Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Don't Read This If You Have The Flu!

I dreamt the other night that most of the world had died overnight in a terrible flu epidemic and I hadn’t even see Contagion!  However, I had seen M. R. Cornelius’ novel H10N1, a post-apocalyptic thriller about a flu pandemic gone awry, so I invited Cornelius to come and discuss the novel and hopefully put some of my fears to rest. . .

First, what inspired you to write H10N1?
I’ve read a few books on pandemics, like Outbreak and Hot Zone, which tell how a pandemic gets started, spreads, and finally gets stopped. I decided to leap over the preliminaries and get right to the heart of the matter: what happens when an epidemic doesn’t get stopped?

So H10N1 is about a pandemic after it is out of control.
Exactly. H10N1 begins when a lot of the population is dead. With no workforce, power plants are unmanned so there’s no means of communication; police and fire departments have collapsed so no one is safe; looters are scavenging everything from big-screen TVs to canned peas.

My two main characters, a female doctor and a male delivery driver are thrown together during a midnight escape from the madness. They go through a lot of harrowing adventures while they search for a safe haven, not just from the virus, but from the marauders out there. It’s a bit like the early pioneers who made their way west. Each day could be their last.

What does the title mean?
H10N1 is a play on words. Back in 2008, a minor epidemic of flu spread. Instead of calling it Swine Flu or the Hong Kong Flu, the media labelled the virus H1N1. I decided to ramp up the fright factor by calling my virus H10 N1, like it was ten times worse.

How did you get started writing?
My interest in writing began at my college newspaper. This was during the Vietnam War protests, so spending every waking hour at the newspaper was much more exciting than attending classes. My grades showed it.

Once I finally got my journalism degree, I couldn’t find a job in that field. I worked all around it, first in the advertising department of a newspaper, and later as a production manager for a small alternative publication.
When my children were born, and I was at home, I tried my hand at freelance writing for newspapers and magazines, but I found that I was spending a lot of time sending out proposals when all I wanted to do was write.

It’s ironic. Now that I have a book published, I’m spending a lot of time marketing my novel, when I’d still rather be writing.

What are you working on at the moment?
My next book is due in May 2012. It’s called ‘The Ups and Downs of Being Dead’.

It’s about 57 year-old Robert Malone, who is the CEO of a successful clothing store chain and married to a former model. When he finds out he’s dying of cancer, he refuses to go quietly. Instead of death, Robert chooses cryonics. He knows it’s a long shot: being frozen, his body stored in some deep freeze, and then waking up in the future. But he’s willing to take that gamble.

What he doesn’t realize is that he won’t lie in some dreamless state. His soul is awake. He can hang around the Louvre after it closes, but if someone turns out the lights, he can’t flip the switch to turn them back on. He can stand right next to someone, but he can’t keep them from stepping in front of a bus. He doesn’t work, or eat, or sleep.
For the next 75 years, Robert will be in limbo, waiting to be reanimated, and learning ‘The Ups and Downs of Being Dead’.

Thank you very much for coming here and telling us about your novels. Let’s hope we don’t all catch the flu!

Cornelius lives in the countryside north of Atlanta, where the coyotes howl at night, and the nearest shopping center is 30 minutes away.

You can visit Cornelius at www.MRCornelius.com
and follow on Twitter @MarshaCornelius

1 comment:

  1. I love novels about plagues, viruses and the end of the world, The Stand being my favourite. Good luck with your book.