I owe The Truth Teller to the O.J. Simpson trial. I’ll never forget how frustrated I felt one afternoon when I watched the endless parade of witnesses on television. “I wish,” I said aloud, staring at the TV, “that there were a human truth detector who could just walk into that courtroom and settle this once and for all.”
But from where would such a person come? And how would he obtain this gift? As I mused over those questions and devised plausible answers, the germ of The Truth Teller was born.
Another part of the idea for THE TRUTH TELLER came to me when I read about the real “ice man” discovered in the Italian Alps (that’s his photo). I was fascinated by this account of a well-preserved body . . . so well preserved, in fact, that he was probably the oldest body we had to examine (5300 years old).
With that idea in mind, I started to think about the Second Law of Thermodynamics (otherwise known as the Law of Entropy), and about the indisputable truth that people of former eras were much more intelligent than we are. (They didn’t have as many gadgets, but could you build a pyramid? Neither can our construction people–they have no idea how the Egyptians did it with the tools available at that time.)
So I thought that perhaps the human race is “winding down,” and our DNA is being eroded by many factors. It’s not evolution, it’s “devolution.” So if the iceman could have a child–if we could harvest his sperm or even his DNA–we might see a “wonder child” as a result.
So I created a modern woman, Lara, whose husband has died from cancer, but who made deposits in a sperm bank before his demise. After mourning her husband’s loss, Lara wants to have his child. Unknown to her, a mad scientist who believes in “devolution” arranges to have her husband’s sperm sample manipulated . . . so she will become pregnant with the Iceman’s baby.
Cool idea, huh? Trouble is, this book was way ahead of its time when I was trying to sell it. I wasn’t even sure I could say “sperm bank” in a Christian novel. Plus, I had been writing historical romances (heavier on the history than the romance), and this would be a huge departure for me.
So at the convention one summer, I met with my editor and started off the conversation like this: “Well, what do you all want from me next? Another historical?” And my editor replied, “We want to know what YOU want to write.”
And a gleam filled my eye as I said, “Well . . . I’ve had this idea about a woman who has a caveman’s baby . . .”
And thus THE TRUTH TELLER was born. Bethany House took a huge chance on the book, and after it finally went out of print, Thomas Nelson brought it back again. And in the process, more than a book was born–I discovered the sort of writer I was supposed to be. I wasn’t supposed to follow the crowd, I was supposed to find ideas and topics that interested me and write those books.
And that’s the same advice I give new writers today. You have to write books that put the gleam in YOUR eye.
Tomorrow: The research.