by Derek Gunn
A virus engineered for genocide has been released in Colorado Springs, leading to mass and seemingly unexplained violence. Some of the survivors of the infection begin to evolve into something that is both less than and more than human. The race is on to prevent world-wide release of the virus.
The thriller market is in flux at the moment. Publishing is not the road to riches that it was at one time and e-books are beginning to threaten the local bookstore far more quickly than was anticipated. We are seeing e-books for a dollar and self-published novels being snapped up by traditional publishers and released conventionally. In fact, if we were to rewind about two years and predict what is happening now we would be laughed at.
Into this uncertain market Lou Aronica launches his own imprint Fiction Studios. Lou is known to most of us as a New York Times bestselling author, former Publisher of Avon Books and Deputy Publisher of Bantam Books so already we see a pedigree that is worth sitting up and taking notice of. The fact that he is launching a new imprint in the current market shows his confidence and the first six books they have on the schedule would seem to bear this.
Hybrid is different from other ‘virus’ books from the start. It is written by Brian O’Grady, a neurologic surgeon and triathlon, particle and astrophysics enthusiast – don’t you feel inadequate already? The book is tightly written and the science is real but never swamps the flow of the book at any time. This is a very complex area but at no time did I feel the author was preaching or dumping huge amounts of information. Details are released slowly as the characters develop alongside their own internal changes and this is key to making the book work.
At its core we have a thriller about a virus being released intentionally in America. However, the reasons behind the release are frightening. The world is fast becoming unsustainable, resources are diminishing and populations are growing so fast that all our futures are at risk. A group has come up with a rather unique way of saving the many by sacrificing quite a lot. The group is not aware, however, that their employee has his own agenda and plans a more permanent solution on a global scale. Hybrid has two different definitions; one is a new kind of virus and the other is a new kind of person and the author certainly uses both definitions. While the virus kills many some survive and are changed by their ordeal and the changes are remarkable.
Amanda Flynn is a survivor of the original virus and has intentionally cut herself off from humanity. The start of the book sees her trying to alert the medical team who oversaw her initial ‘recovery’ from the virus but all her efforts fail so she has to take a more active role. Violence is increasing as the virus changes those who survive and the story develops a number of threads. The way O’Grady handles the re-integration of Amanda back into a society that she has been apart from for so long is impressive and the newly infected, who have more than enough problems of their own before the infection begins to change them, allows the author to really get into his characters. Of course, many of them were fragile to begin with so this sudden metamorphosis leads to very entertaining, and frightening, reading.
Brian very kindly agreed to answer a few questions for this article to give readers a bit of background about himself and how he approaches his writing.
There’s a lot of information on virus’ and how they work in the novel. Do you have a background in this area or was it painstaking research?
I am a neurologic surgeon (brain surgeon mostly), and before medical school, and during residency training, I did some of the early research on stem-cells. This research required a working knowledge of clinical virology, which was reinforced during medical school. Hybrid’s focus is on the virus, but the inspiration is a bit more convoluted. A good deal of experimental and clinical evidence finds that some cancers and degenerative/autoimmune process’ are caused by a genetic susceptibility, but for the disease to present, you need a “key” to unlock it from the genes. Work has shown that virus’ are an excellent key in a good deal of disease process’. So if a virus can stimulate the immune cells to attack the body (as in multiple sclerosis) or cause cells to grow in an unrestrained manner (as in cancer), why can’t they stimulate the small layer of dormant stem cells that line the ventricles of the brain? In fact they can- we just can’t direct the growth (yet)- if we could, we surely would see some amazing things- hence Hybrid.
The novel is well structured. Is this your first work of fiction or have you written short stories before?
Hybrid is my first non-medical journal publication since college- a lifetime ago.
How did you manage to get Lou Aronica involved? He has an impressive pedigree and the Fiction Studio looks to be off to a flying start.
