Very early in my writing career, I realized that unless I did something about it, I could very easily spend the majority of my life locked alone in a room making squiggly black marks on a computer screen. When it came time to write my fourth book, I decided to go someplace new, experience something that a lot of people hadn’t experienced, and bring it home to a novel.
While studying cultural anthropology, years before at Ohio State, Id learned about groups of islanders in the Pacific who had formed whole religions around American bomber and transport pilots who had landed on their islands during World War II. Years later, anthropologists had gone to those islands and found altars built in the shape of airplanes, and natives waiting for the return of their pilot messiahs.
What if one of those pilots actually felt some responsibility toward the people who worshiped him? I thought. So off I went to Micronesia, a chain of literally thousands of islands that stretches for more than two thousand miles across the Pacific. (FYI: There was no real reason to have picked Micronesia as a setting, but when I used to wait tables, this guy would come into the restaurant-bar where I worked and talk about the weird stuff that happened to him on Truk and Yap, so that was were I went, thinking that weird might just work for me.)
As intended, it got me out of the office. After a couple of months in the islands living among natives and doing a lot of reading, I put together my own little religion, a reluctant messiah to carry the theme, and some sacred icons who didn’t know enough to keep quiet. It turned out to be quite an adventure.