I confess some of the joy I get from reading a good thriller, besides the thrill, is the knowledge I take away from the book. Having the author provide an afterword of recommended reading or an explanation of where fiction takes over from reality is like having my cake and eating it too.
What is more intriguing than reading about a terrifying world situation only to find the scare factor is firmly entrenched in reality?
As fans of thrillers know, the subjects touched upon are vast and varied. James Lilliefors succeeded in getting my attention with his first thriller, VIRAL.
Within the confines of his story, he took me from the known possibility of a world plague to a even more horrifying scenario of a controlled epidemic killing millions in a confined geographical area for political and economic gain.
His second thriller, THE LEVIATHAN EFFECT, is also grounded in the known—our weather—and uses nature’s deadly disasters as a controlled means to terrorize the world. Before you scoff at the absurdity of the story line, you might want to consider private industry, including Bill Gates’ company Intellectual Ventures, and many countries are actively exploring ways to control the weather. And James said, “The idea of harnessing weather for military purposes—a possibility more likely than some folks realize—is one of the themes of the book.”
He continues, “A big question when considering weather modification is, “Would there be side effects?” Would creating rain in one part of the world cause drought in another? That’s THE LEVIATHAN EFFECT as described in the book.”
The story is told through alternating viewpoints from the main characters, Catherine Blaine, the Secretary of Homeland Security who is tracing the trail of the mysterious hacker, Janus, who is accurately predicting natural disasters, and the Mallory brothers who made their debut in VIRAL.
The brothers bring a curious mix of expertise. Charles is a former government agent and a private intelligence contractor and Jon is a journalist. “One’s analytical, the other more intuitive. One collects facts and works through details, the other sees stories. They serve as foils for one another in a sense,” Lilliefors said.
The idea for THE LEVIATHAN EFFECT has its basis in 2004, one of the worst hurricane seasons on record, when four major storms—one after the other— hit Florida where Lilliefors makes his home. “Seeing events like these up close underscores the fragility of our lives and our society: for all our ingenuity and capacity for innovation, we’re completely helpless when one of these monsters bears down on us,” he said. “This led me to research the subject of weather modification.”
As for the research, Lilliefors said, “I enjoy research and tend to immerse myself in a subject for months while I’m writing about it. I like the process of creating a novel – going into another world, spending time there and getting to know it, then using a narrative to take readers there. You hope to entertain them but also in the process to make them more aware of that world and some of the issues that are important there. I hope that in addition to being a thriller novel, THE LEVIATHAN EFFECT might contribute in some small way to conversations about climate change and weather modification.”
“It turns out the U.S. is actually lagging behind in this field. China has a weather modification bureau that employs 40,000 people, while dozens of other countries and private industry are actively exploring ways of controlling the weather…It’s time for the U.S. to become a pioneer in weather modification research as we have been in other fields, from computers to space exploration.”
Lilliefors started writing THE LEVIATHAN EFFECT in 2010 and finished in early 2012. “The central event in the novel is a Category 5 hurricane. As I was going through the final galleys last October, Hurricane Sandy formed in the Atlantic Ocean, growing to roughly the same size and following the same trajectory as the storm in the novel. It was kind of eerie.”
Paul Oliver, director of marketing and publicity for Lilliefors’ publisher Soho Press had this to say: “When Hurricane Sandy hit New York in October, we at the Soho Press office—which was closed for more than a week—experienced an eerie confluence of fiction publishing and real life. It was very creepy to watch the devastation of the real-life hurricane as we worked on a very convincing thriller that proposed the idea that this kind of ruinous natural disaster might be used as a weapon.”
Currently Lilliefors is finishing a mystery with a pastor and a homicide detective as the main characters. He also has a third Mallory brothers thriller outlined and partially written.
“I usually begin by writing scenes and sketches, getting a feel for the characters, how they interact, and how the story will unfold,” he said. “Most of these don’t make it into the book. I’ll outline several times as the story is developing, but always leave room to improvise. The revision process is the most time-consuming and difficult. I’ll usually write a draft and then go through revisions for at least six or eight months.”
He writes from his corner office in his home in south Florida but when the project allows likes to write in different places – on the beach, in the library, a quiet spot in the woods or by the water. He also loves to travel and is often inspired by unfamiliar locales.
James Lilliefors is a journalist and novelist, author of the political thrillers VIRAL and THE LEVIATHAN EFFECT. He has written for THE WASHINGTON POST, THE MIAMI HERALD, BOSTON GLOBE and elsewhere. Lilliefors grew up in Washington, D.C. and currently lives in Florida.
To learn more about THE LEVIATHAN EFFECT, James Lilliefors, and his other books including a fascinating look at America’s boardwalks, visit his website.