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Steve Alten
Horror Interview by The Gravedigger

1) Tell us about yourself

I grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Earned his Bachelors of Science degree in Health and Physical Education at Penn State University. Upon graduating in 1981, I attended the University of Delaware where I earned a Masters degree in Sports Administration, then went on for a final four years at Temple University to receive my Doctorate of Education in Sports Administration.

I played high school and college hoops, at one time my career goal was to coach Men's Division I college basketball. As a graduate assistant at Delaware, I had the opportunity to coach the Blue Hens junior varsity and assisted the varsity. At Temple, I continued my basketball education under the tutelage of the great John Chaney.

After graduation, I accepted a business opportunity and opened a water treatment franchise with a partner. When the business failed, I moved to Florida to start a new career.

Struggling to support a family of five, unhappy in my job, I decided to pen a novel I had been thinking about for years. Because I worked days and evenings, the only time I could write was from ten at night until three in the morning, and on weekends. In eight months, I finished the manuscript that would eventually be called MEG; A Novel of Deep Terror.

With no publishing contacts, I sent two-page query letters to every literary agent who handled fiction. My most positive response was from a Los Angeles agent (Ken Atchity) who saw promise of both a book and movie, but knew the manuscript needed editing. After selling my prized possession to pay for editing fees (a 1971 Chevy Malibu convertible my dad bought me as a 17 year old) Ken and I edited the novel.

When the first 100 pages were completed, Ken and movie agent/producer Warren Zide (American Pie) offered a first-look deal to Disney (Hollywood Pictures) who snatched up the rights. Final contracts would not be completed for several months.

On September the 13th, (Friday the 13th, no less) I showed up at the wholesale meat plant where I was working, only to learn I had lost my job. Broke, I returned home, less than $45. 00 in the bank. Four days later, Ken Atchity had a two-book, deal with Bantam Doubleday.

MEG would go on to become the book of the 1996 Frankfurt book fair, where it was sold to more than a dozen countries. It hit every major best-seller list, including #19 on the New York Times list. To date, approximately 1 million copies have been sold worldwide.

After box offices disappointments Godzilla and Mighty Joe Young, Hollywood Pictures chose to pass on MEG, feeling the timing was not right for another "creature-feature. " We maintain rights to MEG and are waiting for the right producer/studio to turn the best-seller into a blockbuster motion picture.

2) What is the most appealing thing about writing for you?

The independence to create and entertain.

3) Some writers say that what they write doesn't have much to do with themselves-others say that their writing is very much influenced by their own experiences. How is this with you?

I have never experienced the hardships I put my characters through (not sure anyone has) but I try to write from their perspective.

4) Talk about MEG and its sequel, THE TRENCH (which introduces another type of deep water monster). Also, what's in store with PRIMAL WATERS, the final MEG book.

MEG & The TRENCH are the first two books in a series centering upon carcharodon Megalodon, the fiercest predator ever to have existed. Jonas Taylor is the unlucky hero who gets caught up in the continuing adventures of these 70-foot great white sharks. In Primal Waters, Jonas (against his better judgment) will be forced back into the fray.

5) One of the coolest things on your website are those pictures publicizing the MEG movie. Talk a bit about your hopes for that. (I interviewed author Jay Bonansinga a while back and his first book, BLACK MARIAH, was optioned for a movie as well-in fact, on the jacket it said "Soon to be a major motion picture by George Romero". But that fell through. ) Talk about that whole crazy process of going from book to film.

The movie deal with MEG has been a combination of frustration and bad timing. When Hollywood pictures (Disney) first bought the rights, there was a lot of enthusiasm. Names like Mel Gibson were being tossed around to play Jonas. But the studio went through two screenwriters, who could not capture the magic in a screenplay. At the same time, everyone attached to MEG was either fired or moved on to different studios (a rough time for Disney). Meanwhile, Godzilla petered out at the box office and Mighty Joe Young was put on hold. After the President of Hollywood pictures was fired, MEG was not renewed.

