JACQUELYN BEN­SON

Meet the copy­writer whose de­but sends a suf­fragette to cen­tral Amer­ica

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Red Alert -

Tell us about the pro­tag­o­nist of The Smoke Hunter...

El­lie Mal­lory is an ed­u­cated, opin­ion­ated, in­de­pen­dent woman but, be­cause it’s the year 1898, her dream of work­ing as an ar­chae­ol­o­gist is closed to her. When a map that pur­ports to show the lo­ca­tion of a lost an­cient city falls into her hands, she can’t re­sist the temp­ta­tion to fol­low where it leads her…

What was your ini­tial idea?

I ac­tu­ally set out to write a his­tor­i­cal ro­mance novel, but knew I wanted a set­ting more ex­otic than Re­gency Eng­land. I also wanted the story to be as much an ad­ven­ture as it was a ro­mance. In the end, I think the ad­ven­ture re­ally took over.

Did you do much re­search?

I read ev­ery­thing I could get my hands on about Mayan his­tory, mythol­ogy and ar­chae­ol­ogy, as well as the his­tory of Bri­tish Hon­duras. The sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween Mayan and Aztec folk­lore re­ally fas­ci­nated me – and ended up in­spir­ing a key el­e­ment of the plot.

Are you a big fan of this kind of story?

Yes – I grew up on In­di­ana Jones and loved those sto­ries so much that I came close to at­tend­ing Dr Jones’s alma mater, the Univer­sity of Chicago, to study Egyp­tol­ogy. Then I re­alised it was the mad ad­ven­ture I was re­ally in love with, and that ac­tual ar­chae­ol­ogy was a bit more tame!

The Smoke Hunter is pub­lished by Head­line on 3 Novem­ber.

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