Welcome to the blog, John! Could you tell us a little bit about your novel?
The U.S. is ground-zero for a mysterious global pandemic. The disease is highly infectious and kills it’s victims within two weeks of exposure. It’s neither bacteria nor a virus and all traditional treatment regiments have failed.
Serena Salus, a radical scientist, discovers the organism is an extraterrestrial dust mite brought to earth by a shuttle astronaut. The government contends it’s a genetically-engineered organism created on earth by enemies of freedom. Dr. Salus uncovers a vile plan for distributing her experimental antitoxin and finds herself in a deadly confrontation with powerful forces that’ll stop at nothing to control the distribution of her vaccine.
What led you to write this book?
We had a couple of disasters during the last decade with 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. The response by our government disturbed me. The news was filled with Abu Ghraib, torture, secret prisons, wars built on lies, suspension of habeas corpus at Guantanamo Bay, and so much more. I wondered what would happen if some of that washed up on our shores, or was magnified during an even greater crisis. I created a fictitious catastrophic event and superimposed actual events of the last decade to create a dystopian thriller. I think any good fiction starts with fact. I also believe a good novel uses facts, adds fiction, and if successful, blurs the lines between them.
How did you handle the challenges of creating and explaining a new disease without falling into the trap of info-dumping?
I wanted to captivate the reader’s imagination. It’s a fictitious disease, so I had to make it plausible and understandable to the reader. I didn’t need to overwhelm the reader with too much epidemiology. I think a novel dense in scientific data and jargon tends to be self-serving. It tends to be more about showing the reader how smart the author is, but often at the expense of a well-paced novel. I hope I avoided that trap. It’s a balance. I hope the reader feels I succeeded in finding that balance.
Is it difficult to kill off your characters? How do you make sure the emotions come across to readers?
I think it works if you use it as a vehicle to get to where you want to go. In a global pandemic, for example, death of a character can bring the reader into that tragedy in a more tangible way.
What is your best advice on writing?
Just sit down and write... Edit later. I wrote this book with lots of back story that I trimmed later. Writing large tracts of back story helped me understand my characters very well, even if some of it gets cut.
I actually didn’t know where the story would take me when I started it. It all unfolded during my journey. My advice would be: enjoy the ride and edit to make it a tight, well-crafted story. Perhaps you’ll write 500 pages to get to a 300 page novel, but that’s okay.
Thanks so much for stopping by, John!
About John Nelson
I’m a retired Air Force Master Sergeant and former Special Forces Medic. I work as Director of Quality and Risk Management, Patient Safety, and Infection Control for a community hospital in Utah. I’m now in the editing/ minor re-write stage of my next novel Grey Suits, a story of conspiracy, mystery and intrigue. I hope to have it ready to go by the end of the summer.
John Nelson can be found on:
Against Nature is available here and here.
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