I’m very excited to have had the opportunity to interview Ken Luber about his latest book, The Sun Jumpers (read my review here – this was an excellent read).
1. How did you come up with the plot behind “The Sun Jumpers”?
I set out to write a book about teenagers in the Stone Age. Since I was a kid, I’d seen hundreds of pictures (and some movies) of big, beefy dark-skinned men trudging around with a club in one hand and I wondered what their kids were doing, since, having two sons, both of whom went through the teenage years, I had a quick, rich connection with my fictional characters.
When we’re kids, most of us (girls and boys alike) dream of going beyond our familiar surroundings, the adventure of what’s on “the other side,” just as in our childhood, if we play within a one or two block area, we wonder what the next block holds or the next field. So I took my characters beyond their known world and settled them (in their eyes) in an extraordinary world, 21st Century America. To get there, of course, they had to surmount many challenges just as, once there, they had to deal with the challenge of not being believed, their identity questioned, and of adapting to the speed, noise and overwhelming architecture of Los Angeles. I wanted skin color to play a part in the story. The teenagers are dark-skinned and they are the bearers, in Ty and Sita, of a courage and wisdom that have no shackles on time. The heart and soul of a Stone Age person has the same wisdom, courage and humor of any contemporary teenager. If this were not true, they would not have survived and we would not be here. In the book, it is the Antelope People. And I would like the reader to see and enjoy that we are all one great human family, that time has no bounds.
2. How long did it take you to write your book and what were the easiest / hardest parts of the process?
It took five years to write The Sun Jumpers. The first draft was 125,000 words which included another teenage friend who joins the quest and a female character, Darren’s life-coach. I didn’t have a problem lopping off one of the teenagers, but the life coach was a very difficult artistic decision for me. I really liked her and so did Sita. And that was part of the problem, aside from the fact that the novel was over-written. Sita and this young woman got along very well and took away from the thrust of the novel and, to some degree, overshadowed the tension of Ty’s quest.
3. I understand that you also write for film/tv/theatre. How does writing a novel compare to this, is it an easy leap when compared to your usual work or were there big challenges? When you wrote “The Sun Jumpers” did you imagine it being made into a movie? (I know i’d love to see it!)
Whatever the artistic/writing endeavor, it’s always hard work to get something right. That goes for any of the arts. This is my second published novel, although I’ve written two more, unpublished, resting with sad faces in a dresser drawer. I do think that writing screenplays is more “fun,” for several reasons. After all, you’re often writing with an actor in mind or, at least, one of several actors you hope would play the role. In writing novels, your whole intention is to try and create the character; you don’t have the time to think of who would be great in the role, though in terms of story/plot, both endeavors present formidable challenges. I wasn’t thinking of The Sun Jumpers as a movie when I wrote it, not when you’re battling with characters and trying to cut 45,o00 of your own words from the manuscript. However, having finished the book, as I look at it now, yes, I think it would make a fun, very entertaining film.
4. What’s the one thing you hope that readers would remember from your story?
Of course, the characters, but more than that, the feeling that life is one great circle, like the world, and we are all a part of it, back and forth in time. We can reach back and we can dream forward (as great inventors and thinkers have done. We share the space with every current and rush of river from the beginning of time.
5. If you could travel in time, where would you go, and who would you take with you?
Back in time, maybe Tibet, definitely India (which I have visited twice in this lifetime), perhaps the western coast of South America. I don’t think of the future because too many malls or technological driven societies get in the way and, if they’re not there, than something terrible must have happened and I don’t want to contemplate that. Romantically, it would be fair to say my wife, but the world I contemplate might be too rugged and spare for her, so maybe my sons or my dog Bear (who is no longer with us).
6. If you needed advice and had to speak to one of the characters in your book, who would it be and why?
Well, Sita carries the wisdom in the book; she is the wise seer. But I probably would feel more comfortable with Ty. He is foolishly brave and that has it’s own wisdom and a teenage sense of humor I can relate to.
7. How can we find out more about your work?