The Evolution of The Curse of the Pharaoh’s Stone
The story behind the story
It begins at Villanova University in Pennsylvania in 1992. Donna Hanson, a computer science student with a passion for Egyptology and writing, took an Egyptology course, and wrote a 7-page paper. This paper examined the opening of King Tut’s tomb as seen in the local Philadelphia newspapers, and it was written as a short story about a boy reading the articles. Donna’s paper was entitled Oklahoma Smith and the Tomb of the Egyptian King. Her teacher said she should flesh it out and make it into a real story, which she always planned to do—someday.
Life went on for Donna, and she graduated, got a job, got married, and then was diagnosed with cancer. Unable to work but bored at home, she turned to her writing as solace, as she always had, and decided to dig out her old school paper and dive into the rewrite. Tragically, she died at age 32, and Oklahoma Smith seemed to have died with her.
Donna Dies, But Okie Lives On
Fate seemed determined that Donna’s legacy not die so easily. Donna was my best friend, and we had written and collaborated on many, many stories in our 18 years of friendship. So it was only natural that Donna’s mother asked me if I had a copy of Donna’s Egypt story. I didn’t, and we thought that was the end. Then another friend of ours asked me about it, and I felt it must be a sign that I was to carry the work forward. We searched Donna’s house thoroughly, but no copy of the paper was found, and again, we resigned ourselves to Okie’s demise.
Then, many weeks later, Donna’s mother was cleaning out Donna’s room at her parents’ house, and lo and behold, a copy of the paper emerged! New life was breathed into the project, and I took it and began making a short story out of it, as Donna had intended. It still revolved around Okie’s passion for King Tut, but I built a family and conflict into the story to make it more interesting. I submitted this new version of Oklahoma Smith and the Tomb of the Egyptian King to my peer critique group.
An Epic Collaboration Is Born
After the group read it (to general praise), two of the group and I adjourned to a bar for after-group chitchat. Jeff Pero asked me if I had ever considered making it an adventure novel, and I said no. He then asked if I would be interested in doing so, and in collaborating with him on the project. I thought that would be fun, the ideas started flowing immediately, and our enthusiasm infected fellow writer Jim Kempner, and he jumped on board.
And now, we have completed The Curse of the Pharaoh’s Stone, and are hard at work writing the second book in a series that could span at least five books. It is hard to believe that a 7-page school paper has grown into a 5-novel project, but a long and twisted path has led Oklahoma Smith to this point. It is our hope that Okie’s adventures will live on into the future, and that Donna’s memory will touch many readers of all ages.