By Jeremy Burns
Steve Alten is a bestselling mainstay on the science thriller scene. His work has drawn laudatory comparisons to Crichton and Cussler, and his latest book, THE OMEGA PROJECT, looks to raise the already high bar that his fans have come to expect. Steve recently sat down with THE BIG THRILL to take readers behind the scenes of his latest high-octane adventure.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m fifty-three, been writing now for eighteen years. Twelve published thrillers, including four NEW YORK Times bestsellers and four international bestsellers… not bad for a Phys. Ed. Major from Penn State. But I have far to go and much to learn.
Tell us about your new thriller, THE OMEGA PROJECT.
A quick description would be PLANET OF THE APES meets CASTAWAY as a scientist, on a 30-day training mission, is forcibly cryogenically frozen in a habitat submerged beneath the Antarctic Ice Sheet and awakens…12 million years later. The story is sort of a nightmarish WIZARD OF OZ tale, and neither the hero nor the reader will know the outcome until the last page.
The premise of THE OMEGA PROJECT is fascinating. What was your initial inspiration for the book, and how did the story’s premise develop throughout your writing process?
The story was originally intended to be the sequel to my novel, GOLIATH only my editor and agent felt the book was better as its own entity. I’ve written End of the World jeopardizes before but none like this.
What are some of the ways you’ve conducted research for this novel? Any interesting stories there?
What will our planet look like 12 million years from now? How will a potential cataclysm in 2028 affect the future? How will it affect evolution? What species will replace man? These are all concerns I spent long hours researching. At the same time I kept my creative license, desiring to describe exotic backdrops, bio-diverse fauna and food chains that had never been penned before.
How much of yourself do you put in your characters? With which character in THE OMEGA PROJECT do you most identify?
I try to live each scene through my main character’s eyes – in this case Dr. Robert “Ike” Eisenbraun. The real Ike was my kinesiology prof back at Penn State – a good guy who helped me get into graduate school. I put the poor bastard through hell.
Which character was the most fun for you to write? Why?
There’s a non-human character – a species that is destined to evolve beyond man, only without the toxic ego that has led to society’s downfall.
Other than THE OMEGA PROJECT, what is your favorite book you’ve written? Why?
I just published an eBook comedy novel called DOG TRAINING THE AMERICAN MALE under the pseudonym L.A. KNIGHT. The story follows Dr. Nancy Beach, a 30 year old a relationship counselor who hosts a local radio show called Love’s a Beach. One problem: The relationship guru can’t seem to make her own relationships work, sending her credibility and ratings into the toilet. She meets Jacob Cope, a bit of a screwball, and they eventually move in together. When the honeymoon stage abruptly ends, Nancy’s sister advises Jacob to buy Nancy a little white foofie dog. Instead, Jacob goes to the pound and comes home with Sam – a 120-pound German Shepherd. Nancy flips out… until she realizes the dog trainer’s techniques can be used to housebreak Jacob and save her radio career.
What is your favorite book by another author? Why?
Bram Stoker’s DRACULA scared the heck out of me as a teen, and the story structure – told in journal entries was terrific.
What is your favorite travel destination? Why?
I’m not much into travel. I try to visit Atlantic City because of the White House Sub Shop on Arctic Ave. Best damn cheesesteaks in the world, and that’s coming from a Philly guy.
What do you find most rewarding about writing?
Hearing from readers whose lives you’ve touched through writing. That and the checks.
What is one thing that would surprise your fans about you or your writing process?
I’ve always been an open book to my readers. I send them free monthly newsletters that hold nothing back and answer every e-mail personally, so there’s a pretty strong bond there.
What advice would you give to new or aspiring authors who look up to you?
Write about things you like to read, not about things you know. Then do the research.
What can we expect next from you, and where can readers go to hear the latest news?
Visit my website. I’m in the process of selling a fun new YA title called SHARKMAN while I write the sequel to THE LOCH. I’m praying we’ll get MEG & THE LOCH into production in 2013.
A big thank you to Steve Alten for stopping by to give THE BIG THRILL readers a sneak peak into his latest hit thriller. To see what a fascinating premise like this can become in the hands of a modern master, check out THE OMEGA PROJECT when it hits shelves August 6th!
Steve Alten is the bestselling author of the MEG series, including MEG: HELL’S AQUARIUM. A native of Philadelphia, he earned a bachelor’s degree from Penn State, a masters from the University of Delaware, and a doctorate from Temple University. He is the founder and director of Adopt-An-Author, a free nationwide teen reading program used in thousands of secondary school classrooms to excite reluctant readers.