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Spelunker, scuba diver, and all-around adventure junkie James Rollins sold his veterinary practice in Sacramento, California, to concentrate full-time on writing -- his thirst for thrills clearly informing his bestselling novels, including Black Order, Subterranean and The Judas Strain.
James Rollins is the New York Times, USA Today and Publishers Weekly bestselling author of Black Order, Map of Bones and other adventure thrillers. He was born in Chicago and grew up in Ontario, Canada, and St. Louis, Missouri. He graduated with honors from the University of Missouri with a degree in veterinary medicine. And like most veterinarians, he presently shares his home with a Golden Retriever, a Dachshund, and a sixty-five year old parrot named Igor. Rollins currently practices in Northern California, and when not writing or working in his veterinary practice, he can often be found underground or underwater as an amateur spelunker and scuba diver. These hobbies have helped in the creation of his earlier books Subterranean, Deep Fathom, Amazonia, and Sandstorm. His thriller, Black Order, skyrocketed to the top of bestseller lists across the country, winning the author countless new fans, and was proclaimed by People magazine as one of last 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.
Author biography courtesy of HarperCollins.
Good To Know
Some fun and fascinating outtakes from our interview with Rollins:
"I often get asked if I still practice veterinary medicine. While I don't practice full-time, I still do volunteer. I work with a group that traps stray cats, brings them to the shelter, where I spend a day spaying and neutering them. It's basically eight hours of removing genitalia. It's a hobby."
"I am a TV junkie. I have two Tivos and they are constantly full."
"My first job was to flip pizzas. I once got a pie spinning that was ten feet across. I had to spin it on my back to keep it going. Yet, I still love pizza."
"Two hobbies I love -- caving and scuba diving -- are also essential research for my novels. Case in point:
I've always been an avid cave explorer, from the vast systems in Missouri to the lava tubes of Hawaii to the tighter squeezes of the California foothills. But one of my most frightening episodes also allowed me to better describe claustrophobia in my novels. While climbing out of the fairly technical wild cavern, involving lots of rope work, I managed to jam myself midway up a narrow vertical chute. Hung up on my ascending gear midway up the chute, I found myself unable to move up or down. My chest was squeezed between two walls, my left knee turned the wrong way. I could not maneuver, and there was not enough room to get a rescue climber to me. I was trapped. I remember the team leader, leaning down from above, shining his helmet lamp at me. ‘You either find a way to un-jam yourself, or you stay there forever.'
So over the course of a long hour -- wriggling, sweating, cursing, and clawing -- I managed to creep a millimeter at a time out of the jam. After this event, I had a better understanding for panic and the determination born of pure desperation, essential ingredients for to writing thrilling fiction.
But spelunking through caves was not my only ‘research' lesson. Two decades ago, I also took up scuba diving and went on dive trips all around the world: Monterey Bay, Hawaii, South Pacific, Australia. I particularly remember one trip to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. I was informed by the dive master to beware of the many hazards found in the region. ‘On land, Australia has seven of the ten deadliest snakes. The seas are worse. Box jellyfish can kill in minutes. Local sea snakes are some of the most toxic. But worst of all is the stone fish. It looks like a stone, but its spines are loaded with paralytic poison. So be careful what you touch.'
And down we all went, buddied up in pairs, enthusiastic and excited. I dropped toward the reef and adjust my buoyancy until I'm floating just above the reef. All around spread amazing sights: giant clams, a flurry of colored fish, an astounding variety of coral. But I miscalculated my buoyancy, my weight shifted, and I planted a hand into the sand to stabilize my tumble, careful of the razor-sharp coral. Inches from my thumb, a jagged rock suddenly sprouted fins and swam away. I met the gaze of my buddy diver. His wide eyes firmed up the identification. The deadly stone fish. And I had almost slapped my hand on its back. As the fish scurried away, I understood at that exact moment how little Nature cared about the life of a scuba-diving novelist. Down here, Nature ruled. We were only visitors.
This mix of respect and terror is brought to life in my latest novel, The Judas Strain."