Judas Strain, a thriller that garnered
rave reviews, including this comment from the
Charleston Post-Courier, saying Rollins "invests...with
his characteristic command of detail, along with
a creeping dread.," spent 5 weeks on the
New York Times bestseller list — and broke
onto international bestseller charts as well,
proving that this riveting author has won countless
numbers of new fans, both at home and abroad.
Rollins' previous thriller, Black
Order was proclaimed by People Magazine
as one of summer's "hottest reads."
Map of Bones was
chosen by Publishers Weekly as one of the most
likely to win over Dan Brown's faithful audience,
and the New York Times rated the book as one the
summer's top crowd pleasers.
In 2008, Rollins released Indiana
Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,
a novelization of the long-awaited Lucasfilm sequel
starring Harrison Ford. For more information about
this extraordinary author, visit him online at
Mr. Rollins, thank you for taking
time out of your busy schedule and upcoming Indy
tour to speak with us.
In my research and review of
your numerous books, I discovered that you write
in a genre I've never heard monickered before.
Can you explain to us what "Science Adventure"
Well, I love writing stories that
blend globe-circling adventures with intriguing
extrapolations about current scientific mysteries.
I think this goes back to when I grew up reading
reprints of the old 30s and 40s pulp novels: Doc
Savage, the Shadow,
the Avenger, the
Spider. I still have huge collections of
these stories in my library. I believe my writing
is basically an updated version of those old pulp
Can you share with us a little
about what lead you to writing?
I read voraciously while growing
up, and I think that instilled a desire to write.
With three brothers and three sisters, I was sort
of the storyteller of my family (what my mother
called “the Liar”), so it was only
natural that I began to write those stories down.
But I also loved science, medicine, and animals,
so in college, I pursued getting a veterinary
degree. But that twisted corner of my mind that
spun tales never really let go. Eventually I started
my own veterinary practice and during lunch breaks
I would write. After a few years, stories began
to sell, and a new career was born.
I see that you are an adventurer
of sorts yourself. According to your website you
enjoy spelunking and scuba diving. I also noticed
a little blurb in the 'Indy Interview' clip posted
there about how you first experienced Raiders
of the Lost Ark. Care to go into a little
more detail with us?
Rollins scuba diving
with a sea turtle.
I grew up in Missouri, which is
cave central. I joined a local “grotto”
(a caving club) and took up the sport of caving.
I loved both the challenge and escape and wonder
of the sport. But I eventually moved to the West
Coast and took up scuba diving (after being landlocked
in the Midwest, it was something new and exciting
to pursue). Since then, I've caved and dove across
much of the world and I hope to do more. As to
for the first time, I'm a huge movie buff. I'm
one of those folks who have to see a movie the
first day it comes out… and if it's a sneak
preview, I'm there! In fact, I still have a “May
the Force Be With You” button from being
one of the first 100 people to see the first Star
Wars movie. So of course, I had to see
Raiders when there
was a sneak preview of it. But I had already booked
a whitewater rafting trip for that same day. In
order to make that sneak preview, I had to paddle
like a madman down the river. I barely made it…
arriving in the theater with sopping wet sneakers
from the river. It wasn't actually a bad way to
Sort of added another level of realism to be sitting
their with wet shoes.
So, the BIG question - How did
you end up writing the novel adaptation to Indiana
Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull?
As I mentioned earlier, my writing
is sort of an updated version of those pulp novels
of the 30s and 40s. So it was no wonder that my
earlier novels were often compared to Indiana
Jones. One reviewer of my novel, Map
of Bones, described the book as a cross
between Indiana Jones and the
Da Vinci Code. To this day, I'm still not
sure if that reviewer was insulting me or complimenting
me. But any comparison to Indy, I always take
as a compliment. And as the last few of my novels
have hit the Top Ten lists nationwide, I drew
the attention of the publisher who obtained the
adaptation rights to the upcoming film. After
that, my name was submitted to George Lucas and
Steven Spielberg and got the thumb's up.
of the Crystal Skull is your first adaptation
novel. How did you prepare yourself for the task
of putting such a big screen story and character
on paper and can you share with us the process
or experience of writing an adaptation?
Though I pretty much had the first
three movies memorized long ago from watching
them over and over again, I happily watched them
a few more times, to get a feeling for the cadence
of the character, to study what Harrison Ford
added nonverbally to his creation of Indy on the
screen, and to get a feel for the frenetic pacing.
Basically to immerse myself in all things Indy.
Then I first read the script back
in the late spring of 2007. At that time, security
was as tight as a bank vault, and to even read
the script, it required a drive over to Lucasfilm
studios in the Presidio of San Francisco. But
over time, I was allowed access to the script
at home and granted a key to a site where still
shots from the movie were uploaded. So between
reading the script, talking with the screenplay
writer (the amazing David Koepp), and viewing
the shots from the production department, I was
able to begin working on the novel.
