I had the pleasure of interviewing Jacqui Murray to talk about her newest book, Survival of the Fittest. It’s Book 1 in her Crossroads series, part of the Man versus Nature saga.
It’s fascinating to learn how a writer approaches the development of characters and plot. I’m also interested in what inspires a person to write as it reveals what perspective motivates their narrative of the world. She was gracious about answering my questions. You’re going to find Jacqui’s responses intriguing.
Me: I’ve always been captivated by wondering about early man and how this small, physically inferior creature became so highly adaptable and successful. Why did you write a book in such a tiny genre niche?
Jacqui: Survival of the Fittest is written in the sub-genre of historic fiction called prehistoric fiction, a time before recorded history. There aren’t a lot of readers in this genre but they are devoted! Because the only records are rocks, world building has proven difficult but Xhosa (the heroine) really didn’t give me a choice. She nagged me to tell her story from my first page twenty years ago to my final draft.
Me: I love that – a character who tells you to write down her story. So of course, you obeyed.
Me: I’ve believed in God since I was a very small child and had no sense of the history of my faith. The more I studied and learned, the more my ideas about God matured, but my devotion has never wavered. So I’m totally excited about Survival of the Fittest as I believe it hints at a spiritual side to man. Is that accurate? I’d love to know how you discovered this nascent aspect of spiritual belief.
Jacqui: Scientists have no idea when man’s spirituality started. Because 850,000 years ago (when Xhosa lived) is considered prehistory—before any sort of recorded history was possible —there’s no way to tell. Survival of the Fittest offers one speculative theory of how that could have happened.
Me: I guess we will never know for certain, but you’re a deep thinker and your ideas are as likely to be close to the truth as any. I’m intrigued by your historical possibilities.
Most scientists believe Homo erectus couldn’t talk. How did Xhosa and her People communicate?
Jacqui: These early humans were highly intelligent for their day and possessed rich communication skills but rarely verbal. Most paleoanthropologists believe that the ‘speaking’ part of their brain wasn’t evolved enough for speech but there’s another reason: Talking is noisy as well as unnatural in nature which attracts attention. For these early humans, who were far from the alpha in the food chain, being noticed wasn’t good.
Instead, they communicated with gestures, facial expressions, movements, and all the body language we-all still use but rarely recognize. They talked to each other about everything necessary, just nonverbally.
Me: You present so many facets about why the development of speech was delayed while other human skills became sophisticated. What you suggest makes total sense, especially the need for silence and stealth in a predatory world.
In her own words, here’s a teaser about Jacqui’s book: Five tribes. One leader. A treacherous journey across three continents in search of a new home.
Me: Wow! A powerful bunch of numerical markers highlighting an exciting story.
Plot details to enchant you about Survival of the Fittest: Chased by a ruthless and powerful enemy, Xhosa flees with her People, leaving behind a certain life in her African homeland to search for an unknown future. She leads her People on a grueling journey through unknown and dangerous lands but on an escape path laid out years before by her father as a final desperate means to survival. She is joined by other homeless tribes–from Indonesia, China, South Africa, East Africa, and the Levant—all similarly forced by timeless events to find new lives. As they struggle to overcome treachery, lies, danger, tragedy, hidden secrets, and Nature herself, Xhosa must face the reality that this enemy doesn’t want her People’s land. He wants to destroy her.
Me: I’m wildly cheering on Xhosa. I want her to overcome these perilous obstacles. I can’t wait to find out if she’s successful, and if so, how she achieves finding a safe homeland. This is the kind of story that keeps me up at night because I can’t bear to put it down. Xhosa begged Jacqui to writer her story. Jacqui wrote a book that demands to be read.
Book information, In a nutshell:
Title and author: Survival of the Fittest
Series: Book 1 in the Crossroads series, part of the Man vs. Nature saga
Genre: Prehistoric fiction
Cover by: Damonza
It has been my pleasure to host Jacqui Murray and to discuss her newest novel. I wish her all success with this new book.
All images courtesy of Jacqui Murray