Interview: Mark Alpert

I think that Mark Albert and his novel The Furies was one of the most interesting books that I read last year. You can really see the science background that he has and it is such an asset to plot creation. Please Welcome to Blood Rose Book:

Mark Alpert

If there was one author you could co-write a novel with (they can be alive or dead) who would you choose and why?
Final Theory CoverI’d love to write a novel with Stephen King. Brainstorming with that guy would be a lot of fun. So many of his books seem intended to answer the question, “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” As a neurotic hypochondriac, I’m often thinking along the same lines. When I walk down the street near our apartment building in Manhattan I automatically catalogue all the things that could kill me – the crazy taxi drivers, sagging tree limbs, open manholes, etc. My wife and kids think I’m crazy, but I bet Stephen King would encourage this kind of thinking. He would say to me, “What about killer dogs? Shouldn’t you worry about them too? Or killer clowns, killer cars? Insane fans of your books? An enormous dome crashing down on your neighborhood? There are lots of dangers out there that you’re totally ignoring! Use your imagination!”
 
Is there a book, author, story or person that inspired you to become a writer?
Yes, The Lord of the Rings inspired me. I read it when I was a very impressionable teenager. I loved the world Tolkien created, all the fictional cultures and languages. Immediately after finishing the book I tried to write my own fantasy novel. It was a disaster – I wrote only a couple of pages before giving up. But the dream stayed with me.
 
From astrophysics to fiction author, can you explain how this transition occurred?
Extinction by Mark AlpertAstrophysics and fiction really aren’t so different. They’re both methods for understanding and exploring the universe. I majored in astrophysics in college and enjoyed learning about the fundamental laws of nature. But I also liked to read and write poetry, which can reveal fundamental truths too. I tried to combine my interests by becoming a science journalist. I was a staff editor at Scientific American for ten years and I’m still a contributing editor for the magazine. And the work there inspired my imagination. While editing an article about Albert Einstein I got the idea for a thriller about his quest to discover the Theory of Everything. That became my first published novel, Final Theory.
 
You began your writing career with poetry and then short stories, why did you change to writing full length novels? Did you have additional challenges of writing a full length novel?
I’ve always loved reading novels but I didn’t make a serious attempt to write one until I was 27. The challenge, then and now, is to keep the book interesting. It’s so easy to get bogged down. If the chapter you’re writing isn’t the most interesting thing in your life – more interesting than any book you’re reading, any TV show you’re watching, any story in the newspaper – then you should think about revising the chapter, shortening it or cutting it completely
 
What do you think would be the hardest or most challenging genre to write a novel in and why? 
I think humorous novels are the most challenging to write. That’s why I admire authors like Carl Hiaasen and T.C. Boyle and John Kennedy Toole. You know the saying: Death is easy, comedy is hard.
 
I personally found to story of the Furies very interesting and what they are willing to do to make sure their gene pool and culture survive at all costs. Where did the idea for the story come from?
The Omega Theory CoverMy son wrote a term paper about the Salem witch trials and discovered that it was just a minor affair compared with the witch hunts that raged across Europe during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Mobs led by secular and religious leaders killed tens of thousands of suspected witches – the great majority of them women – in France, Germany and Switzerland. Historians still argue over what caused the homicidal hysteria, which didn’t start until the 1400s and mostly burned out by the 1700s. I thought it would be interesting to imagine a specific trigger for the killings, a large, extended family of accused witches who were feared and hated by their neighbors because they were genetically different. That was the inspiration for The Furies.
 
In your novel The Furies, you begin the novel during the witch hunts in Europe and then later refer to different times in history for America was it hard to merge fact and fiction together? What type of research did you do in order to get it right?
Yes, I did some research to ensure that the historical references in The Furies were accurate. For example, I’ve become something of an expert on the Battle of Brooklyn, a Revolutionary War battle whose outcome was influenced by one of the witches in my novel. I’ve attended reenactments of the battle at Green-Wood Cemetery, which now occupies one of the sites where the fighting took place.
 
After reading your novel The Furies, I can tell where your science background has come into play with your storyline, how real is the possibility of the science for immortality? Is it important for you to include your scientific background in your novels and have science aspect have a hint of truth to it?
Many, many scientists are studying the mechanisms of aging and the possibility of developing treatments to slow the process. I put some information about this field in The Furies because I like to weave real science into my thrillers. Slowing the aging process will be a difficult feat because the deterioration of certain types of cells seems to be unavoidable. But if researchers manage to find ways to significantly increase the human lifespan, the effects on society would be enormous. Writing The Furies gave me a chance to explore some of the possible repercussions.
 
Do you have any information on upcoming works or events that you are able to share?
My next book will be a Young Adult novel. We haven’t chosen a title yet, but it’s about a group of terminally ill teenagers whose minds are transferred to robotic bodies. It’s like a mash-up of Harry Potter and the Transformers. It’ll be published in June 2015.
 
What is one book (other than one of your own) that you think should be a must read for everyone? 
Everyone should read The Grapes of Wrath. What an amazing book.

I Just want to say Thank You once again for Mark taking the time to answer the questions for his interview. Make sure to check out his books if you are looking for a fantasy or sci-fi book that edges with what could be real.