The Making of: BLOCKBUSTER

BLOCKBUSTER:  THE FUTURE OF PATHOGENS?*

Lots of things scare me, some more than others.  While this can be mighty inconvenient in daily life, it does give me plenty of writing ideas.  See?  There’s a silver lining in just about anything if you look hard enough.

Several of my biggest fears play starring roles in my BigPharma thriller, BLOCKBUSTER.  For one thing, it scares the bejeepers out of me that some very nasty pathogenic bacteria have become resistant to our arsenal of antibiotics, and that more will likely follow.  So, what if a bacteria got loose that was readily transmitted and extremely deadly—and was resistant to all available antibiotics?  Well, that’s part of what happens in BLOCKBUSTER.  The idea scares me so much that as I was writing the book, if I happened to feel a simple itch on my toe, for example, a part of me would begin to panic because of what happens in the novel.  Can you imagine how frightening it would be if something like that started spreading, and no existing antibiotic could fight it?  Talk about being fresh out of bullets.

Just so you know, I actually completed the manuscript long before the recent Ebola crisis that made the news a couple of years ago.  Though a virus, Ebola shares some characteristics with the bacterial disease(s) in BLOCKBUSTER, in that there is no particular cure, and that it is incredibly vicious and deadly.  However, Ebola is far less communicable than the diseases in BLOCKBUSTER, and because it’s a virus, antibiotics aren’t helpful anyway (except perhaps as prevention for secondary bacterial infections).  When I “created” the diseases in BLOCKBUSTER, I deliberately combined the pathology of MRSA (the flesh-eating bacteria) with the terrible internal ravages of Ebola (and some more grisly features for good measure).  I find it hard to imagine a more terrifying communicable disease.

On another level, I’m scared of disease in general, of being ill and in a hospital, under treatment, and fearing for my life.  I’m sure most people are.  In BLOCKBUSTER, that fear is magnified by the strict quarantine procedures necessitated by the nature of the disease.  What would it be like to be gravely ill and in a quarantine chamber—with no human contact whatsoever—just when you’re at your most vulnerable and frightened?  Unfortunately, that very thing plays out in an Ebola outbreak.  The disease itself is horrific enough, but to be denied even the slightest bit of human comfort is unimaginably heartbreaking—though necessary.

As some of my readers may know, I edited a weekly email newsletter for biotech attorneys, the BioBlurb, through much of my time in law school.  I’d gather stories from the week centered on the legal and ethical issues of various biotech developments—and I’d insert my own snarky little comments that my readers really enjoyed.  On one level, it was fun to do and I learned a lot about what was going on in the biotech world.  On another level, it provided all manner of novel fodder to my twisted little brain.  But alas, in law school, there was little time for anything but…law school.  So all those ideas fermented in the back of my head.  And now I get to reap the benefits of all that fermentation.  BLOCKBUSTER didn’t stem from any one particular story, but from a sort of gestalt of the stories, together with a “what if” question about a particular form of corruption.

Another thing that shaped BLOCKBUSTER is an annoying bit of reality:  it takes a long, long time to develop a new drug and bring it to market.  There are early trials, false starts, human trials (if you even get that far), FDA approvals, and all the activities needed to actually produce and distribute the eventual drug.  If I’d adhered to that reality in the book, readers would have passed out from boredom by page 4.  I had to do something about this!  So, I decided to set it 10 years in the future, and “create” a very lovely and enviable piece of lab equipment that fast-tracks the drug development process, and even eliminates the need for human trials—the fabulous Pathosym.  Such equipment isn’t totally without a basis in reality, however.  There are prototype testing devices “on a chip” for certain things.  I just took the concept a whole lot further.  And this is why writing fiction is so, well, empowering.

And because I’d set the story 10 years out, I couldn’t just slap a fancy piece of equipment in the lab and stop there.  I needed to envision future versions of normal, everyday electronics that we take for granted.  Most such items in the book are either on their way or are based in some part on reality.  For example, wristwatch computers are becoming a reality, or at least early versions of them.  I just imagined something more mature and put it in the book—the PortiComm.  These things had to feel like fairly natural extensions of current devices that might be real 10 years out.  They were meant more as part of the environment, the “set” as it were, rather than stars of the show, like the lab equipment.

