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Talking Location With D J Green – ANATOLIA

21st March 2024

#TalkingLocationWith… D J Green, author of No More Empty Spaces — ANATOLIA

I stood atop a cliff. Dark clouds loomed in the distance, but the sun shone above. I heard a rumbling, turned my head toward the sound, hand raised to shield my eyes from the sun’s glare. And though the roaring built, I could not see where it originated. I dug in my backpack for binoculars, then swept the view of the valley below. There! A flood bore! A wall of water, several feet high and very nearly vertical, plunged down the valley. High above myself, and thankful I could see no people in its way, I was free to watch in fascination, rather than fear. A distant cloudburst must have unleashed the water’s rush miles downstream.

That memory is just one of many I hold from the Anatolian Region of Turkey. It is a wild and beautiful place. The landscape is varied and stunning, and the geology, the lens through which I view all the places I go, is no less so. It is also steeped in rich culture and deep history.

D J Green

Temple of Nemrut Dağ

Why did you set your novel in Turkey, I have been asked. Why not? As a writer, and a geologist before I started putting pen to paper in search of stories, I always hope the landscape will live as much as any character in my work. And what better character could I ask for than Anatolia?

Limestone lion’s head at Nemrut Dağ

Built and shaped by geologic processes as dramatic as earthquakes, volcanoes, and landslides, and those more sedate from minute to minute, but whose results can be just as spectacular, like eons of erosion or dissolution. This is a landscape any storyteller, or artist, or adventurer, could love—from the stark white travertine terraces of Pamukkale in southwestern Anatolia to the towering slopes of Mount Ararat in its eastern reaches, and so many places between. But I’ll choose two very special places to highlight—the otherworldly, volcanic landscape of Cappadocia and the mountain, with its manmade summit and more, of Nemrut Dağı.

In Central Anatolia, the Göreme Valley is the heart of Cappadocia. Now, a bustling tourist destination, the building of this landscape began roughly 10 million years ago with the Miocene-age eruptions of three volcanoes, blanketing the region with a thick layer of ash. The ash deposits formed a soft (as rocks go) stone known as tuff. Over geologic time, water and wind eroded, indeed sculpted, the tuff into cones and columns, pillars and pinnacles, some protected by balanced boulders, some coming to mere points. The whimsy of these shapes inspired the name peribaca in Turkish, meaning fairy chimney. But not only could the elements shape these stones, due to their relative softness so could people, who etched homes into the valley walls and spires. And when invaders swept across Anatolia, inhabitants could move fully underground into elaborate subterranean cities they’d carved out for protection. It is hard to walk through these ancient structures without imagination taking hold, without inventing stories of what life might have been like.

From Cappadocia, you can travel two to three hundred miles east to the Taurus Mountains of southeastern Anatolia—and find your way to Nemrut Dağı. Though the beautiful peaks might draw you in themselves, it is the temples and tumulus, the statues and structures at the crest that make it a World Heritage Site.

D J Green

On approach, what my eyes, trained by working as a geologist to read the landscape, saw was an unnaturally-shaped summit—the angles too consistent, the lines too even. The apex of Nemrut Dağı was elevated more than 150 feet above the natural mountaintop. It was built by multitudes on the orders of the Commagene king, Antiochus the First, in honor of the gods, and himself, during his 26 year reign from 64 to 38 BCE. Imagine chipping fist-sized chunks of limestone from the outcrops below, carrying them up slope, and stacking them nearly at the angle of repose to such a great height—grueling would hardly begin to convey what the work must have been like to create it. The setting, the structures, and the statues all make a visit to Nemrut Dağı breathtaking, in more ways than the exertion of the hike up to the top.

D J GreenHaving had the chance to explore it, I could not resist setting my debut novel, No More Empty Spaces, in Anatolia’s amazing landscape. Cappadocia and Nemrut Dağı are just two of the places the Ross family discover there.

D. J. Green

D. J. Green is a writer, geologist, and sailor, as well as a bookseller and partner in Bookworks, an independent bookstore in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She lives near the Sandia Mountains in Placitas, New Mexico, and cruises the Salish Sea on her sailboat during the summers. No More Empty Spaces, her first novel, will be released on April 9, 2024.

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