An Interview with the Authors
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Q. What is MOUNT DRAGON about?

A. It's a novel of bio-terror, set in a highly-secret genetic engineering plant in the middle of the New Mexico desert. A team of scientists are working on a cure for the flu. But what they create instead is something absolutely lethal.

We try to make our stories as riveting and as frightening as possible, while at the same time talking about real possibilities. While MOUNT DRAGON is fiction--and is meant to entertain--it is definitely not science fiction. One of the things that we try to do is put as much credible science into our stories as possible. What we describe may not have happened. But who's to say it couldn't happen in the future? Or that it isn't happening, right now?

 

Q. How did you come to write this particular story?

A. We wanted to write a book about horrifying events that could very well be taking place right now, on the frontiers of science. Things that make a nuclear blast seem like child's play. Genetic engineering was perfect for this. And that's what we tried to write about in our thriller, MOUNT DRAGON.

 

Q. How do you do your research?

A. In our writing, we try to make everything as realistic and as up-to-date as possible. We spoke with sources inside the genetic engineering world. We did extensive research of our own. Doug's brother, for example, is Dick Preston, author of THE HOT ZONE.

The book is set in the Jornada del Muerto, which is a desert in New Mexico whose name means 'Journey of Death' in Spanish. Both of us have lived in the desert, and we're both pretty accomplished riders. In doing research for this book, Doug actually retraced the route of our hero across this desert, for the big chase scene that climaxes the book. It's an extremely dangerous journey, and there were times when he wasn't sure he was going to make it.

 

Q. One of the products created by the fictitious scientific corporation in your book is artificial human blood. Can you talk a little more about that?

A. Most people don't know it, but scientists have been trying to create artificial blood for decades. On the one hand, the idea is pretty seductive. You know: no more blood shortages. No more worrying about blood types. No more worrying about getting AIDS from transfusions. But on the other hand, not everybody might like the idea of putting something artificial, or something genetically engineered, into their own veins.

And that's something else that's interesting: the dosage. With most drugs, you just put a small amount in. Milligrams. But with blood, we're talking about pints at a time. Think about the purity worries that come up with quantities like that!

You've got to remember, blood touches every area of the body. There's a lot of potential for things to go wrong, as well as right.

 

Q. In MOUNT DRAGON, some of the characters hold forth about the dangers of genetic engineering. What is it, and is it really so frightening?

A. When we talk about genetic engineering in MOUNT DRAGON, we mean scientifically modifying a person, plant, or thing into something other than what nature intended it to be. It could be something as little as modifying, say, an avocado so it doesn't turn brown so fast when you cut it open. Or it could be something as scary as in our novel, where the scientists are trying to find a cure for the flu. And instead of finding a cure, they make the flu a thousand times worse that it was before.

From a writer's point of view, genetic engineering is great material for a thriller. I mean, think of the uproar people have made at the thought of just genetically-engineered tomatoes, or milk produced from cows that have been given growth hormones. Not too long ago, some supermarkets were forced to take these products off their shelves because of public uproar.

But what a lot of people don't realize is that things like that are just the tip of the iceberg. And the potential for abuse is really scary. Everybody worries about things like nuclear proliferation, chemical weapons, and so on. But biological weapons are potentially much more frightening. The fact is, it can cost a lot less to create a home-grown DNA laboratory or genetic lab than it would to build a big nuclear bomb. And that's the kind of thing that would really put 'terror' into 'terrorism.' I think we need to be more vigilant about potential threats of this sort.

And the future holds even more frightening possibilities. Imagine "improving" something like cholera or plague so that it's even more deadly. Or the so-called "ethnic weapons"--tweaking diseases so they home in on the hereditary differences of certain groups of people. It's a truly, truly scary thought.


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