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SunLit Interviews

In typical Cussler fashion, “Celtic Empire” begins with a historical premise — and then takes off

Dirk Cussler explains how this Dirk Pitt adventure, co-authored with his father, who died in February, uses an ancient tale from Egypt as a springboard for the globetrotting protagonist

Dirk, left, and Clive Cussler.

Dirk Cussler is the co-author, with his father Clive, of seven previous Dirk Pitt adventures: “Black Wind,” “Treasure of Khan,” “Arctic Drift,” “Crescent Dawn,” “Poseidon’s Arrow,” “Havana Storm,” and “Odessa Sea.” Cussler serves as president of the National Underwater and Marine Agency (NUMA), a non-profit organization devoted to shipwreck discovery and preservation of our maritime history.

The following is an interview with Dirk Cussler.

UNDERWRITTEN BY

Each week, The Colorado Sun and Colorado Humanities & Center For The Book feature an excerpt from a Colorado book and an interview with the author. Explore the SunLit archives at coloradosun.com/sunlit.


What inspired you to write this book?   

“Celtic Empire” is the 25th book in the Dirk Pitt adventure series, so there was a little extra motivation to make it entertaining. My father and I typically start with a historical premise as a springboard for launching a story, and that was certainly the case here. I discovered several early Irish legends that told of an Egyptian princess who conquered Ireland some 3,500 years ago, and was actually the namesake of Scotland. We developed that into a modern day search for her grave, while relating it to a scourge that was mysteriously spreading across the globe.

Place this excerpt in context. How does it fit into the book as a whole and why did you select it? 

The excerpt is the book’s prologue, which gives a taste of the historical context, if not the sense of mystery and adventure to follow.

Tell us about creating this book: any research and travel you might have done, any other influences on which you drew?  

The research is always the fun part of writing, and this book required an interesting mix of research into ancient Egypt and early Ireland, as well as the geographies of both regions. Some historians believe the princess was the daughter of Pharaoh Akhenaten, who built a capital city from scratch called Amarna. We included the scene of an archeological dig in the city’s remains, which is a place I would love to explore in person someday. We also looked at the histories of Ireland, which weren’t documented until the arrival of the Christian monks in the 5th or 6th centuries. Lorraine Evans wrote a fascinating book called “Kingdom of the Ark” which highlights evidence of Egyptian contact in the British Isles during the Bronze Age. It’s interesting to consider that the world in 1,500 BCE may have been a much more interconnected place than we imagine.

“Celtic Empire” by Clive and Dirk Cussler.

What were the biggest challenges you faced, or surprises you encountered in completing this book?  

Early on, there was a question of whether we had too ambitious of a plot. I originally tied in Moses and the Biblical plagues with the storyline, but we ended up removing those elements as too distracting. I still second guess whether the story would have been more powerful or more confusing had we left those concepts in the book.

Walk us through your writing process: Where and when do you write? What time of day? Do you listen to music, need quiet? 

I have been writing from home for the past year, so felt no significant impact from the recent quarantine. I am a morning person when it comes to writing, so I am usually at my desk by 8 a.m. and work until lunch. My creative energies are usually spent by then, so I’ll spend the afternoons typing, editing, or conducting research. I am one of the literary dinosaurs who still prefer to write a first draft in longhand, hence the added typing. I do enjoy a little background music while I work, so I always keep my favorite classical radio station tuned low.

TODAY’S UNDERWRITER

What’s your next project?

I just completed the 26th Pitt novel, tentatively titled “The Devil’s Sea,” which should be published within the next nine months. Sadly, my father passed a few months before seeing the finished product, but I think he would agree that it holds true to the adventure tales he began creating over 50 years ago.

Buy “Celtic Empire” at BookBar.
Read an excerpt from “Celtic Empire.”

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