Jerry Dubs writes about Egypt. Need I say more? His novel Imhotep tells the story of three people who walk through a time portal and find themselves in ancient Egypt. Now he’s working on a sequel.
I’m a retired journalist. I covered state government, crime, local government, education, wrote feature stories and did a few years as an investigative journalist. I started with The Hanover Evening Sun and then spent 25 years with The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa.
My wife, Deb, and I have been married for 32 years. We have two sons, a daughter and one granddaughter. Deb and I have recently embarked on an experiment. While we were raising our kids we had a four-bedroom home, two-car garage, patio furniture, grill, and the works. Over the past four years we’ve been downsizing by squeezing ourselves into progressively smaller apartments. Now we’ve taken the next step. We’ve sold everything except our laptop computers, clothing and tennis gear. Everything we own fits into a Honda Civic.
Our idea is to travel the world (focusing on warm climates), living in furnished condos, apartments, homes, whatever we can find. Our first stop is Myrtle Beach, S.C., so we’re still in driving range of two of our kids. If we like the experience, we’ll start moving farther afield … Florida, St. Maarten, Ecuador, the Canary Islands, Malta, places like that.
Would you please tell us about your latest book?
The Earth Is My Witness is the last novel I published. Its protagonist is an accidental Existential-Buddhist detective.
It’s set in Hanover, Pa., where I spent the first half of my life and I had a lot of fun using my experiences there as fodder for the story. The story begins with the protagonist waking up in an extremely difficult situation and having no memory of how he got there. Things just careen out of control from there as he struggles to find out who killed his best friend.
What inspired you to write this novel?
Two things … I wanted to try my hand at a detective story with an unusual protagonist, one who would give me an opportunity to inject some weight into the mystery. And, I kept having a recurring nightmare about a body being buried in the basement of the home I grew up in. At least I hope it was a nightmare.
What does a typical writing day look like?
I’m a morning writer. (And a coffee geek, perhaps they go hand-in-hand?) After breakfast I settle in with music – jazz, world or classical when I’m writing, Diana Krall, Paul Simon, Dylan when I’m rewriting or editing. I write for two or three hours. If I’m unhappy with the plot or need to sort out some outlining, I usually do that with paper and pen. Using pen and paper rather than easily edited computer keystrokes makes me think more before I put words on paper.
Afternoons I usually play tennis or take a long walk.
Can you describe your writing process?
Usually I’ll kick an idea around in my head for a couple weeks, make some notes, do some research. For my next novel, The Buried Pyramid, I did a fair amount of reading about the era just after King Djoser, looking for historical events to serve as a skeleton for the novel.
I’m an outliner, so I spend a lot of time plotting, making notes about the kind of secondary characters I’ll need, jotting down ideas for scenes.
I usually write a chapter in one or two days. The next day I rewrite it. The third day, I read it, hopefully making very few changes, and then I move ahead to expand my outline and notes for the next chapter. The next day I give the chapter a final read. If I’m happy with it, I start writing the following chapter.
It isn’t unusual for me to wake up during the night with a plot idea, a snatch of conversation or a specific scene, and race out to write it down.
When I’ve finished the novel, I let it sit for a week or two and then read it, making notes. Then I begin the rewrite. When that is finished I send it off to a friend, who is a copy editor. When he’s finished, I make those corrections, and hopefully, I’m done.
How did you prepare to write about the book’s specific area or field of study?
Deb and I visited Egypt on our honeymoon, so I visited most of the scenes in Imhotep and The Buried Pyramid. I also do a lot of research, both hardback books and visiting web sites.
How did you come up with your title?
For Imhotep I just used the main character’s name. It said EGYPT and it felt right because of the central plot twist. The Earth Is My Witness is a quote from Buddha. My detective is Buddhist and there is a body buried in a secret place. For my next book, there is a pyramid called the Buried Pyramid. It is in the right location and time frame for the novel and there are some mysteries about it that dovetail with plot ideas I had. And it sounds mysterious, right?
What advice do you have for writers who have not yet been published?
Amazon has been wonderful for me. If you can’t find an agent, follow the publishing guidelines and put your book up as an eBook. Don’t charge too much. I might believe that my book is worth $20 a copy. But if no one buys it at that price, I must be wrong. I priced Imhotep at $2.99 and it was selling a few copies, a dozen or so a month. I dropped the price to 99 cents and it started moving. My best month I sold about 3,000 copies.
Excluding family, name three people who either inspired you or influenced your creativity.
Mark Twain. Perhaps the American best writer, both his writing and observations are incredible. Gore Vidal. His historic novels are witty, intelligent and fun. The Dalai Lama. His writing is clear and uncluttered, as are his ideas.
If your book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
Dark chocolate. (It’s the only kind I eat.) It has more flavor and yet it’s smooth.
Tell us about your main character’s psyche or personality. What led her (or him) to be the person s/he is today?
Tim Hope, the main character of both Imhotep and The Buried Pyramid, is an artist who begins the stories as an injured innocent, becomes a powerful, confident leader (in the first novel) and then is hammered by fate in The Buried Pyramid. I am still writing it, but so far he has absorbed the blows, and, though nearly broken, has begun to recover.
When I wrote about him I wanted to explore how a person who is sensitive, moral and intelligent would react to extreme situations, how they could reconcile reality with their idea of fairness.
Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
David Lamb, the protagonist in The Earth Is My Witness, has the savour faire of the Dude, the imposing physicality of Woody Allen and the social skills of Shrek. Yet he still figures things out.
If you could host a magical dinner party, who are the six people (living or otherwise) you’d include?
Bob Dylan, circa 1964; the Dalai Lama, now; Thomas Jefferson, at the time of the writing of the Declaration of Independence; Isaac Newton, at the height of his mathematical powers; Carl Sagan, anytime; and Jane Fonda, when she made Barbarella.
What’s next for you?
I am nearly finished with the first draft of The Buried Pyramid. It is a sequel to Imhotep, my first and most successful novel.
Continuing the story of the main characters of Imhotep, it begins with the death of King Djoser and introduces some new characters, both in ancient Egypt and in the modern day. Like Imhotep there is a bit of time travel. I used time travel as a way to make the story of Imhotep possible. In The Buried Pyramid I’m using it a bit more, both as a plot technique and as a way to write about free will, randomness and fate.
It’s been a blast to write. I hope readers will have fun with it.