By J. H. Bográn
The abominable snowman has filled the imagination—and nightmares—of people for years, and has achieved a certain measure of Pop Culture status. More than a few movies deal with the monster, including the one being portrayed as an outcast in Monsters Inc. And whether he admits it or not, George Lucas paid it an indirect tribute to the yeti with the creature that attacked Luke Skywalker in The Empire Strikes Back.
Authors Rick Chesler and Jack Douglas bring us a new tale of adventure about the yeti in their book. When evolutionary biology professor Dr. Zack Hitchens loses his wife in a senseless accident, he decides to follow her dreams all the way to the “roof of the world”—the peak of Mount Everest. On the infernal mountain, Zack and his teammates battle sickness, whiteout conditions, avalanches, the oxygen-starved minds of other climbers—and something else. Something primitive and consumed with rage and seeking revenge. Something downright abominable.
The Big Thrill had the chance to chat with the authors about the new release.
What is it about the yeti that intrigued you enough to devote a whole book to it?
Jack Douglas: The initial spark of inspiration was actually the Expedition Everest ride at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The yeti on that coaster is portrayed as a ferocious beast, a likeness that popular culture has largely moved away from. Between the monster and the perils inherent in attempting to ascend the world’s tallest mountain, it seemed at the time like the story would write itself. But that turned out not to be the case. Instead the book required nearly two years of grueling research on mountaineering, cryptozoology, and the rich history and culture of South Asia.
Deciding to climb Everest to fulfill his dead wife’s goal says a lot about Dr. Zack Hitchens’ character. How did you create him?
JD: We wanted a main character who had never truly been tested before, who genuinely had no idea what he was made of. Every day you hear stories about people who overcome horrific challenges, and you think to yourself: I’d never have survived that. But the people who overcome these challenges might well have said the same thing before they were faced with whatever perilous situation they were faced with. Zack Hitchens’ way of dealing with his wife’s death evolves over the course of the book, but his fierce will to survive was arguably there from the outset. He (and by extension the reader) just didn’t know it.
What was the most difficult piece of research you had to do?
JD: By far the most challenging research was on the mountain itself. Dozens of memoirs about climbing the same mountain give very different accounts (even of the same events), so it was necessary to read as much as possible. In addition to books, there are dozens of documentaries about ascending Everest. Every one of them was helpful in visualizing what our main character Zack Hitchens was going through at any given time. Because every part of the mountain—from the icefall to the Hillary Step to the summit—is so distinct, and has such different dangers, the story benefits from vastly different settings, and we wanted to take advantage of that.
Mr. Chesler, I know you have other books with co-authors. Do you work differently with each one or do you have a standardized method?
It’s a different method with each author, depending on the person and the project. Some writers prefer thorough chapter-by-chapter outlines before the actual writing begins, for example, while others would rather just “go for it” once we have a basic premise in place. If the book is part of an existing series, then there are obvious considerations there. It just depends on the situation, but one thing I really enjoy about working with a co-author is the opportunity to learn how other writers approach their work. It was a fantastic opportunity for me to work with Jack Douglas on THE YETI and I enjoyed it very much.
Mr. Douglas, what did you think of working with Rick on this project?
JD: Rick Chesler is one of the finest thriller writers working today, so I feel completely comfortable deferring to him on issues that would ordinarily keep me awake at night. His background and incredible grasp of science allows me to consider ideas I’d never consider working on by myself. Our writing styles are similar enough that the stories feel absolutely seamless. And best of all, Rick has the type of mind that can work through any problem no matter how impossible it may seem to the rest of us. Which is great because I have a habit of writing my characters into some really treacherous jams.
What are you currently working on?
Rick Chesler: I am pleased to announce that Jack Douglas and I are collaborating on another project. This one will be quite different from THE YETI, as it will be a supernatural horror novel entitled The Flat.
About the authors:
Rick Chesler holds a Bachelor of Science in marine biology and can often be found diving, boating, or traveling to research his next thriller idea. A former contractor for the U.S. Department of Commerce and the State of Hawaii, he currently lives in South Florida with his family, at the edge of the Bermuda Triangle.
Jack Douglas is the author of Quake.