My Characters Made Me Do It!

In every other project that I’ve done up until MARK OF THE SCARAB, I experienced things before I created characters.  In fact, on my website, there’s an article about how I wasn’t able to write about Merano, Italy until I got to know it. My friend Jeanie Ransom said something like the following: “You’re living in a place where Heidi could be shouting, “Grandfather!  Grandfather!” and you’re writing about Missouri.  (Strangely enough, I wrote most of DEFENDING IRENE, a novel set in Merano, after we moved back to Missouri.)   For SAVING THE GRIFFIN, I had been to Tuscany.  I had also learned about the idiosyncratic way that Italians speak English.  (Don’t get me started on MY awful accent and odd speech patterns.  You can take the girl out of the Midwest, but you can’t take the Midwest out of the girl.) 

When the idea for MARK OF THE SCARAB (working title) struck, I had only been to Egypt through the work of Elizabeth Peters and other novelists.    As I noted earlier in this blog, I studied websites, guidebooks and hundreds of photos to build the setting for my story.  I grilled my sister, who lives in a suburb south of Cairo.  I completed a draft only days before my husband and I were scheduled to take off. 

In preparation, I planned a schedule that would let me follow in the footsteps of my characters so that everything would be as authentic as I could make it. 

My characters walked along the bottom row of blocks of one of the Giza pyramids, so…

Western Side of King Khafre's Pyramid

I had to do it!  My husband snapped a picture and then told me to get down, much like one of my characters did in the opening chapter. 

My characters also rode camels, so I had to do that, too.  I’m in front of Zoser’s step pyramid. It’s the world’s oldest stone monument, dating back to 2650 BC.

Zoser's Step Pyramid
Zoser's Step Pyramid


Shortly after the camel ride, we headed to the pyramid fields of Abusir. A very important scene in my novel took place there. The Head of the Supreme Council of Antiquites had written an article proclaiming that Abusir was open to the public; the empty parking lot suggested otherwise.  Did we get in?  Let’s just say that baksheesh can open closed sites in Egypt.  I’ll try to post on that soon.

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