The Inspirations, Ugly Truths, and Things That Make You Go “Huh?” for Under A Melting Sun
So I became ridiculously behind on this. 😛 Since today is the last day, let’s slam through these last letters as quickly, painlessly, and (hopefully) entertainingly as possible. 😉
N is for NOCTURNAL
I am a nocturnal mammal by nature. My best, most enlightening work comes after 11 pm on a work night. Or just during work in general. Because of this, I have to give a personal nod to my night owl persona since most of the story was written in the wee hours of the morning.
Why it may deter you: If you’re not a night owl, then you might not quite understand the beauty of being up late, eyes blood shot and fingers hammering against the keyboard when that brilliant idea strikes and you’re left in awe the next morning that a human being such as yourself could come up with such a masterpiece. Yes, you might still be sleep deprived after those few hours of passed out bliss, but hey. Sometimes you have to suffer for your art.
Why it may not deter you: Basically, if you agree with the above statement, you’ll understand where some of the scenes came from. 🙂
O is for ORCHID
Did you know that there are hundreds of species of orchids sprouting up through the Amazon? Did you know that some of these species of flower are being exterminated due to the deforestation? Yup, neither did I. A harsh reality check from a beautiful flower.
Why it may deter you: If you’re like the main character and don’t care about plants, then a couple scenes may drag a little for you. They aren’t overly explicit, but when you have a side character who’s interested in ethnobotany, there’s going to be a couple discussions about plants.
Why it may not deter you: When you see flowers like the orchids above, how can you not be interested in them? There are some amazing things in the Amazon, and the only problem is being unable to document them all in one story.
P is for PASSION FLOWER
Passiflora, as its genus is called, is a beautiful fruit-baring plant. I could go on and on about this flower, but here’s the low down: the leaves (fresh or dried) are used to make tea that can be used to help cure insomnia, hysteria, epilepsy, and is valued to have analgesic properties. In modern culture, besides being seen as a fruit and tea, you might have seen it being used by the cosmetic company Tarte. Ever heard of their Maracuja oil, the miracle oil that rejuvenates your skin? Well, Maracuja is just another name for Passion Fruit, which is born from the Passion Flower. It has beauty and brains!
Why it may deter you: Again, if you don’t care about plants, then the same rules apply.
Why it may not deter you: I found the Passion Flower so interesting that I gave it a couple scenes. So if you thought this ridiculously brief glimpse was interesting, you’ll probably enjoy the more in depth look into the flower and it’s wondrous capabilities.
Q is for QUININE
Remember when I said there wasn’t a cure for some things in the jungle? Well, PSYCHE! Quinine is a fascinating little tree substance (comes from the bark of the ‘cinchona’ tree) that used to be the #1 medicine that cured the viciously popular disease known as malaria. There really is a reason the rain forest is called the world’s pharmacy. Plus, quinine is dissolved in tonic water, and tonic water glows blue when under a black light. 😀 Bad ass!
Why it may deter you: If you were hoping for a glowing blue skull in this story, then I’ve lead you astray. Probably the only place you’ll find a glowing crystal skull in the Amazon is in Indian Jones 4. 😛
Why it may not deter you: Although quinine makes a brief cameo in the story, it will probably leave you slightly amused just as the blue skull did.
R is for RIVER OF DOUBT
This book by Candice Millard is awesome! It was the first book I read in my venture towards learning about the rain forest, and the reason I picked it up was because not only did it give a great historical background in a time period that was close to the era I’m writing in, but it gave an amazing account of Roosevelt’s Amazon journey that I never knew he had taken. Hands down, this story not only shows the struggle to survive in the jungle, but it also gives you a deep respect for both the famous President, his crew, and the untamed river they sought out to explore.
Why it may deter you: If you’re not into history, then you may find both books a little dull. River of Doubt is a real account of what Roosevelt and his crew went through while venturing down a river that had never been explored, and Under A Melting Sun is a fictitious account of a man who is more or less stranded with a tribe.
