Yes, he's a fellow Thriller Central contributor, but long before I got to know Greig, I was a fan of his work, so I'm excited to be able to chat with him about his latest project: a serial called The First Bird.
Many years ago I saw an old Ray Harryhausen dynamation movie called Valley of the Gwangi. It was about cowboys who find a lost valley in the New Mexico desert. Their search is sparked by a tiny horse, called an eohippus, that leads them there. Compared to the special effects of today the movie doesn’t date well. But it was that small prehistoric animal that popped back into my mind a few years back.
My book was originally going to be called The Dawn Horse, and the fantastic creature discovered was to be an eohippus… but like all story drafts, they evolve, and as I put together my step-through, it gradually made more sense to make it an archaeopteryx (however, the eohippus makes an appearance in Episode II). The First Bird will be both the same and different to my usual works – it will still contain my usual mix of action/terror/thriller scenes, but will feature Matt Kearns (a character from some of my previous stories), in an Indiana Jones type adventure.
As an overview, the story is of a fantastic discovery being made – a unique species not seen since the dawn of time. A specimen smuggled out of the deep heart of the Gran Chaco Boreal of the Amazon. It will be the wonder of the modern times. But the creature brings with it something else not seen by modern man – a primordial parasite, and something that might have been responsible for the demise of the dinosaurs. The infestation begins, and the race is on to travel back to the hidden place where the specimen was found, to find out how it was able to survive.
When the team arrives, they find a world-within-a-world and a place where mankind is out of time, and where there are monstrous dangers. But while the team is gone, their home is changing, and the race is on to return with a solution or a cure, before our world suffers the same fate as that of the dinosaurs.
What was it like writing in the Alex Hunter universe, but with no Alex?
I have written other stories without Alex Hunter (Valkeryn series), and though there are instances where I would like to use the Arcadian’s aggression, skills and technology, I just have to use the tools at my disposal, or in this instance, Matt Kearns has to.
Matt is a type of Indiana Jones academic come adventurer who is talked into accompanying the CDC on a trip to South America. There has been a wonderful discovery of a creature thought extinct for 150 million years. Unfortunately, it brought with it an ancient parasite that is quickly overwhelming the CDC with its ferocity and speed. A lost tribe living in the impenetrable dark heart of the jungle hold the key to the whereabouts of a hidden world that might have a cure – enter Matt Kearns, paleolinguist, to help to unravel the clues.
I like the Matt Kearns character – he has a great sense of humor and has competence, strength and toughness when it counts.
Why did you choose to publish this as a serial rather than in a single work? (AND) Did you take a different approach to the story, knowing readers would experience it as three separate novellas?
I have an Ideas Folder – every time I get an idea, or hear or see something that would potentially make for a good story, then in it goes – newspaper clippings, websites, my jotted notes, pictures – I have hundreds in there by now.
In my Ideas Folder, The First Bird existed as three separate ideas: (1) The outbreak/infestation. (2) The lost world. (3) The battle for survival in a changed world. I took all three and wove then seamlessly together. However, each is its own exciting and distinct story and each could possibly stand alone (but I doubt you’ll be able to stop at just one!).
As I developed the story, I saw it as three episodes in a movie-type serial. Each episode being neatly tied off with a cliffhanger type ending or huge revelation (cliffhangers okay here, as readers only have to wait a few weeks rather than 6 to 12 months for next part). I could have simply put it out as an entire story, but readers, and especially eBook readers are demanding stories faster, cheaper and have less patience for a slow pace. This way, I can get Episode I out, while still fine tuning Episodes II and III.
The First Bird crosses action/adventure, sci-fi and horror, and readers of those genres want to feel the adrenaline pump as something wondrous is revealed, or something horrifying is glimpsed. I feel I have delivered that with The First Bird.
Do you think you'll do more serials in the future?
Sure! And next time I dive into the ideas drawer I’ll see if there are any smaller stories that can be linked together. Or maybe there is something I’ll read in the paper tomorrow that will make me stop and think… what if?
Like most writers, I suffer from the tradesman’s dilemma – we can only turn out things as fast as our two hands can work… and that brings us on to what’s coming next….
What's next on the agenda for you?
I have four things that are in different levels of progression:
(1)* Next work out will probably be the completion of the Valkeryn Series (The Dark Lands). I have long promised my readers I would finish that of, and now I am closing in on its conclusion. However, be warned, I have two endings in mind, and I like them both. Maybe for the book I’ll include both… with a warning – want a happy ending? Then read ending XYZ. Want to finish with some darkness, then read ending ABC. That way, you can choose which path to take.
(2)* The next Alex hunter novel is half done. Alex has been found – sullen, alone, leaving a path of destruction in his wake. Pity the fools who decide to get in the way of the drifter wandering the streets late at night.
Across the world, something has been released by a treasure hunter in a hidden chamber of the Basilica Cisterns in Istanbul. Something hidden there by Emperor Constantine himself, and deemed by him too horrifying and dangerous to ever be set free. It now stalks the land and is headed on a collision course with a NATO base – the Americans can’t let it get there, but can’t be seen to intervene – there is only one option – send in the HAWCs. I don’t expect to get this to the publisher until late in the year.
(3)* Return to the Dark Ice. Another promise to my readers – so many requests to some day go back down below the dark ice again. I left a few clues and questions in the first novel – what was over the other side of the lake the team glimpsed moving in the mist? Did the race of people from Aztlan all die when the continent iced over, or did some venture down into the depths. Was there only one Kraken? Was Monica truly dead? This will be a novella-sized story.
(4)* And finally, threatening to derail all my plans, is my script for Beneath the Dark Ice. It will soon come back with changes requested – and that will be a drop everything type situation – great plans of mice and men!
Busy, but fun times ahead. Hear from you all soon. Greig Beck.