I found it an interesting and fascinating
challenge. It was both involving and liberating:
deconstructing the script, creating internal monologue,
expanding some scenes, contracting others, and
inventing brand new scenes. The studio also gave
me a fairly free hand. And all in all, I was able
to add about a dozen entirely new scenes that
aren't in the script or movie.
Past Indy authors have generally
been given free reign with the character of Indy.
The only exception has been particular do's and
don't's from creator George Lucas. Do you feel
you were able to impart new characteristics to
Indiana Jones through your writing despite whatever
limitations, if any?
I had a relatively free hand in
writing the novelization, though there were certainly
many eyes watching over my shoulder and certain
things that were taboo. In the case of this book,
I really wanted to address the aging Indy. There
was much press prior to the movie about Harrison
Ford reprising his role at his age--and while
the movie does address this passing of time, I
wanted to explore this in more depth. In scenes
from Indy's perspective, I wanted to have Indy
reflect on the passing of years, where he ended
up in his life at this moment. In this story,
Indy is at a crossroads in his life--both career-wise
and personally. So I wanted to explore what this
meant for him.
What type of research were you
able to achieve and did any of it involve seeking
out Crystal Skulls of your own?
You know, there is a weird bit of
serendipity involved in this project… almost
creepily so. First of all, even before I read
the script, I had been finishing up my next novel
(The Last Oracle,
due out June 24th). The book involves a group
of modern-day Russian scientists who are doing
research with autistic children who show miraculous
savant talent. Their research was attempting to
unlock and harness the power of the human mind,
much like Irina Spalko in Kingdom
of the Crystal Skull. So I had already
done vast amounts of research into Russian experiments
with psychic powers. Secondly, I already had a
crystal skull in my “cabinet of curiosities”
(along with a fossilized hadrosaur egg, an ammonite
shell, and a section of jaw and teeth from a tyrannosaur).
So it was strange to discover that crystal skulls
were going to play a central role in the Indy
You are an author that enjoys
sci-fi and the thrill ride and appear to have
been the perfect choice for the adaptation of
Kingdom of the Crystal
Skull. When you first read the Indy script,
were you surprised at how it seemed to stand out
so much from the original three and did you think
you had it 'in the bag' from your past writing
and genre experience?
James Rollins, keeper
of a crystal skull.
While eventually I had a blast writing
the novel, my first reaction after reading the
script was “wow, there's a lot of action
here that I have to capture and make it all come
alive on the page.” But there was also a
certain amount of trepidation. I mean, I would
be writing Indiana Jones! The amount of expectation
around the movie was huge, and I had to do it
justice, while also trying to expand and create
a companion piece to the movie with the novel.
It was a bit daunting. But once I started writing
it--picking up that whip, donning that fedora--it
all felt natural, and I sank into the role happily.
So, after getting the gig, reading
the script, and while working on the novel, when
everything about Indy was under wraps - did you
ever just want to go out and tell everyone you
met what you were doing?
Oh, man, yeah! For a while, it was
like holding the biggest secret in your heart.
But I also know how much I hate whenever someone
slips out spoilers to an upcoming movie or book.
I absolutely hate that. So I certainly wasn't
going to be the one to do that with this highly
anticipated movie. But it was also sort of secretly
fun, hearing all the rumors flying around. Some
struck close to home, but others were so wild
While browsing through your website,
I read in the really great Q&A, the posed
question: Have you ever put yourself into a story?
After reading your response, I couldn't help but
wonder, as an Indy fan, did you at least, in some
way, put yourself in the Kingdom
of the Crystal Skull story?
When I write, I do disappear into
my point-of-view character, whether that be hero
or villain. It's one of the joys of writing: you
can be anyone and do anything! And the case of
Indiana Jones, I got to put on that fedora, pick
up that bullwhip, and crawl through those ancient
ruins. I mean, who wouldn't want to be Indiana
Jones…if only in their own imagination?
And that's what I got to do when I wrote this
So, tell us about Marion and
Indy. It must have been exciting for you as a
writer to see these two revive their romantic
First of all, who didn't fall in
love with Marion Ravenwood from the opening scene
in the Raven Saloon in Nepal, where she drinks
a competitor under the table? Even by then, it's
already clear that Indy had a rocky relationship
with the fiery Ms. Ravenwood. Jump decades into
the future… and nothing has changed! When
those two meet, it's like tossing gasoline on
a fire. The two of them are ultimately the heart
of both the movie and the book. In fact, their
relationship completes the larger romantic story
that started with Raiders.
I understand you have a particular
fondness for the character Mutt from a creative
I think, after Indy, he was my favorite
character to write. He's a motorcycle-driving,
prep-school drop out with a chip on his shoulder
the size of the Empire States Building. But he's
also sharply intelligent and as keen of eye as
Indy. He's also a great foil for Indy to reflect
on his own life. The two make a great team…
that is, if they can stop from killing each other
Writing about a character that
has been the creation of others must have been
difficult. Were you ever intimidated by the challenge
or felt constrained?
Rollins in a tight spot.
As I mentioned, I was definitely
intimidated initially. Expectations were SO high.
