Learn all about the setting and inspiration for my book, Truth Seer. I thought it would be fun to share why I chose the settings I did. Hope you enjoy! 🙂
Why does Truth Seer take place in Egypt?
The short answer is because that’s where the Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa are. But I know you came here looking for the long answer. Here’s a more in depth explanation.
When I first had the idea for Truth Seer, I knew I needed a maze-like structure for the characters to travel through. At first, I was going to use a labyrinth. But during my research, I learned that a labyrinth has maze-like passages that lead to the center and then back out again. This wasn’t really what I wanted at all. I know I could have used artistic license and made my labyrinth the way I wanted instead of the traditional way. But in the end, I couldn’t do it. Why, you ask? Because I’m way too literal sometimes and I have a hard time doing things in a way that isn’t realistic. This is frequently an issue when I’m writing! I always have to remind myself that I’m writing fiction and it’s okay if it isn’t perfectly realistic. 😉 But this is another reason I enjoy writing soft sci fi/science fantasy as opposed to straight fantasy. I have a deep underlying need for things to be logical. And that characteristic happens to work well with science fiction.
All right, back to the point. Sorry I sidetracked a little bit there. Anyway, I decided a labyrinth wasn’t going to cut it. So, then I started looking up catacombs. I always planned to create my own, completely fictional, catacombs. Mostly because I wanted to have complete control over where they were and what they looked like, etc. I found a ton of really cool catacombs in France, but they weren’t quite what I needed. At that point, I knew that my main character was going to be from Kenya and I wanted something slightly closer to home.
The Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa
So I started looking up catacombs in Africa. That’s when I found the Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa in Alexandria, Egypt. You may be surprised to find out, these are real life actual catacombs that you can actually go and visit. I can’t tell you the number of times I wanted to go there while writing Truth Seer. To be honest, I still want to go!
These catacombs were perfect. They had narrow passages, cool crypts with incredible statues and artwork. Walls filled with empty tombs. Tons of pictures online, YouTube videos, and maps I could peruse to get a good feel for the catacombs without actually being there.
And the very best part? The lowest level of the catacombs is currently flooded and no one can enter them. This was perfect because that meant I could do whatever I wanted in the third level. Since there aren’t any maps of the lowest level, I got to invent to my heart’s content. All I had to do was incorporate a history where the water was drained and dammed at some point in the hundred years between now and when Truth Seer takes place. Obviously, that particular history became a pretty important part of the story in the end.
Why is Alexandria the center of the world in Truth Seer?
I spent days researching the history of the Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa. I loved how the catacombs were built at a time when Alexandria, Egypt was at the height of power in the world. It was a time when all kinds of people from all over the world lived in Alexandria. All of these people, and their cultures, were represented in the catacombs.
When I learned this, I thought it would be really cool if I made Alexandria the center of the world once again. And since the story takes place a hundred years in the future, I could get away with it. Who knows how much things will change in a hundred years?
What does “Kom el Shoqafa” mean?
One of my favorite things about the catacombs unfortunately didn’t make it into Truth Seer. I included it in a few different drafts, but it never really worked. In the end, I decided to cut it out. But lucky you, get to read about it now. 🙂
The name Kom el Shoqafa means “mound of shards.” When the catacombs were discovered in 1900, archeologists found piles of terra cotta shards. Apparently, the ancient Egyptians would go to the catacombs to “visit” their dead family members. They would have huge family gatherings inside the catacombs and there would be lots of food and drink.
But, nobody wanted to keep the clay dishes they ate off of in the catacombs because they were now considered bad luck. So, the Egyptians would break the pottery on the ground as they left the catacombs. Over time, the catacombs ended up having a huge mound of clay shards from all of these people breaking their dishes as they left the catacombs.
Why is Imara from Kenya?
This was one of the first things I decided and it’s probably not at all for the reasons you think. When it comes right down to it, the only reason Imara is from Kenya is because of the word “hila.” I am absolutely terrible at making up names. Names are honestly one of my least favorite parts of writing because they are so hard for me. I knew from the very beginning that my “superpowers” needed a word. I also knew there was no way I could think of a cool word on my own.
So I did the only logical thing and headed right over to google translate. I looked up words like magic, trick, power, etc. in all different languages. I started with Latin, and then I checked Greek. Then I checked Mandarin, Polish, Arab, and so on. At some point I checked Swahili. I had a big list of words that could work to be a name for the superpowers and I quickly narrowed it down to the five or so that I liked best. I played around with a couple of those then narrowed it down to three. At that point, I favored “hila,” but I hadn’t decided for sure. I texted my sister to ask her opinion and luckily, she also liked hila the best.
So, hila became the word for my “superpowers.” And hila happens to be the Swahili word for trick. I wanted my main character to be from the same country as the person with the first hila so she could know the history of hilas and explain it to others. I chose Kenya as the origin country because they speak Swahili there.
Learn more about Truth Seer
If you want to learn more about Truth Seer, check out the Truth Seer main page. There’s a synopsis with a link to buy it. There are also links to an excerpt and the other profiles I’ve done on it. If you have any other questions about it, please feel free to email me! I absolutely love hearing from my readers and I respond to every single one.
If you haven’t yet, feel free to join my email list to stay updated on my current projects. 🙂