Why it may not deter you: If you found what I said even a little bit interesting, run with it. Grab your copy and lose yourself in the historical and fantasy world of the jungle.
S is for SHAMANS
Shamans are the staple of the indigenous community. Doctor and spiritual leader, the shaman is the person to turn to when your body or soul needs healing. Because of their importance, I had to make sure the Xerambu had one, an individual whose part spiritual guide, healer, and overall wise man.
Why it may deter you: If you’re heavily religious, then parts of this story might not be to your liking. Religion isn’t a heavy topic in this story, but it does get talked about due to the clash of cultures and certain episodes that take place in the book. So if your religion runs your life, you might be running in the opposite direction when you cross a couple of these scenes. The only reason I say that is because I grew up in a strong Christian household, and I can already name over a dozen people who will give me the eyebrow raise if they decide to read this story.
Why it may not deter you: Keep an open mind, and you’ll stumble upon some interesting perceptions. You don’t have to believe them, but keeping an open mind can turn into understanding, then respect, and finally peace.
T is for THROUGH THE BRAZILIAN WILDERNESS
Theodore Roosevelt was a man’s man. After reading River of Doubt, I went on a hunt to find Roosevelt’s personal account of the famous voyage down the river that would later be named the Rio Roosevelt, which is still on today’s maps. Although I’m still in the process of reading it (he considered his venture as a scientific exploration, so he documents a lot of things that ends up becoming a little tedious), this is the one book that I’ve really benefited from. Like I said, its the closest to the time frame that my story takes place, and because he documents all the species he comes in contact with, his book gives a well-rounded view of the jungle that any writer would dearly appreciate it. 🙂
Why it may deter you: Roosevelt’s scientific expedition is fascinating but very long and drawn out. If you’re a fan of that type of writing, then my story may disappoint you a little since its historical fiction instead of categorizing species.
Why it may not deter you: Roosevelt’s detailed descriptions and scientific mindset really helped put this story on track when it came to how the rain forest is laid out to a Westerner.
U is for UNDERSTORY
Understory in the jungle means the hot, damp, dark overgrowth that is underneath the treetops of the canopy. So of course, this alone plays a huge part in Under A Melting Sun.
Why it may deter you: This one is so simple that it would be hard to be deterred. 🙂
Why it may not deter you: There are some things that go down in the understory that really brings out the Amazon’s true colors, which you’ll see a few times in Under A Melting Sun.
V is for VAMPIRE BATS
Yup, Dracula has roots in South America. Vampire Bats are native there, and although they don’t play a huge part in my story, I couldn’t leave them out.
Why it may deter you: If you’re not a fan of bats, then there’s at least one scene you’ll need to take with a grain of salt. It’s not graphic, but if you squirm the way I do with snakes, then I totally understand your pain.
Why it may not deter you: They don’t sparkle when they stand in sunlight, and last I checked, if they do turn into human form, just don’t invite them in. Sounds rude, but either give up your soul or give up your good etiquette. 😛
W is for WANANO TRIBE
In a nutshell, the Wanano is a tribe that is a division of the Tucano/Tukano people who primarily live in the northwestern Amazon along the Vaupes River and surrounding areas. They are present in mainly Colombia but also Brazil, and are usually described as being made up of many separate tribes. What makes them interesting is that the Tucano people are multilingual because men are expected to marry outside of their language group. If they marry within their language, its viewed as a kind of incest. Because of this, their villages have several languages: the language of the men (which is considered the Tucano language), the various languages spoken by the women who came from different neighboring tribes, and a widespread regional “trade” language. Oddly enough, everyone in the community is interested in learning languages so almost everyone can speak most of the languages. However, multilingualism is taken for granted, and often the speaker does not know they are speaking different languages at the same time because they shift so easily from one to the other.
