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Sunday, April 7, 2013

Author Interview – David VanDyke

5:30 AM Posted by James Noel No comments

Have you included a lot of your life experiences, even friends, in the plot? Absolutely, though not in pure form. Lots of characters are amalgams of people I know, with certain characteristics combined or emphasized. Some scenes are drawn from my experiences, if only a little bit. For example, in the opening scene of The Eden Plague, the description of the house is pretty much that of the house I live in now.

How important do you think villains are in a story? One of my weaknesses right now, that I am trying to work on, is developing effective villains. I have a tough time identifying with them, though I do have a few where I scare myself for identifying with them too much. I actually have a couple of antiheroes that, though not villains, fill something of that role, and they have become some of my most popular characters. Both are former military men who took different routes – one to be an insurgent, almost a terrorist against the fascist government of what the United States has become, and another who is instrumental in launching nuclear missiles in order to accomplish what he believes to be goals for the greater good.

Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)? Not yet. I have already traveled a lot in my military service, spending twelve years overseas, and I hope that becoming a writer full time will free me to travel more.

Who is your favorite author and why? Roger Zelazny is undoubtedly my all-time favorite. His ability to evoke whole worlds with just a few words demonstrates a kind of Zen mastery where more is less. Sometimes I imitate his spare style, though I don’t think I’ll ever match him.

How did you come up with the title of your book? It was pretty easy – the Eden Plague is the title and the Eden Plague is the Maguffin – the main plot driver. It’s a healing virus that also enhances the conscience. This creates all sorts of interesting moral dilemmas, as well as threatening to upend the world. For example, if everyone is healed of all illnesses, what happens to the multi-trillion-dollar healthcare industry? The drug companies? What about criminals, who don’t want that conscience bothering them? What about people who think it’s mind control? What about those who don’t want the world to change, and will do anything to maintain the status quo? All of that drives the suspense and plot of the Eden Plague.

Can you tell us about your main character? Daniel Markis is a highly-trained special ops combat medic with a broken body, PTSD, and a drug habit. He’s the perfect candidate for a secretive organization to test out their virus on, but he doesn’t react quite like they think he will and the whole thing blows up in their face. He doesn’t want to join up, be controlled and play their game.

He’s a highly moral man caught in a tough situation, and he’s been putting off facing his demons for a while. It takes a threat to a woman he hardly knows to galvanize him into taking direct action, and one thing leads to another until he has to take charge of other caught up in the situation.

Everything proceeds from his desire to save lives instead of take them – which he did plenty of already, but he never really wanted to. Confronted with the Eden Plague, a healing virus, he has to make some tough decisions about how to use that knowledge, or even the disease itself.

Can you share a little of your current work with us? Here’s a nice tense scene between one of my main characters, a kick-ass female Marine, and a wounded male comrade that she has been fending off romantically throughout the book. The Eden Plague she refers to is a virus that heals instead of harms, but also enhances the conscience.

The next morning Master Sergeant Jill Repeth stopped in to visit a brother in arms. It’s the least I can do, for someone who almost gave his all.

Gunnery Sergeant Gunderson lay in his hospital bed, a nutrient drip in his arm, holding a year-old news magazine up in the air where he could read it. When he saw her standing there he shifted, tried to sit up.

“Stay there, Swede. I know you have a lot of healing to do yet.”

He looked down self-consciously at the blanket draped over a stiff cage that covered his mangled lower half. “Yeah. Ain’t much down there but they say I’ll have it all back eventually.” He forced a wan smile.

“Not many men have come back from the brink like that.”

“I don’t quit.” He licked his lips. “I hear you were the one who found me.”

“Almost too late.”

“But at least you looked. Thanks, Top.”

She shrugged. “I’d do it for any of my people.”

“Am I your people?” He put his head back, closed his eyes. “Just one big happy freakin’ family.” What slight enthusiasm he had displayed drained away.

Jill stared at him for along time, puzzled. “I’d never have figured you for this attitude, though. I’m sorry I didn’t find you earlier, but no one could have saved your piece parts. Anyway, in a few months you’ll be fine, good as new.”

“You’re a bitch,” Swede said without heat.

Nonplussed, Jill crossed her arms. “So they say. What’s up your ass?”

“They’ve got this new nano stuff. They wanted volunteers. I had a chance to be a cybercommando but now I’ve got this damned Eden Plague.”

“You’d be a dead volunteer if you hadn’t.”

“I know that. Doesn’t make it better. Now I’m just going to be a good little boy. That’s how you like ‘em, right?” Bitter.

Jill shrugged again, ignoring the jab, the slam on her fiancé Rick. “What’s done is done. Snap out of it, Marine. Besides, you can always try to make the switch, but think of what you’re giving up.”

“What? Make what switch?”

“I’m sure they could suppress the Eden Plague with enough antivirals to let the nanos take hold and cure you of it. You’d heal and get all that strength and speed but you wouldn’t be immortal any more.”

“Screw immortality. It’s overrated.”

“You’d give up a thousand years of life to be strong and fast?”

“And be free of this guilt. Die young, stay pretty.”

“I’d say live long, stay pretty. And the guilt will fade as your psychology adjusts. It’s just your overactive conscience waking up.”

“Okay, how about ‘It’s better to burn out than fade away’.”

“That’s a crock. But if you’re so hot for it, roll the dice, big man. It might kill you, but whatever.” Her tone dripped with sarcasm, fed up.

“Why do you have such contempt for me?”

She kicked his bed, rattling it. “Because even though you have your outstanding features, you’re still the stereotype for all the swinging dicks that I’ve ever known, beginning with my creepy stepbrother. Got to be a stud, super-macho. And you see me, you want me. If you can’t have me, you want me all the more. If you still can’t have me, you crave enough power or glory or money or status to prove how wrong I was to reject you.”

Gunderson’s mouth worked, as if chewing, then he turned his head away. Jill watched him in silence for a time. Finally he spoke. “You know what? I don’t have any counterargument to that, and I hate it.”

“Hate admitting the truth?”


“Welcome to Edenhood. But you know what that means?”


“That deep down you actually are a good guy. It’s not the Eden Plague that makes you better. It’s your own conscience. The Plague just short-circuits most of those lies you tell yourself. Makes you face the truth you already know. Takes off the filters.”

“That sucks. I think I’d rather have my filters.”

“Takes a real man to be really honest. Only children can’t face reality. Only adolescent boys try to screw every woman they meet.”

“Who died and made you my shrink?” he spat.

Jill shrugged. “You can send me away any time.”

He stared at her for a long while. “You Edens aren’t anything like I thought.”

“Us Edens. And yes, you’re right about that. We aren’t.” She turned and left him there with nothing to do but think.

I’m not sure what he needs but he’s not mine anyway. I can only do so much for people. After that, they have to do for themselves.


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Genre – SciFi /Adventure

Rating – PG13

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