How the world of Arken Freeth was born
I became fascinated with what the world was like 13,000 years ago when I went on a high school biology class field trip during my senior year in high school. We visited the Malheur Game Preserve and the Alvord Desert in southeastern Oregon where we saw several large, dry lakes. These were absolutely flat with a hard crust of clay on top that you could drive a car on. I wondered what had turned a huge, freshwater lake into a dried up lake bed.
I became curious about this area later when I read that archeologists from the University of Oregon discovered a pair of sandals in a cave that once overlooked the lake I had visited. The sandals were carbon dated to be 9,500 years old. This made me curious as to what it had been like living in that area back then because it is now high desert and inhospitable to all but the most resilient of animals. I read and discovered that when people inhabited that area long ago it was lush grassland surrounding a freshwater lake and that many animals had lived there who grazed on the grass including mammoths and camels.
At the time I recall wondering how it was that this high desert had once been lush grassland like the veld of the Africa where huge herds of animals like wildebeest roam. The whole area now sits at around 4,000 feet elevation so it is cold and dry in the winter and warm and dry in the summer and grass can barely grow there. I wondered if, at one time, the land could have been at a lower elevation and, thus, warmer and more hospitable to life.
My curiosity was refreshed many years later when I came across a book in the Montana State University bookstore called Cataclysm!: Compelling Evidence of a Cosmic Catastrophe in 9500 B.C. by two British scientists, D.S. Allan and J.B. Delair. They theorized that there was a global catastrophe around 9500 BCE, or about 11,500 years ago. Their evidence suggested there really had been a global flood at that time, which was triggered by a huge remnant from a supernova that entered our solar system and flew past Mars and onto the Earth. The gravity of this passing remnant was so great that it lifted up huge amounts of ocean water into space and dropped most of it back down onto the planet. At the same time, the gravity from the remnant was so strong that it moved large portions of the Earth’s crust and also altered the Earth’s spin.
Prior to this event, they claimed the Earth’s axis of rotation had been perpendicular to the orbit path, meaning that there was the same amount of sunshine each day everywhere on Earth and no summer or winter. After it passed, the Earth’s axis tilted so that the Northern and Southern Hemisphere took turns pointing more directly at the sun, giving us summer and winter as well as differing amounts of daylight each day. Finally, as the remnant passed by, it pulled up some parts of the Earth’s surface while pulling other areas downwards.
Part of their idea was that prior to the Great Flood and the axis tilt, the Earth would not have had severe weather or big storms. Instead the dew from the sky condensed each night and dropped moisture on the surface. This would account for many parts of the Earth that were once lush gardens turning into deserts, like the Alvord Desert or the Sahara Desert, which was once lush grassland with a variety of lakes. The lifting of the Earth’s surface would explain why the Alvord Desert was once lush grassland. It was much lower in altitude and warmer. In addition, the lowering of the Earth’s surface would explain the fact that the eastern Atlantic coast off Africa only has about 10,000 years of sediment on the ocean floor while the western Atlantic sea floor has millions of years of sediment.
I couldn’t stop thinking of what the world would have looked like before this catastrophe, if it was, indeed, true. I started reading more and found that the world’s oceans were once 400 feet lower, which led me to look at maps and study what might have been above sea level at that time. Then I read that an archeological dig in the Aucilla River in Florida had turned up proof that man had hunted that area 13,000 years earlier. The scientist dug up a large bison skull that had an arrowhead buried in the forehead. The skull was that of the larger bison that predated the modern buffalo in North America and the skull was easily carbon dated to a date of 12,000 years ago.
I thought that this theory might well be true, but even if it wasn’t, it created a marvelous fictional world, where all the terrain features were now underwater. In the Arken series I added to the “theory” of the catastrophe by saying that the star remnant must have flown close to Mars and lifted most of the sea water off the planet to later rain down on earth. Then I added a fictional element, that Neanderthals had lived in North America and had survived and prospered until the catastrophe. The world of Arken Freeth was born!
The River Zash and the huge waterfall can be seen today miles offshore and underwater and are called the Hudson River Canyon. And the location of Lanth is somewhere on the continental shelf of Florida. The Circle Sea gets its name from the structure of what the Atlantic Ocean must have looked like when its eastern edge was above water.
And then there were the animals! What a world it was back then. Sabertooth cats, mammoths, mastodons, camels, the American lion, dire wolves about a third larger than those that now exist, bison the same size, armadillos the size of a small car, and giant crocodiles. Just to stay alive in a world like this is a triumph in existing!
I was drawn to this perfect world as a great setting, but I needed a larger-than-life hero with a compelling story.
The idea for writing an action-adventure series for young readers came to me when I was only eleven years old. My parents were British and we lived in a small logging town, Mill City, in Oregon. My father was a teacher and my mother was a secretary at a local plywood mill. We traveled to England and Europe the summer I was eleven. I had worked hard picking berries for several summers and had saved up fifty dollars, which was probably equivalent to five hundred today. I still had not spent much of it when we were ready to sail home on a French ocean liner, and I wanted to buy something that would entertain me during the two weeks we would be at sea. My father suggested that I buy a few books and we went into a small bookstore. I found Tarzan and figured I could read the whole series in two weeks, so I bought every book on Tarzan they had. Once at sea and in our cabin, my mother said I could use the curtain to block the light, and I could leave the small reading light above my bunk on as long as I wanted into the night so I could read. I took her up on her offer and often read until two or three in the morning.
I was consumed by the story of Tarzan and his jungle world. I thought that you couldn’t have a finer life than writing books like Tarzan for eleven year olds and up, basically adults who had never lost that magic eye for adventure they had as a youth.
Then the idea for Arken came to me in a flash when my daughter was eleven. I decided I should write a series that she could read and sat down and wrote out an early version of Arduel’s writing that is at the start of each book. I read this early writing about Arken to my daughter Emma, and she inspired me by saying, “Oh, Daddy, if that book was written and in a bookstore now, I would buy it and read it. It sounds so exciting!” With her enthusiasm as the wind beneath my wings, I took on the writing persona of Arduel and the world of Arken and his life unfolded before me.
The beauty of writing about Arken’s life was that I could draw on so many powerful experiences in my life. All the hunts for deer, elk, antelope, and wild boar became direct sources of information for what Arken would go through, from experiencing sadness and joy after killing a game animal to performing an ancient ritual with a prayer at the end to honor the animal’s sacrifice.
I had also spent a large amount of time either surfing the ocean or fishing for salmon in my offshore boat, Ajax. So the world of navigating the ocean, especially within a few miles off shore, became very familiar to me.
Add to that my background in martial arts, horseback riding, and fencing, and I had a huge wealth of information to draw from in crafting Arken. I had already been writing for years. My first novel was about Vietnam veterans and their high suicide rates after a friend of mine had problems after the war. My second novel was about a war with Russia, which I tabled at the time due to the thawing of the Cold War and the inspiration for writing Arken.
My typical writing day is getting up early in the morning at about 5 a.m. when the house is quiet and I continue writing until about 8 a.m. After that I get on with all the other duties of my day.
It took me about ten years to complete Shipwrecked but in the process I ended up drafting a ten-book series. Each book takes about a year to write now that all the labor of “setting up” the world and characters and website have been accomplished. SeaJourney, the Prequel to Shipwrecked soon followed, along with The Toth Hunter (book 3), Tookan Attack (book 4) and The Valley of Death (book 5).
I love writing, and it has become as exciting to me as my hunting and fishing trips. I encourage everyone to spend as much time as possible in the outdoors so that they can experience the humbling and awe inspiring moments that come while in the forest, in the desert, or on the sea!