Q: There are some pretty fantastic settings in The Devil Colony, all pretty much right here in the good ol’ US of A. Was it nice to be able to set a book mainly in America? Were you able to visit the stunning locations in the book, such as the Arizona desert and the Rocky Mountains?
Rollins: I had great fun researching this novel set in my own backyard (so to speak). For the past decade, I’ve been fielding questions from readers about setting a Sigma novel within the United States. But I knew it had to be the perfect story, a novel thrilling enough to justify coming home. I’ve been searching for that story for about five years, and when I finally discovered it, the book still took me a full two years to write. It’s one of the biggest and most shocking of my novels. It took me trekking across the country and back, from Washington, D.C. and Fort Knox out east, to Salt Lake City and Yellowstone National Park out west. I interviewed Mormon scholars, read scientific and historical abstract, and studied ancient petroglyphs. It is a story never told—but one that needs to be finally revealed after two hundred years of secrets.
Q: Thomas Jefferson—while he never appears in this story—plays a significant role. Why Thomas Jefferson? What intrigues you about him?
Rollins: Everyone knows Thomas Jefferson as the architect of the Declaration of Independence. Volumes have been written about the man over the past two centuries, but of all the founding fathers of America, he remains to this day wrapped in mystery and contradictions. He was both politician and scientist.For instance, it was only in 2007 that a coded letter, buried in his papers, was finally cracked and deciphered. It was sent to Jefferson in 1801 by a colleague who shared a passion for secret codes. Jefferson was fascinated to the point of fixation on Native American culture and history. At his home in Monticello, he put together a collection of tribal artifacts that was said to rival museums of the day (a collection that mysteriously disappeared after his death). Many of these Indian relics were sent to him by Lewis and Clark during their famed expedition across America. But what many don’t know is that Jefferson sent a secret message to Congress in 1803 concerning Lewis and Clark’s expedition. It revealed the true hidden purpose behind the journey across the West. In The Devil Colony, you’ll learn that purpose—and so much more about the founding of America. And it has nothing to do with freemasons, Knights Templar, or crackpot theories. The truth is as illuminating as it is disturbing.
Q: Your books often include high-concept scientific theory. While not wanting to spill any secrets about the plot of The Devil Colony, what are some of the breaking-news scientific concepts laced through the pages of this book?Rollins: The science in this novel addresses the next big leap in scientific research and industry. It can be summarized in one word: Nanotechnology. In a nutshell, it means manufacturing at the atomic level, at a level of one billionth of a meter. The nanotech industry is exploding. It is estimated that this year alone $70 billion worth of nanotech products will be sold in the U.S. alone: toothpaste, sunscreen, cake icing, teething rings, running socks, cosmetics, and medicines. What’s the downside of such a growth industry? These nanoparticles can cause illness, even death. It’s a new and wild frontier. There is presently no requirement for the labeling of nano-goods, no required safety studies of products containing nanoparticles. But there’s an even darker side to this industry. This technology has a history that goes back further than the twentieth century—much further. The Devil Colony explores those dark roots of this “new” science.
Q: As a reader, it’s a huge treat to re-connect with the Sigma Force team, all of whom are such beloved characters. As an author, is it a similar experience for you to write about them? Do you feel like you’re visiting with dear friends?
Rollins: Definitely. I’ve been living and breathing these characters for going on a decade. We’ve seen them grow, have children, face the challenge of balancing work with family, and deal with losses. While the Sigma team is chocked full of talented and dedicated people, they are still people with real-life challenges alongside the world-spanning adventures. In this book especially, those two worlds collide in a harrowing manner for one of my characters. To me, that’s what makes these characters feel so alive in my heart. They are not a static team who run into adventure after adventure. Instead, they change, they mature, they get life-altering injuries—and yes, they also die. It’s that fragility, that mortality, that breathes life into a character.