The challenge for us now is to show Hollywood that everyone WANTS to see this movie. It is not JAWS or Deep Blue Sea, it is something altogether different. And MEG has a huge worldwide following. The Japanese made it into a radio show. It was a best-seller in germany and France, and was sold to 16 other countries. There are now reading and English teachers using it as part of the high school curriculum (MEG was voted the #1 book for assisting reluctant readers!!)

One day an ambitious studio executive is going to realize the power of this project and be rewarded with a movie that grosses on par with Star Wars... wait and see!

Then again, we may just retain the rights, raise the money ourselves, and shoot it independently.

6) Talk about your other books, DOMAIN & GOLIATH.

DOMAIN is the first in an amazing trilogy that centers upon the Mayan Calendar's 2,000 year old prophecy that predicts humanity will actually perish on December 21, 2012. The novel deals with man's true history and the origins of evil. It begins with the asteroid impact 65 million years ago that killed the dinosaurs. Only the object was NOT an asteroid.

DOMAIN received 5-star reviews and will be released in paperback this June.

GOLIATH is my newest novel, set to be released in hardback in July. One-lined as "2000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA meets 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY," Goliath promises to generate strong attention in light of the ongoing war on terror. Its highly authentic and heavily researched nautical story line, based on consultation with my military consultants, crystallizes an unanswered question about our national security: How far should we go?

The U. S. Navy designed Goliath, a futuristic nuclear stealth submarine the length of a football field in the shape of a giant stingray. But the plans were stolen. The Chinese built the sub covertly, only to have it hijacked by its creator, Simon Covah, a victim of Serbian terrorism who aims to use the sub and its nuclear weapons to dictate policy to the world regarding the removal of oppressive regimes and nuclear weapons.

Unlike the U. S. , Covah wants and needs no coalition to support his objectives, many of which read like a CIA wish-list. As the U. S. "allows" him to wield his "big-stick," the question arises of how far we should go with national defense, advancing our own interests by encroaching on the sovereignty of other powers.

One Wild Card: SORCERESS, the sub's bio chemical computer, is programmed with capacity to learn, and is becoming self-aware. Before we know it, it has turned the tables on Covah and become the real power to overcome once it reveals its far more heinous plot than even Covah could have imagined, "the Noah objective. "

The book is dedicated to the officers and crew of the U. S. submarine force.

7) What is the weirdest true-life thing that happened to you that if you wrote it down would read like fiction?

Years ago, I was involved in a business designed to sell prefabricated hospitals to 3rd world countries. We had signed contracts with the government of Eritrea, then this financial guy (who I thought was a friend) did some very fraudulent things and the deal fell apart.

8) Who is YOUR favorite horror/genre author?

You mean besides me? (ha) I like Anne Rice and Bram Stoker.

9) What's in store for the future?

Resurrection, part 2 of the DOMAIN trilogy, is nearly complete and I absolutely love the storyline. It is the essence of good versus evil and really is a page turner. Not sure when Tor will slate it for publication.

10) Anything you want to add (website info, et cetera)?

My website, www.SteveAlten.com is an interactive site, meaning it is there for reader participation. As an author, I have two goals. First, to continue to work hard to become a better storyteller and create page turning thrillers. Second, to remain accessible to my readers--MY GREATEST SOURCE of research. I spend 3 hours a day answering e-mails, and I use the names and descriptions of my loyal fans as characters in my books. I even hire readers as editors, depending on their particular expertise. To date, I have worked with a submarine expert, United States Army Ranger, Maximum Security Prison Guard, technician on the X-33 project, a Physics & Chemistry Professor, a former NASA rocket scientist, a nano-computer expert, a technician at the Kennedy Space Center, and one very crazy parachute enthusiast.

>> Steve Alten's Official Web Site at www.stevealten.com

find information about Steve Alten at imdb.com find horror stuff by Steve Alten

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