Thanks so much for this chance to find out more about you and your writing. It's a pleasure to host you! How did you start your writing career?
In 1995 when I was teaching archaeology in the Department of Anthropology at Cal State Fullerton, the State of California discovered that it had more money in the pension fund than it did in the budget, and offered the faculty from Cal States and the University of California a golden handshake, and I found out that I could get more money not teaching than I could teaching. I took the golden handshake, but there was a caveat. I couldn’t teach at any Cal State campus any longer, not even in the extension. But I could teach at a UC extension. So I went down to the University of California at Irvine, to teach two archaeology classes each quarter at the extension. At UCI, they encourage you to take courses in other departments. They have a famous creative writing program, so I tried taking two classes in creative writing in the extension, one in short stories, and one in mysteries, and they said stop everything and start writing. You have a voice! Incidentally, both the story that I wrote for the short story class and the mystery were published.
What was your first sale as an author?
Sir William Flinders-Petrie was the inspiration for the short story I wrote for the class. Petrie was a genius and just a little bit crazy. In 1882, he went to Egypt to measure pyramids because he was an advocate of pyramid power and the Children of the Sun Theory, and single-handedly invented modern archaeology. Upset to discover that no one knew when the pyramids were built, which one was older and which was younger, he compared excavated material from tomb lots, he set up a series of sequence of dates and developed the chronology of Egyptian archaeology. To this day, the method he used is known as a Petrie matrix. Then he went to a site in southern Palestine called Tel el Hesi, and with two helpers and a toothache, and using ceramic cross-ties from Egyptian pottery found at Hesi, he developed a chronology for Palestinian archaeology. When the site was redug in the 1970’s using modern techniques, they found that every one of his conclusions was right on.
Petrie was brilliant and knew it, and was convinced that his head was growing.
When he retired, he moved from London to Jerusalem, where the sky was blue and the air was bright. He settled into the American School of Archaeological Research, where there was central heating, hot water for bathes, and mattresses with box springs. When he did in 1942, he willed his head, with all of its wonderful knowledge, to the medical school of the University College London on Gower Street.
The director of the American School duly cut off Petrie’s head, put it in a hat box, buried the rest of him in the Protestant Cemetery on Mount Zion, and then got a cable from the War Department in Washington D. C., telling him to come immediately. We had just entered WW II. The director left the hatbox on the mantel of the Director’s House, and started for Washington. It took him two months. Because of the exigencies of wartime travel, he had to go through South America, then north to D.C. In Washington, they told him to go right back and do an archaeological survey of Trans-Jordan for the OSS. Two months later, he was back in Jerusalem, and the hat box was gone. For years archaeologists at the American School looked for Petrie’s head--in the attic, in the library, under the stairs. Finally, in 1983, someone sent a clipping to the American School from the Illustrated London News. It was a picture of a head found at the medical School of University College, of a young-looking Petrie severed at the neck with the caption WHO IS THIS MAN?
So I wrote a short story, Petrie’s Head, and sold it to a literary journal called ZYZZYVA, for fifty dollars and a tee shirt. The journal is published in San Francisco, and the editor had kept asking me to make the protagonist a lesbian. I wasn’t sure why. I refused, because it would change the plot of the story and made no sense. I also got ten free copies of the journal, and asked them to send one to me, the others to my sons and grandchildren.
It turned out that that particular issue of the journal was devoted to homosexuality, with graphic illustrations, and I had just sent my grandchildren some porno literature.
Check out the story. It is now available on Kindle and Nook, without the graphic illustrations.
Did you ever do anything that was really embarrassing?
I was doing an archaeological survey of sites in the Jordan Valley, and reached Beth Shean, a prosperous city in Roman times, and one of the cities of the Roman Decapolis. It had a well- preserved amphitheater from Roman times, with a scaena, and a stage, surrounded by a semicircular tier of theater seats that led up, up, and out of sight, and created a natural expanse for acoustics.
No one else was there. Who could resist? I climbed onto the stage and began to sing and dance, and sing and dance, and sing and dance. I don’t sing in tune, and don’t dance like Pavlova, but there was nothing to worry about. No one else was there. No one could see me. Finally, having sung and danced my way across the stage, one more time I bowed with a flourish. Applause came from somewhere at the top of the tiers of seats, and someone shouted, “Do it again, Aileen. Do it again.”
A team from the Department of Antiquities had come to Beth Shean to assess the feasibility of restoring the site and creating an archaeological park, and I was the first item on their agenda.
Who are your books published with?
The first book in the Lily Sampson series A FLY HAS A HUNDRED EYES was published in 2002 by Academy Chicago Press. Other books in the series: THE TORCH OF TANGIER, THE SCORPION’S BITE, were published by Poisoned Pen Press, as was the first book in the Tamar Saticoy series, THE GOLD OF THRACE. My web site is www.aileengbaron.com.
