I sometimes call this the book that ate my life, but I mean it in a good way. It began with the purely mercenary motive of writing a second book that would perform as well in the market as Switching Well did. A major cause of that work's continuing success was that Texas schools picked it up for their 7th-grade Texas history units, so another Texas time-travel story seemed called for. That doesn't narrow it down much - Texas history bristles with story hooks - but I happened to read Bjorn Kürten's book on the extinct fauna of the Americas, Before the Indians, and I got hooked on the Pleistocene. (Seriously, check this book out of your local library. The art, placing reconstructed animals in reconstructed landscapes, will never be outmoded. You'll never be satisfied with CGI scientific illustration again.)
I started thinking about this book in 1995. It was published in 2004. In between, I researched it twice, wrote it three times, visited archaeological sites, talked to archaeologists, subscribed to a scientific journal, connected everything I saw or heard of to the Pleistocene, and developed my own opinions on various controversies.Not all of these are reflected in the book. It's a story, not a treatise on life in the Pleistocene as I understand it. I don't, for example, think that the big-game-hunter lifestyle was as prevalent as I show it in the book. But c'mon, there had to be mammoth hunts! Mammoths are cool!
The heroine, Esther, is a child with an enthusiasm her parents don't understand, a driving curiosity, and a lot of practical common sense. She steps through a time portal across 11,000 (radiocarbon) years and can't get back. So what does she do? Strives to find her own place in the world she's in while searching for a way back to the one she came from. She has friends, in the smart-alecky Aahrva and plucky Tekinit, and an enemy, in the status-conscious Nudawah; and they all have to rely on eachother to survive. She doesn't believe in magic, but it's clear to her new family that she has some.
The Pleistocene was no place for sissies. Adapt or die!