By J.H. Bográn
In the new book PLAGUES OF EDEN, Army Chaplain Jaime Richards is back and the race is on to stop a madman bent on unleashing the plagues of ancient Egypt against the modern world. Fiery hail, water to blood, darkness, death of the firstborn. Can Jaime stop the catastrophe and save the mysterious Sword 23 from the clutches of a psychopath?
Interesting plot, but also fascinating is the fact that these two co-authors first met in the sixth grade. I had the opportunity to interview both Sharon Linnéa, and B. K. Sherer. Although I asked them both the same questions, it is interesting how different their responses are.
What can you tell us about Jaime Richards?
Sharon: Jaime is a young woman who is smart, thinks on her feet, is funny, sure of herself, unsure of herself, and will always be found in the thick of things. She acts with courage and determination even when she’s terrified. She’s an army chaplain (and a Presbyterian minister) who has let hard times in her past—including the deaths of her parents when she was young, and the death of her husband, Paul by a suicide bomber—mature into a true compassion for others. As an army chaplain, she is willing to do anything to be with her soldiers in whatever they’re going through.
As an agent of Eden, Jaime saves the world on a regular basis, because—hey, someone’s got to do it. Jaime thinks she has terrible luck with men, but the truth is, she attracts the most interesting guys. Interesting, however, doesn’t mean easy to deal with.
Neither army chaplains (who are noncombatants) or agents of Eden carry firearms, and neither does Jaime. Nor does her fellow agent, the mysterious Yani, for that matter.
B. K.: Jaime really cares about people (maybe too much), and is an excellent problem solver, both of which are very important qualities for a chaplain. Soldiers have all kinds of problems, and very often they just need someone who cares enough to help them think through possible solutions to their problems. These are also critical attributes for an agent of Eden, and this is why the role is such a perfect fit for her. But this also leads to her great frustration: that there are only so many hours in the day and she can only be in one place at a time. Between her personal needs, the needs of her soldiers, and the needs of Eden, something has to give. Most of the time what gives is her personal needs.
What differences can we expect since the previous book in the Eden series?
Sharon: PLAGUES OF EDEN is the first book in the second Eden trilogy. We’ve worked hard to make each of the Eden thrillers a stand-alone so readers can pick up any of them and start in—but PLAGUES is a good place to start if you’re just jumping in.
This is the first Eden thriller that opens with Jaime stateside—she’s currently stationed at USMA at West Point, and it was fun to set the military scenes there. Jaime and Yani are now married, and you can guess how free of trouble that is—in other words, not. But, okay, still pretty sexy.
It’s also the first Eden thriller in which the reader is inside Yani’s head as well as Jaime’s.
B. K.:Very little time has elapsed since the end of the third book, but Jaime has been transferred to a new, rather prestigious posting, and has pinned on the rank of lieutenant colonel.
What can you tell us about the antagonist?
B. K.:Savino Latorre is a former “Gardener” (resident of Eden) who has been living incognito in our world for more than fifty years. He is delusional, and has extensive economic resources. This is a very dangerous combination!
Sharon: There’s more than one “bad guy”—it takes a disturbed group of individuals to pull off modern versions of the plagues of ancient Egypt. My favorites are Bradley Kluge and Alejandra Cruzado, two brilliant minds who are seriously into chaos theory, and into each other. They make it happen for Shanlei and Savino Latorre, who are the mega-antagonists in the story.
What kind of research was necessary to complete PLAGUES OF EDEN?
Sharon: Each of the Eden books are heavily researched; we really enjoy that part. For PLAGUES, of course, it helped to have a co-author who is currently assigned to West Point. We were forced to go through Cadet Chapel and to the top of the bell tower in the dark just for research. Or maybe it was to watch fireworks.
I am a wine aficionado—my husband is from Northern California—so researching wine making and vineyards not only in California, France, and Italy, but in China was really interesting.
B .K. is the science geek—she thought she was going to be a scientist before she ended up being a minister—so she did the science part of the plagues.
B. K.: It’s hard to believe, but with all the worldwide travel miles the two of us have logged, neither Sharon nor I have ever been to the Eiffel Tower! This was an important location for the book, so extensive research on history, design, and the use of many online pictures was required.
