By Basil Sands
Ladies and Gents, may I introduce to you Jon McGoran and his newly released Eco-Thriller, DEADOUT.
If you are worried about genetic modification, transgenics, cloning, irradiation, and the release of genetically engineered foods into the environment may become a nightmare for the world, rest assured Jon’s got enough real life science mixed with heart pumping action to make your fears leap off the page, then get clobbered.
Jon, tell us about DEADOUT.
DEADOUT is the sequel to my previous novel, DRIFT. It’s a biotech thriller about genetically engineered foods and Colony Collapse Disorder, which is killing the world’s honeybees. Detective Doyle Carrick is visiting his girlfriend Nola, who is working on a farm on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, and something mysterious starts killing the island’s bees. A biotech company brings in genetically engineered bees that are supposedly immune to Colony Collapse, dividing the island’s farmers. As the protests turn violent, Doyle realizes the bees aren’t the only thing being modified, and he has to figure out what’s really going on and stop it before it can spread to the mainland, and the world.
When folks think of thrillers, they easily conjure up pictures of terrorists, spies, cops, and even mad-scientists, but seldom do they think of food, and bees even less. How did you land on this topic as a thriller plot?
Thrillers have always drawn on real threats to make their plots more compelling—Nazis, the cold war, terrorists. Today, I see the dangers to our food systems and the environment—and the corporate misbehaviors that aggravate them—as serious and potentially existential threats. And whereas the public has often perceived threats like terrorism as greater than they really are, in these areas, I think the danger is actually under-perceived. Hopefully, the fact that the scary and dangerous issues in DRIFT and DEADOUT are also real will make the dangers encountered by the characters in the books seem more real, as well.
When I started writing DRIFT, the first book in the series, I was struck by how pervasive genetically modified organisms had become in our food system, how inadequately tested they were, and how many people had never heard of them. Huge shadowy corporations using their vast resources to push new life forms into the food supply of an unknowing public—that’s perfect fare for a thriller right there. In DEADOUT, I also look at the threat of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) and the disappearance of the honeybees. As with GMOs, people are more aware of CCD today, but when I started writing DEADOUT, I was amazed at how few people were aware of this potentially catastrophic situation. And apart from the very real threat CCD presents to global food production, it’s also creepy as hell. The bees aren’t just dying, they’re disappearing by the billions, leaving behind their queens, their eggs, their honey, and vanishing without a trace. In England, they call it Mary Celeste syndrome, for the famous ghost ship whose crew disappeared in 1872.
As a human being, I find these issues alarming, and I am glad to be able to stimulate awareness and discussion of them, but as a writer, I also think they make a great backdrop for thrillers.
Where did the idea for Detective Doyle Carrick, the stories’ protagonist, come from?
Doyle comes from a lot of places. There’s definitely a bit of me in him—the smartass part, not the badass part. When I first thought of DRIFT, I knew I didn’t want a protagonist who was already knowledgeable or invested in the issues that the book explores, but I did want him to have skills and competencies that would help him figure out what was going on, so early on I realized he would be a cop, but that he would be using his skills outside of his professional purview—outside of his jurisdiction, investigating cases that weren’t his apart from the fact that they fell in his lap.
I also knew he would have some authority issues, and that by working outside the system, so to speak, he’d get an even clearer view of how much he was hampered by that system, and the day-to-day political realities of it. Also, while Doyle is a bit of a badass, I didn’t want him to be a superhero, so when he gets hit, he gets hurt, and when he screws up, he pays for it. In DEADOUT, he’s still dealing with some of the damage he sustains in DRIFT—mental, emotional, and professional, as well as physical—but he’s also strengthened by his deepening understanding of how the world does and doesn’t work. I’m having fun seeing where he goes in the third book in the series, which I’m working on now.
While GMO food and bees do actually turn out to be a very interesting plot, where in the world did you learn to write fight scenes? My face literally hurt at times just from imagining the hits. I mean, ouch!
As I said, I’m more smartass than badass, so those fight scenes come mostly from my imagination, informed by the many writers whose fight scenes I’ve read. But I also leaned on my good pal Jonathan Maberry, who is not just a phenomenal writer, but also an expert in hand-to-hand combat, martial arts, and general ass-kickery in a number of different styles. So any time I was wondering if something was realistic or possible, I could bounce it off him and he would help me make sure it was.
Like I said, Doyle’s a bit of a tough guy, but he’s not invincible, so I really wanted to be sure that when he got hit, he felt it. In DRIFT he goes through quite an ordeal, and not just the violence, but also the sheer exhaustion. You kind of hate to do it to the guy, but I think it really adds to the story that as the events he is confronting loom larger and crazier, he is in this exhausted state that adds to the surreal quality. In DEADOUT, he’s still dealing with the effects of what he went through in DRIFT, plus confronting a whole new set of challenges. There are times when he really isn’t sure he’s going to make it. (Although, as I said, I am working on book three.)
Now I understand you yourself have a clone out there, of a sort. Who is D. H. Dublin?
D. H. Dublin was a pen name I used a few years ago while writing a forensic crime series for Penguin. I wrote three books under the name, BODY TRACE, BLOOD POISON, and FREEZER BURN.
And finally, the soul-searching question readers are dying to learn the answer to. If a somewhat inebriated genie showed up one day and turned you into a piece of furniture of your choosing for the next ten years after which time you would revert to yourself, what would you choose to be and why?
Well, a bookcase, of course.
Jon McGoran is the author of the thrillers DRIFT and its sequel, DEADOUT, which takes a chilling look at the world of genetically modified food, biotechnology and the disappearance of the bees. A third book in the series is due out in 2015. McGoran is also the author of numerous short stories, including the science fiction novella AFTER EFFECTS, published by Amazon’s StoryFront imprint in May 2014. Writing as D.H. Dublin, he is also author of the forensic thrillers BODY TRACE, BLOOD POISON and FREEZER BURN.
To learn more about Jon, please visit his website.
He lives in Anchorage Alaska with his wife and teen sons.