Bat Out of Hell, Alan Gold’s brand new eco-thriller, just came out this month, and he kindly answered a few questions about it, and more!
Will you tell us about your new book, Bat Out of Hell, and what inspired you to write it?
It’s actually a story which had its beginnings on television – not a drama or a news report, but because one of Australia’s television presenters, Richard Morecroft, used to read the news with a distressed orphaned bat underneath his jacket, giving it warmth. His actions became famous because from time to time, Richard’s jacket would move at will, and so the story came out. I wondered whether it could cause Richard harm, so I looked up bat diseases, and kerpow….a book was born. Because bats are the only mammals to fly, and have lived separately from all other animals for 50 million years, they’ve become immune to, yet are the incubators of, some of the most deadly viruses around….AIDS, SARS, Ebola, Rabies, Henra and others are thought to originate in bats’ blood. When they fly over an area and spill some of their body fluids, they’re eaten by horses or pigs and are now being passed on to humans.
Add to this the growing global warming and the destruction of bats’ traditional feeding areas for grain crops, and the decrease in roosting spaces and the limitation of food supplies are forcing them into the inner cities with their parks and botanical gardens. And the increased stresses are causing their viral loads in their blood to explode.
What kind of research did you do for the book?
I’m not a scientist, and so I consulted Professor Google, and managed to tease out most of the facts about bats. But for specific issues, I wrote to university zoologists around the world who specialized in bats, and they were unstintingly generous in giving me advice. But I couldn’t let science take the place of narrative.
What is your writing process like?
Like most writers, I have a fairly clear idea of where the book is going before I begin writing. I write and check facts along the way, but I do my major research when the first draft is finished. In that way, the novel and plotlines are paramount, and the research becomes the factual underpinning of the story….not the story itself. I write every day for about four or five hours, in between writing literary criticism, opinion articles and speeches.
Why do you think people are so fascinated with apocalyptic events such as deadly plague?
Go back to the origins of any faith or creed and universally they have all the elements of life and death, catastrophic destruction and apocalyptic warnings. Humanity uses religion and faith to come to terms with its fear of the unknown and the unknowable. Our fascination with demons and spirits, and events which spell calamity is because of the catharsis of being able to leave the dark side and re-emerge into the light.
You have a background in journalism, but have you always wanted to write fiction? Will you tell us more about that progression?
I’ve always written fiction….first in journalism, then in marketing, and now in novels. Sorry to sound like a cynic, but so much of what purports to be journalism is little more than creative opinion-making.
What authors have inspired you the most, in your writing, and in life?
The author who’s inspired me to the greatest extent is James Joyce. Every morning before I turn on my computer to read my deathless prose, I read a random passage from Ulysses or Finnegan’s Wake. Just four or five paragraphs. And the genius of the greatest literary mind of the past two hundred years is enough to inspire to reach for higher goals.
If you could experience one book again for the first time, which one would it be?
The Power and the Glory. It made a huge impact on me as a teenager, and I vowed way back then that one day, I’d write a book as good as Greene’s. I’m still trying, but it ain’t happening.
What are you currently reading? Is there anything you’re looking forward to this year?
I’m a literary reviewer for a national newspaper, and so I read many many books during the year. But in a couple of weeks I’ll be without a reviewing commitment, and I’m so looking forward to getting my teeth into A God In Ruins by Kate Atkinson.
What’s next for you?
I’ve published four books this year alone…quite a creative spurt…and I have a couple of books waiting to be published. One is The Mechanic, about an ordinary German and the Holocaust; the other is Lady of the Night, about a literary academic who is rejected by the publishing hierarchy of New York, and so creates a persona of a woman who writes an anonymous ‘tell-all’ book. It is not only published, but becomes wildly successful, and he has to deal with the consequences of ‘coming out’.
About Bat Out of Hell:
From the jungles of Indonesia to the very heart of New York City comes a plague that kills 100 percent of its victims. Medicine’s greatest nightmare, this modern black death is caused by the most virulent and uncontrollable mutant virus humanity has ever witnessed. And medicine can do nothing to stop its merciless spread.
Scientist Debra Hart and her team of experts are tasked by the United Nations to stop the disease. Racing against time, they must find the cause and the cure and figure out why this deadly disease—spread by bats—is killing thousands in cities across the globe. Debra and her team will struggle to stop the disease from spreading to millions more, even if it means killing off every bat alive. But fighting to prevent her are manic animal rights’ activists who rail against species genocide, even if it means risking the deaths of human beings. And hidden behind a cloak of secrecy is a crazed academic who’ll even kill top American government officials to save one living creature.
This is the nightmare scenario that Debra faces as the public becomes so terrified of bats that entire communities become vigilantes.