Also, I am the one who often works through the scientific issues, so I did a lot of research on the red tide problem, as well as the question about what it would take to crash a satellite in low earth orbit. The second one required input from an expert in astrophysics, because it was too complicated for me to figure out from reading an article or book.
From your websites I can gather both of you have busy—read hectic—schedules. How do you find time to work together on these projects? In other words, how do you make it work?
B. K.:This is truly the greatest challenge in working on these books. For major brainstorming sessions we often plan a trip somewhere fun, maybe a day or two, and even the drive itself becomes a time to spitball ideas. But to actually get any writing done, I have to take a day of leave from work, because I can’t just sit down for an hour in the evening and write. It takes a while for me to get in the right frame of mind to craft a chapter. This is especially true when I am initially creating a scene. When I go back to work over a scene I have already written I can jump in at the spur of the moment. But to start a scene, if I am not feeling “creative,” nothing is going to happen. And if I am on a roll, and then get interrupted, it may be difficult to get myself back in the mood.
Sharon: The two of us have been crafting stories together since we were in seventh grade. Put us together and we just naturally make stuff up. When we were in junior high, we pretended we were in the French underground and had adventures all over town. When we were in high school, we wrote a full-length play called “A (K)Night in Ruthin Castle.”
It felt natural, once B.K. was an active duty chaplain, that the stories we told were about subjects and places and characters who were important to us. Thankfully, our craft had matured to the point that editors at St. Martin’s Press and Arundel Publishing helped us find an international audience.
What is the next big project?
Sharon: Catching our breath. Never happens. We did say PLAGUES OF EDEN was the first of a new trilogy.
For B. K. Sherer: I see you’ve worked in several countries of Latin America. How’s your Spanish coming along?
B.K.: My Spanish was coming along quite well, until I spent a couple years in Germany. When I was assigned to work in Wiesbaden, I wanted to learn the local language. But it seemed like every time I was grasping for a word, and my brain said “you need a foreign word” my mind would produce the Spanish word instead of the German one. Now, after spending three years in Germany, the opposite is true. If I am trying to speak to someone in Spanish, the German words pop into my mind!
[Sharon: Apparently B. K. wasn’t going to mention this, but Spanish has been a part of our lives for quite a while. When we were in sixth grade, we starred together in a local television production of “Goldilocks (Ricitos de Oro) y los Tres Osos.” It was definitive.]
Now seriously, you’ve been to many hotspots around the world. How do you cope with it all?
B. K.: I believe resilience is closely related to one’s sense of purpose. As a chaplain and Presbyterian minister, I feel strongly that I was called by God to do this job. When I find myself in harsh, unfriendly places I cope by reminding myself that there is a reason I am there, at that place and that time.
Often that reason will include the fact that some person or persons, by my presence with them in that place, is reminded that they are not alone.
Another very important coping mechanism is a sense of humor. A sandstorm in 140 degree heat or the 3rd day in a row you have only MREs (meals ready to eat) is a lot more bearable if you don’t take yourself too seriously.
For Sharon Linnéa: Since you are working on separate series at the same time, do you have trouble keeping them separate?
Sharon: Good question, but oddly, it’s not as hard as you might think.
For one thing, my other series is a mystery series. Thrillers like the Edens move so fast and have such staccato chapters that mystery characters and chapters can seem almost languid to me. (Although, they’re not! They have to move the action forward as quickly in their own way.)
There are a couple of tricks I use—one is music. I listen to a specific playlist for each novel; put on the music and POW! I’m back in the mindset. So, even when we’re starting a new Eden, all I need to do is listen to the music, read a few chapters of the last one, and those characters are all fully awake and walking around in my head.
It’s kind of like saying, “How do you remember how to act with your old college buddies?” It’s barely something you think about. Put us together and we’re off.
Sharon Linnéa is the co-author of the bestselling Eden thrillers (CHASING EDEN, BEYOND EDEN, and TREASURE OF EDEN), as well as the mystery THESE VIOLENT DELIGHTS and award-winning biographies. She lives outside of New York City with her family.
B. K. Sherer is a Presbyterian minister who currently serves on active duty as a chaplain in the U.S. Army. Her work has taken her to Argentina, Korea, Somalia, and Iraq. She holds masters degrees from Princeton Seminary and U.S. Army War College, and a doctorate from Oklahoma State.
To learn more, please visit the Eden Thrillers website.