BLOCKBUSTER was a fun book to write:  lots of biotech, high-tech, skullduggery, greed, and things going horribly awry.  I hope you enjoy it…and that you have lots of antibacterial scrub handy.  You’re going to need it.

Thanks for reading!

Lisa von Biela

*Originally published in DarkFuse Magazine when BLOCKBUSTER was first released.

Blockbuster on Amazon

Blockbuster on Smashwords

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Status of my backlist–gone now, returning soon. Stay tuned!

Due to recent changes in direction at my prior publisher (DarkFuse), rights to my existing titles have reverted to me and those titles are no longer on the market (at Amazon) as of today.

However…

I am thrilled to announce that Crossroad Press will be republishing my existing titles and handling my new work!  Stay tuned for more details as they become available.  Meanwhile, if you need a von Biela fix, my novella, MOON OVER RUIN, is still available on Amazon in ebook and dead tree forms (wasn’t published through DarkFuse).

Thank you and have a great weekend, all.

Pleasant dreams…or not!

Part 1 of my podcast with SWRT is up now!

Alida Winternheimer and Company at SWRT (Story Works Round Table) graciously invited me to discuss my work, dark fiction, and the craft of writing with them.  And lo and behold, you get to hear my voice and see my smiling mug in this podcast!  (I really do exist.)  Part 1:
 

The Inspiration Behind MOON OVER RUIN…

For me, there is nothing like a road trip.  Jetting off to faraway places is not my cup of tea, never has been.  I prefer terra firma, and seeing everything there is to see along the way.

Don’t get me wrong.  The views from up in the air can be pretty amazing.  But you can’t really pull over and investigate if you see something interesting, now, can you?

And I prefer out-of-the-way places, not major cities.

In other words…give me wide open spaces!  Because you never know what you will find out there, where there is supposedly nothing.

In this case, it was an abandoned resort up in Canada, situated next to a huge, peaceful lake.  I wish there’d been more identifying information.  I tried to find something about it on the Internet, without a lick of success.  (My BF and I saw another abandoned resort on that same trip and at least found other people’s pictures of it, and its name.  But for this one, not a thing.  Just adds to the mystery, right?)

Looked like a really nice setup, back when it was alive, anyway.  Eight rooms in one single-story building, some other common building overlooking the lake, and some other building (Café?  Storage?  Not sure.  Not about to trespass to find out.)

So.  A cool little place.  In the middle of nowhere.  Set on a lake.  But abandoned and aging.  Just the thing to set off my weird little imagination.  Who stayed there when it was operational?  What was their story?  What stories could the walls tell?  I knew right away this place had the potential to make an appearance in my fiction.  Just a matter of when and where.

Different stories start with different seeds.  For another of my novellas, Skinshift, it was the animal skulls we found in an abandoned campsite on another road trip.  For Ash and Bone, it was a noir-ish mental image I had of a waterfront at night.  And so on.  My stories aren’t always inspired by an irresistible setting.  But some are.  Like Moon Over Ruin.

The Quarry Resort is a fictionalized version of this abandoned resort.  Peter Watson takes a solo road trip to escape a very painful loss.  Or so he thinks.  Then he winds up at the Quarry Resort, alone, at night.  And he gets more than he bargained for.  Way more.

Thanks for reading!

And may I wish you:

Pleasant dreams…or not…

Lisa

My newest novel, a BigPharma thriller called BLOCKBUSTER, available for preorder!

Save $3 by ordering now. It will be delivered to your Kindle on January 6 when the book comes out!

http://www.amazon.com/Blockbuster-Lisa-von-Biela-ebook/dp/B00PIVTAK2/ref=sr_1_1_twi_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1415890918&sr=1-1

Thank you for your support!