Book Nerd Interview
Jordan Jacobs has loved archaeology for as long as he can remember. His childhood passion for mummies, castles and Indiana Jones led to his participation in his first excavation, at age 13, in California’s Sierra Nevada. After completing a high school archaeology program in the American Southwest, he followed his passion through his education at Stanford, Oxford, and Cambridge. Since then, Jordan’s work for the Smithsonian, the American Museum of Natural History and UNESCO Headquarters in Paris has focused on policy and the protection of archaeological sites in the developing world.
Jordan’s research and travel opportunities have taken him to almost fifty countries— from Cambodia’s ancient palaces, to Tunisia’s Roman citadels, to Guatemala’s Mayan heartland and the voodoo villages of Benin.
Jordan now works as Senior Specialist at the Phoebe Hearst Museum of Anthropology at UC Berkeley. Helives in San Francisco with his wife and daughter.
Your new book is “Samantha Sutton and the Labyrinth of Lies.” Can you tell my Book Nerd Kids Community a little about it and why they should read your novel?
Twelve-year-old Samantha wants more than anything to be an archaeologist like her uncle Jay, less interested in his tales of adventure than the intricate science his work requires. When she finally gets to join him at the Peruvian site of Chavin de Huantar, he gives her the job of mapping the temple’s unexplored network of buried passageways--too small for a grownup to squeeze into. Her usual level-headedness is tested when local kids tell her about the ghostly madman who haunts the temple’s depths, and again when the project’s most important finds go missing. In the end, Samantha must use her knowledge of the temple’s secrets to face off against both the ancient and modern dangers of Chavin.
Why read it? More than anything, it’s a great adventure! It’s got underground passages, bats, bones, and ancient devices...everything I would’ve wanted to read as a middle grader! But the book also incorporates the actual archaeological research that has taken place at Chavin de Huantar, so readers get to learn about the site and the scientific work that goes on there. Everything that Samantha finds is real, and the conclusions the team comes to are drawn from the latest archaeological theories.
For those who are unfamiliar with Samantha, how would you introduce her?
Samantha is brave, resourceful, capable, and level-headed--even when her big brother Evan tries to test her patience. Her passion for archaeology is very serious, and she is fiercely loyal to her friends and family. She may be small for her age, but talk down to her at your peril!
When did you write your first book and how old were you?
I’ve been writing for about as long as I’ve been reading, but I wrote my first real “book” when I was 7. It was called “The Secret of the Jenkins’ Backyard,” and followed four boys as they explored the hidden passageways under their neighbor’s garden. Sadly, it was never published, but I guess it shows that my interest in underground adventures is nothing new!
How would you describe yourself in three words?
Interested. Eager. Lucky.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
My dad, Paul Samuel Jacobs. He’s a veteran journalist and the author of three children’s books, with many other novels in the works. He has an incredible gift for story-telling and is one of the most disciplined people that I know.
What's the worst summer job you've ever had?
I worked for a few months as a contract archaeologist in California--one of a team of people brought in to study a site before it was to be destroyed by a major construction project. This particular excavation was situated far below a major freeway overpass, and all kinds of things rained down on us: food wrappers, bottles, hub-caps. But much, much worse was the fact that the site was rumored to be an explosives dump from the First World War. Each shovelful carried with it just a little tinge of fear...
What is your greatest adventure?
Being a brand new dad! I’m loving every aspect of it. I’ve learned more from my daughter already than any I’ve picked up in years of college, work, and travel.
Where can readers stalk you?
Readers can find me at www.j-jacobs.com or on my facebook author page: http://www.facebook.com/OfficialJordanJacobsPage
-all the way to the start.
A legendary ghost, an ancient treasure, a mystery only Samantha Sutton can solve.
What happens when Indiana Jones meets Nancy Drew? You get Samantha Sutton, twelve year-old archeology buff with sharp wit and an insatiably curious personality. SAMANTHA SUTTON AND THE LABYRINTH OF LIES is the incredible page-turner about a young girl from California who is given the chance to follow her archeologist uncle to the excavation of an ancient Peruvian temple.
What she doesn’t expect, though, is the legend haunting this ancient site. When important artifacts begin to disappear overnight, Samantha must navigate the disapproving eye of her uncle’s acerbic assistant, the bungling boyishness of her annoying big brother, and the ever-present stories swirling among the locals of the hysterical spirit that wanders through the town late at night. Using her keen sensibility and her knack for mapping the unknown passageways of Chavín de Huántar, Samantha uncovers a mystery far bigger than she could have ever imagined. This is a novel for children (and adults!) who love history, mystery, and heart-stopping plot-twists.
One thing for sure about this book is that it carries everything that young readers (and adults) love about reading. It has exciting adventure and fast action all built around a richly detailed culture and history. The development of the characters is crafted with precision as evident as to how much personality readers will see in the main protagonist. Samantha may be young, but she is smart, strong-willed and has high determination. She has an instant connection with readers.
The writing style of author Jordan is marvelous. Even if you are not even at all interested in archaeology, Jordan’s mesmerizing wordings will have you googling archaeology and even perhaps watch an Indiana Jones movie. The adventures that Samantha experienced is something we all probably dreamed of when we were kids and reading the book is like reliving that exciting fantasy. As the last page is turned, readers will be hungry for more of Samantha’s intriguing story and will be elated that there will be more books.