In November of 1986, Michael and Kathleen went to work for several weeks on the I-70 expansion project in Utah. This section of Interstate was built across the San Rafael swell from Green River to Richmond. Good friends Bill Davis and Debbie Westfall, of Abajo Archaeology, out of Bluff directed the project. It was after Michael and Kathleen's return to the cabin that Tor editor, Michael Seidman, called to ask about what the project had uncovered. After hearing about Fremont pithouses, gaming balls, pinion caches, and archaic housepits, he asked what it would take for Michael and Kathleen to collaborate on a novel that chronicled the migration of humans into North America, followed different characters across time, incorporated the origins of different Native language groups, and ended with the arrival of the Europeans in the Fifteenth Century.
Could the Gears do that in say, six hundred and fifty pages?
Sure. It breaks down to over two hundred years per page, includes the origins of hundreds of languages, and incredible climatic and environmental change; but - the Gear's maintained - as long as Tor didn't mind if the novel read like the phone book, no problem. As the vastness of the project dawned on Mike Seidman, it was decided that it would take a minimum of six novels to give even a hint of North America's complex and lengthy cultural prehistory.
PEOPLE OF THE WOLF was a success. With over a million copies sold, it is still the volume bookstores find hardest to keep on the shelves. The Gears are often asked which of the "People" books is their favorite. The answer? Each one of them. Every novel is different and unique. Some are mysteries, some are thrillers, some are romances, some are fantasies, some are war stories, some are epics, but each is based on the best archaeological and ethnographic information as well as oral traditions available at the time of writing. A complete bibliography is included for those who wish to go to the scientific data and read the actual field reports and monographs.
The authors are often asked if the books have to be read in any kind of order. The answer is no. A time line was provided in the later books to give readers an idea of when the novel is set during the last fifteen thousand years and where in the continent the action takes place.
Will there be more "People" books? Indeed there will. For the novelist, North American archaeology is an unmined field. Were the Gears to write a thousand novels about North American archaeology, they would never cover the same ground twice. The wealth of material about our prehistoric heritage is immense, and archaeologists are reporting new data every day. For that reason the Gears are constantly reading the professional literature, attending the annual archaeological meetings, and talking with professional colleagues.
Michael and Kathleen are currently at work on PEOPLE OF THE OWL a novel about the Poverty Point culture in Louisiana. Located just outside of Epps, Louisiana, the Poverty Point site is the first urban center in North America. At a time when the pyramids were being constructed, the Poverty Point people were building several square miles of impressive earthworks in northern Louisiana. They traded as far north as Wisconsin for copper, to Pennsylvania for anthracite, and had specialized labor. The little red jasper owls crafted at Poverty Point have been recovered from archaeological sites as far away as Florida. All this, and on a hunting and gathering economy, too!
Future titles in the "People" series will include novels dealing with the Pacific Northwest in British Columbia; the high cultures of the Southeast, including Moundville, Alabama, and Etowa, Georgia; the Hohokam in southern Arizona; the Mimbres in New Mexico; and the Salado in the Salt River basin to name but a few. Many fans have written asking that the Gears do a novel on Kenniwick Man - the nine thousand three hundred year old Caucasoid found in Washington. If archaeologists are allowed to study this unique burial, the Gears will certainly write about it. Needless to say, they will be writing about North American archaeology for a long time.