I stumbled on Lou- I had had a previous editor-a “story-doctor”, that was really not helping all that much, and I found Lou on the internet. I wrote him explaining my situation, and, with restrictions, he said he would look at what I had, but offered no promises. About 2 weeks later he wrote me a 12 page critique and things progressed from there. Like a lot of things in life I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. Fiction Studios was a stroke of genius-Lou has taken all his years of experience and contacts and created a new approach to publishing- it’s invitation only (not sure how people get invited), and then author still has to get through Lou- not the easiest of critics (but very supportive).
How do you write? Do you have a ritual, do you plan out every detail or do you see where the story leads?
As far as writing I don’t have a set routine- too many other demands. What does happen is that I will get on a roll, and almost in a state of mania, write every free moment until I’m happy with what’s on paper-or screen (later I rewrite it, again, and again, etc.). Other times I let the ideas mature in my head, and when I have a clear path for the story the cycle starts anew. As far as planning out every detail , I try to do that but invariably the story takes unexpected turns- I really like that aspect of writing because I really don’t know how it’s going to end.
As this is an eBook release what are your plans for marketing the book to attract attention?
As far as being an ebook, we are also releasing this in paperback- I don’t have a clear understanding of the marketing campaign- it’s been turned over to Meryl Moss and will involve a mixture of blogs and radio.
If you were given one paragraph to convince people to buy your novel what would it say?
One paragraph to convince people to buy the book is tough. Try this:
“Nothing in life remains static; change is an essential component of the human experience. In Hybrid the vehicle of change is a genetically altered virus that is released in Colorado Springs as a first step in a terrorist campaign to effect global change. Violence and death ensue, but from the chaos emerge survivors who themselves have changed. Abilities and powers which represent the next step in human evolution test the morality and restraint society demands; some are able to control them, while others succumb to their seductive nature. Ordinary people: a middle-aged widow, an aging Catholic priest, and a Coroner with an obsessive-compulsive disorder try to cope with their new found abilities, and the demons that accompany them, while trying to stop the original survivor from completing the plan which will lead to genocide on a global scale.”
In between work and writing do you have any time to read? Who do you enjoy most?
I don’t read as often as I like- I’m busy at work, I am also training for my fifth Ironman triathlon, but on my desk are a couple of Dean Koontz novels and a number of physics books (I’m also particle and astrophysics enthusiast).
What’s next? Another medical thriller or will you go a completely different route?
As far as what’s next, I have a very ambitious project- the memoirs of the 54th President- a sort of how we got here novel set in the future. It discusses economics, foreign affairs, politics, science, etc.. What one would expect from a former President twenty five years from now. It forces me to learn a number of subjects well enough to project them into the future.
Do you have a website or blog where people can keep up to date with news etc?
You can visit my website – it’s not finished yet, but does have a modest amount of content.
It is difficult to go into too much detail without giving too much away and it’s worth reading this with as little information as possible. Suffice it to say that there is plenty of action, a really tight plot and plenty of fractured and demented characters to satisfy the most discerning readers. This book has elements of the action adventure, horror and medical thriller but, at the end of the day, it’s a great read that won’t disappoint. If you like plenty of detail, like CSI and the like, then you’ll devour every blood-soaked page. If you like police procedural novels then O’Grady’s eye for detail will have you licking your lips and if you like a ripping adventure story then you won’t read better this year. The characters are recognisable, though not all are likable, and each one struggles with their own frailties as well as everything that is thrown at them. This is a frightening story, made more so by the truth in the fact that the planet is becoming over populated and that our resources are running out. Could it happen? Pick up a copy and find out.
Hybrid is released April 5th in paperback and e-book and is available from your usual outlets. Take a trip over to Brian’s web site for more information. If this is anything to go by I think we’ll be seeing quite a bit more of this author in the future.
Brian O’Grady is a husband and father of three. Hybrid is his first published novel. He’s a practicing neurologoic surgeon with a subspecialty in intracranial surgery. When he’s not operating or writing, he is training for Ironman triathlons-he has five to his credit-or exploring the underwater caves of Mexico. He also restores classic American cars.