Interview with New HWA Member Steve Alten … by Ron Breznay

Steve Alten is well-known for his bestseller MEG: A Novel of Deep Terror, several follow-up MEG books, and other novels of “natural” horror. He is the founder of Adopt-an-Author, a program designed to interest teenagers in reading.

Steve grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and now calls southern Florida home. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in Physical Education from Penn State, a Master’s degree in Sports Medicine from the University of Delaware, and a Doctorate of Education from Temple University. While struggling to support his family of five, Steve decided to write MEG, the idea for which had been circling around in his head for years. Shortly after he lost his day job, his agent secured a two-book, seven-figure deal with Bantam Doubleday. MEG eventually hit every major bestseller list, making it to #19 on the New York Times list.

Steve followed up MEG with several more bestsellers: The Trench (a sequel to MEG), Domain, Resurrection, and more. Three of his novels have been optioned for the movies, and his novel Goliath is being considered for a TV series. Steve has also written several screenplays.

Let’s give Steve a hearty welcome to the Horror Writers Association.

HWA: Your bibliography includes several novels, but I don’t see any short stories listed. Have you written any short stories? Why do you prefer writing novels over shorter works?

SA: I have written a few short stories for different venues, but I don’t see a big market in writing collections of short stories—at least not enough to sustain a living. Short stories are great for writing, but this is how I earn a living. Maybe one day should I reach a higher plateau of sales, but not now, especially while I am enjoying writing powerful novels like GRIM REAPER: End of Days.

HWA: Your bibliography also includes several screenplays. Which was more challenging to write: a novel or a screenplay? Why?

SA: Both are challenging. A novel takes far longer but is easier for me to sell. A script takes less time, but is harder to sell, then even harder to get greenlit. Plus studios often bring in other writers to make changes. If I write two novels back to back, I usually take some time before the next book to write a few scripts.

HWA: Your novels are very visual and filled with action. Is this your preferred writing style, or did you write with the idea of their being eventually adapted to the screen?

SA: Both. I try to place the reader in the scene as visually descriptive as possible.

HWA: Any news on the movie version of MEG?

SA: We have a great script and a private funding commitment in excess of $200 million. We need to find the right director.

HWA: Domain and The Loch have also been optioned for film. Any news on those movies?

SA: Domain’s producers are working on the script, which I haven’t read. The Loch has funding; the script is still being tinkered with.

HWA: Tell us about Adopt-An-Author.

SA: Adopt-An-Author is a nationwide non-profit teen reading program I started ten years ago when I became inundated with middle and high school students’ e-mails, all telling me they hated to read…until they read MEG. Then teachers began using my books in their curriculum. After MEG was named a top book for young adult readers (even though it is adult fiction) I created the program, which combines free curriculum materials, posters, etc. with direct contact with myself and other authors. We now have over 10,000 registered teachers. More info for interested educators is at www.AdoptAnAuthor.com.

HWA: Why did you join the HWA and what benefits are you looking for from your membership?

SA: I joined HWA to become a part of the horror writers community. I hope to gain greater access to my fanbase and lend my support to the organization.

HWA: Tell us about your latest work.

SA: GRIM REAPER: End of Days is a modern-day Dante’s Inferno, which is considered one of the greatest and most revered works of world literature. Divided into three distinct parts (Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven), the poem describes Dante’s journey through Hell, depicted as nine circles of suffering. Allegorically, the Divine Comedy represents the journey of the soul towards God, with Inferno describing the recognition and rejection of sin. Dante composed his life’s work while Europe was suffering through war, famine, the corruption of the Church, and the evils of the pogrom—murderous acts that brutally massacred tens of thousands of Jews. Shortly after Dante’s passing, the Black Plague would strike Europe and Asia—a near “End of Days” event that killed off half the world’s population while giving birth to a new legend depicted in paintings and dance: The Grim Reaper.

What few people know is that Dante Alighieri was a student of Kabbalah, a guarded wisdom that dates back 4,000 years to Abraham, the patriarch of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Dante’s poem draws inspiration from the Zohar, an ancient text that reveals the spiritual heritage of all humankind. The Zohar also warns of the End of Days, a supernal event brought on by the corruption of man that will be the modern-day equivalent of Noah’s Flood. According to the Zohar, the event will follow the destruction of “strongholds belonging to the future Rome” on the 23rd day of Elul…a date equating to September 11, 2001.

GRIM REAPER: End of Days is a classic hero’s journey of good versus evil, transformation, and redemption. Far more than it seems, the story draws frightening parallels between the lack of morality that corrupted Europe preceding the Black Death 666 years ago and the present-day greed that has mired our own society in economic collapse, two endless wars—and a very real covert biological program, exposed by the author, which could lead to global pandemic and our own self-destruction.

HWA: Tell us about your upcoming books. I understand a fifth MEG novel is in the works as well as Phobos, the third volume in the Domain trilogy, and more GRIM REAPER novels.

SA: Phobos will be published in fall 2011 by Tor/Forge. I love the storyline, which melds perfectly back to Domain and Resurrection and takes the reader on a rollercoaster ride that is quite frightening. As for MEG 5, I want to time a release with a movie. Here’s hoping!

HWA: Thanks, Steve. And again, welcome to the HWA.

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Steve Alten’s Bibliography

MEG SERIES
MEG: A Novel of Deep Terror
The Trench
MEG: Primal Waters
MEG: Hell’s Aquarium
MEG: Night Stalkers
(forthcoming)

2012 DOOMSDAY SERIES
Domain
Resurrection
Phobos
(Fall 2011)

Goliath
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
meets 2001: A Space Odyssey as a victim of
oppression hijacks the world’s most dangerous weapon, unaware that its bio-chemical computer
has become cognizant.

The Loch
A modern-day Loch Ness Monster thriller.

The Shell Game
The end of oil; the next 9/11 event.

GRIM REAPER: End of Days
Exactly 666 years after the Black Death nearly wiped out humanity, a man-made plague takes
Manhattan, forcing a war vet to cleanse his soul in Dante’s nine circles of hell.

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