Tell us about your current release.
My current release is a new edition of the first book in the Lily Sampson series, A FLY HAS A HUNDRED EYES, now available as an eBook available through Kindle or Nook, or as a print on demand paperback.
The book introduces us to Lily Sampson, a graduate student working at a site in Palestine in the summer of 1938 during the British Mandate of Palestine. Jerusalem is in chaos and the atmosphere teems with intrigue. Terrorists roam the countryside. The British are losing control of Palestine as Europe nervously teeters on the brink of World War II. Against this backdrop of international tensions, Lily is plunged into a labyrinth of danger and intrigue when artifacts are missing from her excavation, the director of the excavation, British archaeologist Geoffrey Eastbourne, is murdered on his way to the opening of the Rockefeller Museum, and the British police, are evasive and off-putting.
Tell us about your next release.
I have just finished writing RETURN OF THE SWALLOWS.
In Return of the Swallows, Tamar Saticoy, part-time archaeological consultant for Interpol, becomes mired in the devious world of museums and the antiquities trade, ranging from Thailand to California.
Tamar was first introduced and recruited by Interpol in the mystery, The Gold of Thrace, published by Poisoned Pen Press in 2010. In Return of the Swallows, Tamar finds a burnt body while working on the salvage excavation of a burnt mud-brick wall at Mission San Juan Capistrano. Tests reveal that the body is that of a contemporary murder victim, probably a native of the Khorat Plateau in Thailand, where an archaeological site is being looted. Tamar becomes embroiled in a labyrinth of deception and danger in her attempts to identify the body of the victim at the Mission and the connection to the looted Thai site through her work with Interpol.
The looting of archaeological sites can be lucrative, and has resulted in murders, as well as connections with international contraband activities. The plot of Return of the Swallows is based, in part, on a real occurrence. I was personally aware of all the details, and knew all the principals, from the archaeologist whose site had been looted to the curators in the museums that received the stolen goods. A Red Notice by Interpol involving the tie-in between the looted Thai site and several museums in the Los Angeles and Orange County areas resulted in Federal indictments.
A Fly Has a Hundred Eyes
by Aileen Baron
on Tour Feb 1 - 28, 2014
Book Details:Genre: Mystery
Published by: Aileen Baron
Publication Date: September, 2013
Number of Pages: 217
Synopsis:In the summer of 1938, Jerusalem is in chaos and the atmosphere teems with intrigue. Terrorists roam the countryside. The British are losing control of Palestine as Europe nervously teeters on the brink of World War II.
Against this backdrop of international tensions, Lily Sampson, an American graduate student, is involved in a dig—an important excavation directed by the eminent British archaeologist, Geoffrey Eastbourne, who is murdered on his way to the opening of the Rockefeller Museum. Artifacts from the dig are also missing, one of which is a beautiful blue glass amphoriskos (a vial about three and a half inches long) which Lily herself had excavated. Upset by this loss, she searches for the vial—enlisting the help of the military attaché of the American consulate.
But when she contacts the British police, they seem evasive and offputting—unable or unwilling either to find the murderer or to look into the theft of the amphoriskos. Lily realizes that she will get no help from them and sets out on her own to find the vial. When she finds the victim’s journal in her tent, she assumes he had left it for her because he feared for his life.
Lily’s adventurous search for information about the murder and the theft of the amphoriskos lead into a labyrinth of danger and intrigue.
This impressive historical mystery novel has already won first place in its category at both the Pikes Peak and Southwest Writers Conferences in 2000.
Read an excerpt:
Author Bio:Aileen G. Baron has spent her life unearthing the treasures and secrets left behind by previous civilizations. Her pursuit of the ancient has taken her to distant countries—Israel, Turkey, Jordan, Greece, Britain, China and the Yucatan—and to some surprising California destinations, like Newport Beach, California and the Mojave Desert.
She taught for twenty years in the Department of Anthropology at California State University, Fullerton, and has conducted many years of fieldwork in the Middle East, including a year at the American School of Oriental Research in Jerusalem as an NEH scholar and director of the overseas campus of California State Universities at the Hebrew University. She holds degrees from several universities, including the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of California, Riverside.
The first book in the Lily Sampson series, A FLY HAS A HUNDRED EYES, about the murder of a British archaeologist in 1938 in British mandated Palestine, won first place in the mystery category at both the Pikes Peak Writers conference and the SouthWest Writers Conference. THE TORCH OF TANGIER, the second novel in the Lily Sampson series, takes place in Morocco during WW II, when Lily is recruited into the OSS to work on the preparations for the Allied invasion of North Africa, Operation Torch. In THE SCORPION’S BITE, Lily is doing an archaeological survey of Trans-Jordan for the OSS.