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By Guy Bergstrom

The secret of humanity’s origin has lain buried for millennia. And now it threatens to destroy us all.

That’s the premise behind J.T. Brannan’s debut novel, ORIGIN, which starts when a scientific team in the Antarctic uncovers a body buried 40,000 years ago.

But the body isn’t some kind of primitive man. It’s something else entirely. This sets off a struggle taking the scientist heroine and her ex-husband, a former government operative, all over the world, from Area 51 to the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva.

J.T. knows a bit about the whole action hero business, as he trained at Sandhurst as an officer in the British Army and is a former national karate champion.

What inspired you to write this novel?

My wife and I were discussing various subjects one night, and we got onto the topic of life expectancy, and how it was going up in some areas of the world. I’d recently read about various claims that people would soon be living into their hundreds with the advent of genetic manipulation, nanobots in the bloodstream, and so on.

We soon realised that this meant that the rich, and I mean the super-rich who could afford such treatments, would be the only ones to benefit, pushing the world into an ever more polarized society of the “haves” and “have-nots.”

From this conversation we envisaged what such a future world would look like, and came up with a science fiction type of story. However, as I don’t write science fiction, I just put the idea away and moved on to other things. But I couldn’t get it out of my head, especially some of the themes and issues that it brought up, and so I eventually decided to use this as a back-story for a contemporary action conspiracy thriller.

ORIGIN can therefore perhaps best be described as an action thriller with a sci-fi ‘twist’.

Without giving away the ending, who are the bad guys, why do they want to protect this secret — and what’s at stake if the heroine fails?

The main villain of the piece is Stephen Jacobs, the chairman of an international cabal of the world’s ‘super-elite’. He is ably assisted by Flynn Eldridge, a very nasty piece of work, who heads up security for the group. The organization has been created for a singular purpose, and after many years the time has almost come for its terrifying dream to be realised.

Jacobs fears that the discovery of a 40,000 year old body in Antarctica will cause too many questions to be asked, which could then potentially unravel the entire plan; a plan that would see the entire world change in the most horrific way if Lynn Edwards doesn’t find a way to stop it.

Is this a stand-alone or book one of a series?

I don’t see it as a series, as my preference is always to work on something different, I feel I can be more creative that way. I know others may feel differently, but that is my personal approach, and the way I like to write. I wouldn’t step outside the action thriller genre, as that is what I love, but I am more interested in developing new characters and different stories, whilst working within that genre.

That said however, I do have plans in the back of my mind as to how ORIGIN would fit into a trilogy, so I might well revisit it at some stage in the future.

While this is a thriller, it sounds like there’s a heavy dose of mystery and secrets, and possibly a love story with the heroine’s ex-husband involved. Is that accurate?

Very accurate! Yes, much of the story deals with the mysterious and the unusual. The world is so full of unexplained phenomena, and the denouement of ORIGIN serves to offer an explanation that ties many of them together, hopefully into something quite original.

And then there is also the love story between Lynn Edwards and Matt Adams, which is absolutely pivotal to the entire thing, in more ways than one. But I don’t want to give too much away.

Why do you think people remain fascinated by Area 51 and non-human possibilities?

I think the key factor is that there are just so many things that are unknown, even in today’s scientific world, and this creates a lot of mixed feelings in people – curiosity, fascination, concern, and even fear.

We’re scared of the unknown, and Area 51 and the possibility of non-human life give one potential explanation for a variety of such phenomena. I think a lot of us are searching for answers, some way to explain the purpose of our lives here, and belief in such things provides one such explanation.

And Area 51 is just great – we know it exists, and we know where it is, but we still don’t really know what they do there. But some people obviously do know, and this fascinates us. The people who work there, what is their secret knowledge? Do they have evidence of unknown civilizations, alien technology? Maybe there is nothing of the sort there; but then again, maybe there is, and this not knowing infuriates and fascinates us in equal measure.

How did you apply your military and martial arts background to the action in the book?

For me, action is of paramount importance in a thriller, and it’s the part of writing that I enjoy the most. So when writing action scenes, I try and make it as exciting as possible, whilst still keeping it grounded in reality. In terms of what’s possible, the answer is a lot more than what people might generally think.

I worked as a door supervisor for many years, and know people that could take out several attackers by themselves; there aren’t many, but they do exist. Likewise, with correct training, many feats of marksmanship are possible, even under combat situations; if you fire 20,000 rounds a week in practice, your chances of hitting something are higher than someone who doesn’t.

But I try and make it believable – for instance, if people are running forwards, firing a submachine gun on full-auto as they go, it will be hard to hit someone; and if that someone kneels down into a proper firing position before shooting, they will be more likely to hit the target.

It’s in the details. If someone’s fighting, and they drop one man to the ground with a kick to a nerve point in the armpit, and then break the next attacker’s wrist with a wristlock, I might not believe it. But if they head butt the first person and then grab the second attacker and bite their nose off, then that is feasible. The result is the same – one man defeats two attackers – but it’s all about making the scene exciting and believable at the same time.

I try not to get too hung up on ‘reality’ though; the main thrust always has to be on entertainment, and that means that action scenes must be exciting, no matter what.


JT Brannan trained as a British Army officer at Sandhurst, before deciding to pursue a writing career. A former national Karate champion, he now teaches martial arts in Harrogate, England, where he lives with his wife and two young children. ORIGIN is his first novel.

To learn more about JT, please visit his website.

Guy Bergstrom