The Mummy and Jared Florance
An interview with the author of 'The Copper Axe'
Jared Florance, a Vermont doctor, was traveling through
Italy a few years back when he encountered a glacier mummy, an experience he
will never forget. The corpse was that of a prehistoric man who, struck by an arrow in the Ötztal
Alps at the beginning of the Copper Age, tumbled into a ravine and died. His
body was promptly swallowed by a glacier and remained frozen for the next 5,300
In 1991, a couple of German hikers stumbled on the well-preserved corpse and, thinking it was the body of someone who had recently died, notified the police. The mummy was eventually transferred to the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology, where it became known as Ötzi the Ice Man. Jared viewed Ötzi through a glass wall.
For some reason perhaps known only to Jared, he could not get Ötzi out of his mind. Stalked by a frozen cadaver, Jared decided his only hope was to write a novel, a painful form of exorcism if ever there was one. The result is The Copper Axe, a debut novel partially set in prehistoric Europe. The plot involves wormhole theory, artificial intelligence, and a husband-and-wife research team that travels 5,300 years back in time to a land that is undergoing a violent merging of cultures.
I first heard about Jared’s mummy problem in 2012, when Kimball Library invited me to talk with Randolph-area writers about the revolution in independent publishing. Jared had just published a book about preparing for the next pandemic. He seemed perfectly normal, but I suspected that he was a haunted man. Sure enough, in March of this year he reappeared with The Copper Axe in hand. Help me!, he pleaded.
I should point out that besides being a doctor, Jared is a veteran of two wars and an expert in bioterrorism. He is made of strong stuff. Nonetheless, following an ocean cruise with his wife, Sam, during which he had ample time to think and write . . . and think and write . . . he was desperate to get his mummy novel finished. So after one last edit of The Copper Axe we uploaded the book to the Kindle publishing platform, where it exists today. Then, book sales being a proven cure for the sort of malady that drove Jared half-mad, I promised to help him get some.
I would like to report that Jared is now a free man, but it seems he is working on a sequel. Or maybe he is just thinking about a sequel, which is even worse. I pray for him. Here are some of his thoughts about surviving his first work of fiction. —Sara Tucker
Korongo Reader: If you had to say what The Copper Axe is about in 10 words or less—like if somebody offered you a free billboard—what would you say?
Jared: The Copper Axe is about adventurers who go into the unknown. Sorry, eleven words.
KR: The story is based on a real discovery—the 5,300-year-old mummy found in Italy in 1991. What made you want to turn to science fiction?
Jared: I’ve been a Heinlein fan since I was 10 or 11, and I’ve read any number of other authors—Asimov, Russell, Norton, Bradbury, the list goes on. It just seemed natural to go beyond the streetlights and sidewalks in that direction.
KR: Many of your female characters are strong women. Did you set out to write about a certain type of heroine?
Jared: I just wanted to show that for every strong man there is a strong woman, and that partnering is possible. One of my own war stories is from Iraq. We took mortar fire from time to time in Balad, where I was stationed. One day some soldiers were injured outside the post exchange. Some of the medical folks from my unit ran out to render emergency care. Later, at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, I met a man who came stumping up on two crutches and one leg to ask the Vermont Adjutant General I was with if he could shake her hand. At some point I asked about his injury, and when he said it was from a mortar, I asked it it happened at the PX at Balad. He became emotional, and we had one of those moments soldiers sometimes have. When he could continue, he said the one thing he remembered most was being on the ground, with more shells falling around him, and two women threw their bodies over his to protect him from further injury. They were medics from my unit. Even today, I cannot tell that story dispassionately. With a memory like that, how could I not want to give women their due in my book?
KR: What were some of the challenges in writing The Copper
Jared: Mostly the time it took to let a thought gel in a form that made sense on paper. Then the fact that I had written scientific and military papers, but never conversation. I did the entire book in narrative before I could work up to having each character develop in their own words.
KR: The search for missing parents is one of the story lines in the book. Can you tell us about where that idea came from?
Jared: I’ve known of adoptees wanting to find birth parents, and people relocated by war who wanted to find missing family members.
KR: Where do you like to write, and what are some of your writing habits?
Jared: I loved writing on shipboard. I had few distractions. Now I see myself cutting back on projects so I have time to keep writing.
KR: What books are on your nightstand?
Jared: I have read so much fiction, I have bookshelves full. Since age 10 I’ve been reading Zane Grey, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Mickey Spillaine, C. S. Forester, the Leatherstocking series, Lord of the Rings, and so on.