Why it may deter you: If the idea of languages just confuses you or bores you to tears, then you’ll probably want to skip a couple passages if you decide to read this story. It’s not a huge concept, but is important in terms of how a tribe thinks and interacts with other cultures.
Why it may not deter you: When I first made up the Xerambu tribe, I was nervous about the language they would speak. My big question circled around if tribes could have more than one language. When I came across the Wanano tribe and how language goes hand in hand with their cultural traditions, I was beyond relieved. Although I don’t mirror their traditions exactly, the idea that a tribe could have more than one language and how they become multilingual is something I put into Under A Melting Sun, all thanks to the Tucano people.
X is for XINGU
There are 2 things I found interesting about the Xingu River. First, this river was the location of the doomed Whittlesey/Maxwell expedition responsible for discovering evidence of a lost tribe and their savage god in the novel Relic (written by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child). And secondly, its the name of the 2012 Brazilian movie (directed by the famous Brazilian film-maker Cao Hamburger) about the Villas-Boas brothers who, in 1943, went on an expedition to the region that led to the creation of the indigenous reserve 20 years later. It’s a great movie, and often I think of it when I’m writing since it, too, is close to the same time period as my novel.
Why it may deter you: Unfortunately, the Xingu River didn’t become the location of where my characters traveled in the Amazon. So if you wanted a bigger glimpse of what life is like on the Xingu, I suggest picking up Relic first.
Why it may not deter you: The Xingu River doesn’t make an actual appearance in Under A Melting Sun, but the meaning behind the movie it’s named after is mentioned in the overall spectrum. Xingu holds a lot of historical value, and a few of those facts are mentioned in my novel. Some are subtle and some are blunt, but to truly find out, you’ll need to watch the movie before this book comes out. 😉
Y is for YANOMAMI TRIBE
When I was first studying the tribes of the Amazon, the one I read the most about were the Yanomami. In retrospect, they have really nothing in common with the tribe I came up with; however, they were still an influence due to their past history with anthropologists and explorers, dating all the way back to around 1759 when a Spanish expedition, under the leadership of Apolinar Diez de la Fuente, ran into them. A history spotted with violence, diseases, death, and cultural clashes is what makes this tribe an influence in my story. Just because the tribe I came up with starts off peaceful doesn’t mean the other tribes are…or that it all ends well when the story is said and done.
Why it may deter you: Tribes and their rituals seem to be an acquired taste to some, probably because of the stigma that they are “backwards” in thinking or “primitive.” It’s an old view, but somehow its still thrown up as a simple explanation. Since this story is set within a tribal community, I have no doubt some people – lovers or haters – will have their opinions on it. And to that I say bring it on. 😉
Why it may not deter you: If you like a little history with your fiction, then put Under A Melting Sun on your wishlist when it’s available. The Xerambu is pure fiction, but the general personas, stereotypes, and harsh realities are based from true life experiences that other tribal members had to and are still enduring.
Z is for THE LOST CITY OF Z
Z became the name that infamous explorer Col. Percy Fawcett named his version of El Dorado, which ultimately led him to his greatest fate: disappearing without a trace. The Lost City of Z is a book written by David Grann who takes Fawcett’s obsession with finding Z and turns it into a mysterious thrill ride. Traveling to the Amazon himself in order to retrace part of Fawcett’s path, Grann not only documents his fascinating journey into Fawcett’s world, but also takes you into the jungle to see what happened to some of the landmarks Fawcett had documented in his journals. It was that part of the story that was a real eye-opener for me.
Why it may deter you: In Under A Melting Sun, Fawcett has been gone for 12 years, and search parties are still going out to try and find him. Although he isn’t a strong element in the story, he is there because back then he was still a conscious mystery to that generation. If you’re just not a fan of Fawcett or not interested in the story behind his city of Z, you may be rolling your eyes at a few passages.
Why it may not deter you: Then again, if the above peeks your interest, then the little passages may just make some spots in the story much more fascinating. Especially since its something that really happened. 🙂