But I felt very little constraint. I had a few
conversations with David Koepp, the amazing screenwriter,
and we talked about some aspects of the character
that stretched beyond the movie. But ultimately
I already loved Indy and wouldn't want to change
him. My goal was to portray not only the external
Indy, but also the internal: what he's thinking,
how does he react, what does he see… and
sometimes more importantly, what DOESN'T he see?
That was both the challenge and the exhilaration
to bring this character to life on the page.
As an author and storyteller,
would you liked to have seen something different
happen with the story or the characters that you
were given? Anything left out that you wished
had remained, etc.?
The movie stuck pretty close to
the script, but there were many things left unexplained
or were not dramatized. That was one of my goals
in writing the novelization: to fill in those
events. Some of the scenes brought to life in
the novel that were never addressed in the movie
include: What exactly happened to the Conquistadors
who first stole the skull? How did Indy get captured
by the Russians in Mexico? How did Indy end his
relationship with Marion? Plus many, many more
bits and pieces.
There have been 15 other full-length
Indiana Jones novels, including all three film
adaptations. Nearly ten years after the last one
was published (1999), you are the first author
to write an Indy novel. How does that make you
feel and have you considered writing more Indiana
Well, if you ask reviewers of my
books, I've already been writing Indiana Jones
books all along. The books are full of archaeology,
lost civilizations, and strange bits of mysticism.
In my novel Sandstorm,
I even have an archaeologist named Omaha Dunn.
But would I be interested in penning my own Indiana
Jones novel? To create a unique storyline of my
own? The answer is simple: Of course!
What do you feel you have walked
away with personally from this experience and
how has it changed you, if at all?
Writing the novelization has reminded
me of the joy I had when I first was reading those
old pulp serials. Though I have those books still
in my library, it had been a long time since I'd
read one. After reading the script for the first
time, I came home and pulled those books off the
shelf, dusted them off, and read three of my old
favorites. The storylines just revitalized that
kid in me, reminded me of what good storytelling
should do: to transport, to thrill, and to entertain.
The old pulp novels knew how to do this so well,
and the Indiana Jones franchise captured this
on film. There is a reason this series is so beloved
by young and old. As I wrote in my dedication
to George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, these movies
turned “geeks like me into heroes in the
I know I keep referring to your
website, but I can't help mention one other area
in the Q&A portion. You share a lot of great
advice for those seeking a career as a writer.
Your three key rules are read, write, and be persistant.
What would you warn aspiring authors NOT to do?
Rollins' next novel
coming in June 2008.
Not to follow popular trends. So
many new authors believe they have to write imitations
of novels that are on the bestsellers lists. Instead,
I challenge authors to write the truest novel
they are capable, stories that thrill and speak
to them personally. It is such stories, written
from the heart, that have the best chance of stirring
a reader--and that should be the goal of any novel.
Including a novelization. I've been approached
to write novelizations in the past, but I've turned
them down. I only took on this project because
I knew I could be passionate about it. As I mentioned
in that interview, I would've written this book
in my own blood. To just be able to dabble with
the mythology and legacy of this character, what
more could an adventure writer ask for? It is
from such a place of passion that all writers
Looking back on your many novels
and reading through some of your thoughts on past
ones, how do you feel you have grown as an author
and is there anything you would do different?
I think the personal goal of any
writer is to strive to do better. I follow my
own advice: to write everyday and read every night.
There is no better teacher in the craft of writing
than a good book. So I hope each novel I write
is a little stronger or a little more polished.
I definitely challenge myself a bit harder each
time out. Would I do anything differently? No.
Again I write from a place of passion with each
novel, and as long as I do that and put all my
effort into a novel, I am content with the result.
What ultimate goal do you want
to achieve as a writer?
That's easy. My ultimate goal of
writing is to entertain. I want to transport my
readers, to thrill them, and to stir their imagination.
If I can do all that while leaving them with something
more after they turn the last page, all the better.
One of the best compliments I get from readers
is when they tell me that a certain novel intrigued
them enough to pursue their own research into
the subject matter. Then I know I've done my job
Lastly, share with us some about
your latest projects and if possible a glimpse
into the next novel? Also, how can fans keep up
with the latest from James Rollins?
Coming out in the last week of June
is my latest Sigma thriller, titled The
Last Oracle. As with many of my novels,
it started out from a question: What if you could
bio-engineer the next great world prophet: scientifically
produce the next Buddha, the next Mohammed, or
even the next Jesus? Would it mark the Second
Coming or initiate a chain reaction with disastrous
consequences? The novel already has garnered some
glowing reviews in Publishers Weekly and Library
Journal. But I've also finished a new project--a
middle-school book--that will be out next summer.
And presently I'm working on next summer's Sigma
thriller, but that plot's still under lock and
James, again, THANK YOU so much
for taking time out with us. We at TheRaider.net
wish you and yours the very best and hope to sit
with you again one day, if you will have us. To
learn more about James Rollins visit his website