characters

My characters evolved over time, undergoing several name changes as the plot developed.

They are always with me and I’m plotting when swimming, exercising on the cross-trainer, shopping and cooking as I visualise the next scene. Then, when I’m ready to write, I already know what the setting looks and smells like and how I want that scenario to move the story forwards.

I don’t write to a tight outline but let the story progress to see where it takes me. The plot is voice driven – more conversation than exposition – and often characters would go off-piste and do or say things without my permission, driving the story forwards in unexpected ways.

Things sometimes happened without me having the faintest idea why, but then it all came together a few chapters later and I’d think ‘Ah, that’s what that was for!’

There were some true eureka moments. I didn’t know why Saxon was Tehuti’s designated stepu until halfway through the novel… yet this revelation didn’t come out of nowhere. Somehow, the elements were already in place and I just had to piece them together.

My favourite question is ‘What if?’ and I kept inventing ways for my hero’s situation to get worse. I would plot and visualise each scene in my head before committing it to paper which is probably why I’m told I write very filmically.

All Saints College

Having been a student at Selwyn College, Cambridge, I wanted my hero, Dr Saxon de Carey, to be an academic as well as a clinician. I invented All Saints, a fictional Cambridge college which anyone familiar with the layout of Selwyn will find familiar.

Image: DAVID ILIFF. License: CC BY-SA 3.0

I gave Saxon joint posts as a clinical lecturer in physiology and part-time consultant in emergency medicine. While acting as a medic on a University expedition to Peru, he discovers the tomb of Tehuti, last of the Ancient Egyptian gods, which kicks off the plot.

I wanted the story to be dynamic and fast flowing – rather like a medical Indiana Jones – and his experience in emergency medicine lets him jump in to do medical procedures with confidence and a certain amount of finesse.

It was interesting trying to get inside the head of a male but the fact that Saxon is a doctor helped me know how he’d respond medically and also shaped how he takes control in a crisis. 

The first editor to read the manuscript described Saxon as a “brilliant, calm and caring figure of authority …  whose principled, compassionate nature is underscored repeatedly as his mistake haunts him…”

He’s the type of doctor I always wanted to be!

Science stranger than fiction

The book is set slightly in the future and has elements of science fiction and fantasy as well as action and adventure.

I’m an avid reader of New Scientist and am fascinated by the weirdness of quantum mechanics which is an absolute gift for science fantasy authors.

There’s been a lot in the press recently about solar flares, with aurora borealis – northern lights – seen over Cambridge. This eerily recreates a scene in my book in which a massive solar flare causes an identical phenomenon.

In my story, an even greater flare is imminent and it’s up to Saxon to activate a mechanism designed by Tehuti to avert it.

Cambridge News: This spectacular shot of St John’s College in Cambridge was captured by Dan Sayle (Image: Dan Sayle)

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