Not words you’d typically want to hear under any other circumstances.
HOT ZONE, the first book in THE ZULU VIRUS CHRONICLES, is now available in Kindle or hard copy on Amazon. The audiobook version will follow in August. HOT ZONE is also enrolled in the Kindle Unlimited program.
While you wait for you book to arrive or download, check out my recent chat with LEE WEST, author of the Blue Lives Apocalypse series. Lee was one of first to read HOT ZONE, providing some spot on developmental advice. You can also CLICK HERE to check out THE ZULU CHRONICLES VIRUS PRIMER for more information about the series.
QUESTION AND ANSWER WITH STEVEN KONKOLY:
Lee: Having just finished HOT ZONE, I’ll start out by saying “I see what you did there.”
Steve: Is that a good or bad thing?
Lee: It’s a very good thing. For those of you wondering, there’s a subtle tie-in to one of your previous series, I won’t give it away, but let’s just say that it’s brilliant, hiding just below the surface. Obviously, you did this on purpose. Can you expand on that?
Steve: Guilty as charged. When I set out to write another series in the post-apocalyptic/dystopian/disaster genre, I wanted to take it in a different direction than most of the books recently written in the genre. I didn’t have to look very far. I had been sitting on a devastating scenario since 2012, when I wrote REDUX: A Black Flagged thriller. I had already created the perfect bioweapon, and put it in the hands of some very nefarious people. They just never got to use it thanks to some skilled and enterprising American operatives. The ZULU VIRUS CHRONICLES imagines what might have happened if that virus had been released.
Lee: So this isn’t a Black Flagged book.
Steve: Right. Fans of those books will find a few Easter Eggs, but this is an entirely new story that every thriller reader will enjoy. There’s no homework required to read the ZVC books.
Lee: That’s good to hear. Nobody likes homework. You obviously enjoy unleashing viruses on the world—that sounded kind of odd, didn’t it?
Steve: It did, but let’s go with it.
Lee: I’ll rephrase it. This isn’t the first time you’ve fictionally unleashed a virus on an unsuspecting world. Your first novel, The Jakarta Pandemic, imagined what it might take for an everyday family to survive a lethal pandemic and the ensuing societal collapse. In HOT ZONE, I strongly sensed a return to that type of storytelling.
Steve: I can’t tell you how happy I am to hear that. I really wanted to return to my roots with the ZULU VIRUS CHRONICLES, and tell the kind of story that launched my career. The Jakarta Pandemic was an intimate, if not claustrophobic, look at a pandemic’s impact on “normal people.” It focused less on the disease itself and more on the unpredictability of the human factor.
Lee: That’s what made it so fascinating in my opinion. It bucked all previous trends, focusing on regular citizens instead of the usual “CDC scientist running around the world saving the day.” Your characters barely left their neighborhood, and the neighborhood nearly killed them.
Steve: I take a similar approach in HOT ZONE, but the characters won’t have the luxury of lingering in one place for very long. Readers will get a taste of several different walks of life, as the disaster unfolds around this diverse group of characters. By the time the outbreak is in full swing, the characters will be doing what they do best in my books. Trying to survive. Moving frequently will be one of the keys to survival in this series.
Lee: You certainly don’t make it easy on your characters in this one. I can attest to that. I do have to call you out on one thing. There’s a hint of conspiracy in HOT ZONE, and a scientist who looks like he might be in a position to “save the day.” He definitely falls into the regular character category for now, but I see some potential. Am I wrong?
Steve: I can neither confirm nor deny the expansion of his role in future books, but I do like to take characters out of their comfort zones, so we’ll see. As for hints of conspiracy in HOT ZONE—don’t forget that we’re talking about a suspected, widespread bioweapons release on U.S. soil. A conspiracy lurks. I just haven’t decided how much of it will come into play within the series. Right now, it’s in the background, where it might reach out from time to time to hinder or even help the characters—the true focus of the story.
Lee: HOT ZONE is a frighteningly realistic look at a bioweapons attack from several angles on the ground. You obviously put a ton of research and thought into this scenario. So…why bioweapons?
Steve: Because bioweapons scare the $#@% out of me! Seriously. I wrote The Jakarta Pandemic partly because I’ve always been obsessed with viruses and biological warfare. I blame Stephen King’s The Stand, which I read as a teenager. People forget that Captain Trips, the virus in The Stand, originated in a fictional U.S. bioweapons lab. The beginning of that book was brilliant, and stuck with me for years. Still does. I’m rambling. After The Jakarta Pandemic, I didn’t stray far from viruses. No wonder. Right?
Lee: I see where you’re coming from, now.
Steve: I don’t like to be predictable. That’s a bad thing for an author.
Lee: You’re hardly predictable, especially with HOT ZONE. I guarantee readers won’t see where this book is headed. Last question. You claimed to have “created” the perfect bioweapon. What did you mean by that, fictionally of course.
Steve: I appreciate the disclaimer. I don’t need any more black vans on the block. Bioweapons in general are horrifying by nature, designed not only to kill and maim, but to inflict fear. A slow killer that requires the maximum amount of resources to handle. There’s no easy solution when dealing with an effective bioweapons attack. Unlike bullets or bombs, a properly designed bioweapon can cripple everyone, but leave them alive—needing extensive on site care and support. The impact of a bioweapon can’t be underestimated or overstated. It’s more like the “perfect weapon.” And in the grand scheme of terrorist weapons, they can be relatively inexpensive, flying under the radar in hidden laboratories around the world, or right here in the U.S.
Lee: Thanks for scaring the $#@! out of me, Steve.
Steve: Any time. Sleep tight.