I recently had the opportunity to talk with author Scott Sigler, whose new horror/sci-fi/thriller, ANCESTOR, will be available soon.
Q: You having been writing everything from newspaper articles to novels. What would you say was the pivotal point when you thought of yourself as a "writer"?
SCOTT: I wrote my first gaming book when I was still in high school, so that pretty much sealed it. I've been writing monster stories since I was a little kid, but decided that I wanted to do it for a living in high school. I chose Journalism as a major, both because writing was easy for me, and because I knew that the more writing I did the better I would become. I chose that career fully planning to blow it off and instead write things that would scare the living hell out of people.
Q: How is your new book, ANCESTOR, different/same as your previous horror thriller, EARTHCORE?
SCOTT: Like EARTHCORE, ANCESTOR is what I call "hard-science horror." It's a horror story that is rooted in physics, so the reader knows the "rules" of the story. I can't paint myself out of a plot corner with convenient supernatural contrivances, and I think most readers appreciate that. Where EARTHCORE focused on de-evolution and deterioration of a gene pool, ANCESTOR focuses on genetic engineering and the massive shortage of transplantable human organs - yet both are, at heart, pure monster stories. Also, in both books, I create a new monster, something I'm proud of. My goal is to create a monster that resonates with the audience, that is copied someday, instead of me copying the mandatory vampires, vampire hunters, zombies, ghosts and werewolves that dominate horror fiction.
Q: ANCESTOR, if a comparison is to be made, reads as "If James Rollins had written ATTACK OF THE KILLER SHREWS". How did the idea of basing a book on the subject of xeno-transplantation (using animal tissue to replace human tissue) come about?
SCOTT: Xeno-transplantation is an active science. If scientists can figure out how to consistently and safely use animal organs to replace failed human organs, it will save millions of lives. However, there are inherent risks involved in this - primarily the fear that a virus will adapt to a new environment and "jump species." This could potentially result in a major problem. Far-fetched, but still very possible. I thought it would be great to use that fear as the basis of a book, but it's really a backdrop, the reason that the characters isolate themselves. And once they have that isolation, a problem erupts that creates chaos and dismemberment.
Q: What attracts you to the horror/sci-fi genre?
SCOTT: I think it's because I can watch day-to-day problems anytime I want - it's called real life. Why people would spend hours watching some melodrama that's nothing more than everyone's magnified problems is beyond me. I like horror/sci-fi because it's escapism, you get to slide into a fantastical world for a few hours, and if it's good, you leave your own problems behind. It's a release. I'm not going after the American Book Award here, I'm out to create a damn good story that grabs people by the short and curlies and keeps them riveted until I'm through with them. You want lessons and "very special episodes?" Go watch Lifetime. You want a good time that has you so enthralled you get paper cuts trying to get through the pages? Pick up a good dose of original horror.
Q: What are your top three favorite horror novels and top three favorite horror movies-and why?
SCOTT: ALIENS is my favorite movie. It's a masterpiece of story and pacing. Every time you think you can take a breath, James Cameron takes you in a slightly different direction with a new set of problems. The last 30 minutes of that movie are unparalleled in cinema. I just love everything about it, from the lighting to the characters to the pacing to the special effect. It's flawless.
Stephen King's IT ranks as one of my favorite novels. I fucking hate clowns, they scare the crap out of me now, and terrified me as a kid. I think a lot of people share that sentiment, which King tapped into when he wrote the book. Clowns are fucked-up, let's be honest here. And he make Pennywise the clown this all-powerful, horrible killing machine that takes you out with your worst fears. There is a scene in that book which I consider the best horror scene ever: when Pennywise is on TV, in a kid's show, then starts talking to the character watching the TV. As she watches, Pennywise leaps at her, but can't break through the TV glass - yet his white greasepaint smears the inside of the glass. There is something about that scene, the little reality details of the TV, the hotel room, and the surreal evil of a nasty-ass clown talking big shit, that just held me mesmerized.
David Wellington's "Monster Island" is fantastic. I'm not a big zombie guy, and usually look down my nose at monsters that have been done hundreds of times (come on, how hard is it to write a Vampire novel? Or, God forbid, another vampire-hunter-chick novel? It's been done eight billion times already). And yet, this zombie novel is amazing. The pacing is masterful, you're drawn along through the story. I think of his writing like a boa constrictor killing prey - every time you think you can relax and you breath out, he squeezes a little bit more. But what Wellington did that really kicked my ass was he found completely new ground with zombies. Totally changed my perspective - if you can do something truly unique and new with a classic monster, you sort of make that monster your own. And you can't just say your zombie has three eyes, and that's "original." You have to do something off the charts, and that's what Wellington does. I don't want to give it away, but the end of this book is brilliant in scope and sheer balls-out attitude. I can't recommend it enough.
Q: What are your future book projects?
SCOTT: We're shopping INFESTED to larger publishers. EARTHCORE and ANCETOR are on Dragon Moon Press (www.dragonmoonpress.com), which is a great publisher, but it is small. We're hoping INFESTED is going to be a breakout novel. It's a story of alien invasion at a most personal level - seven alien organisms infest a former college linebacker, a man prone to violent tendencies. They tap into his bloodstream for food, and use his nervous system as a kind of intranet so they can communicate with each other. To do this, they flood his body with neurotransmitters, which cause side effects of paranoia and rage. His natural rage combines with his neurotransmitter overdoes to turn him into a self-mutilating psychopath - he realizes he's only got a few days to cut these aliens out of his body before they grow so large that it's too late. I'm also working on NOCTURNAL, which delves into evolution and the theory of punctuated equilibrium, using a race of cannibals as the focal point. NOCTURNAL is also an effort to paint monsters in a "better light," if you will - no one thinks of themselves as "evil," and I think intelligent monsters would be the same as the rest of us. They would justify their horrible acts, just like human monsters do every day on this planet. In fact, just because they kill and eat people doesn't mean they wouldn't be fun, happy people, now does it?
Q: Where is ANCESTOR available?
SCOTT: ANCESTOR will be available April 1 on Amazon.com. We're working on larger bookstore distribution, but it can be ordered from any store. Ancestor is also always available as a free "podcast novel," or audiobook, at www.podiobooks.com.