The journey to S.P.I.D.A.R.
One of the questions I as an author get asked a lot is - where do you get your story ideas? I have talked about my latest horror book S.P.I.D.A.R. and how it came to be, but there are some deeper things that happened along the way. I mean, spiders are scary all on their own, but why create a bunch of fictional half-robot/half-spider creatures that do the horrifying things they do to people like in this story?
I have personally been afraid of spider for a long time. However, in my recent job, I have developed a growing respect for arachnids. I have not become one of those people who wants a tarantula as a pet or anything, and I will still kill a spider that approaches me in the bathroom (no, no, spiders, that's by space), but I have come to learn there are very few spiders anyone needs to worry about and a good number of those are in Australia (sorry you guys down there).
However, I had this idea in my head for a long time about an isolated place dealing with drones that had gone out of control. This may have come about from a commercial I saw where people were trapped in an office while drones carrying packages outside kept them at bay. I thought - what if they were real weaponized drones? I kicked it around for years, trying to come up with a plot that clicked and worked.
Then a few things happened.
First, there was an episode of the Sherlock Holmes-related TV show Elementary where it turned out the murder weapon was a mosquito-sized drone. Oh - spoiler alert if you happen to be bingeing all of the seasons of Elementary. It was an interesting concept and I knew drones were getting smaller and smaller and such a thing did not seem out of the realm of possibility.
Second, I was watching a season of Black Mirror and there was a story about a society without honey bees who created robot versions of them to continue pollinating flowers and plants. They even were autonomous enough to build hives and, of course, they were turned against people rather dramatically. Hmm, thought I, now that would be an interesting idea for a book. Of course, it had already been done and the story on Black Mirror ranged all over England and had this vast global scope. I wanted something smaller and more claustrophobic
NOTE: for the record, it turns out robot bees is a thing and under development (dramatic and ominous music should play now).
I liked the idea of insects as robots, but I didn't like the idea of using bees. First, it had been done. Second, bees really are beneficial and I don't want to make them villains. Third, although I have been stung by both bees and wasps, I do not find them particularly terrifying. So, what would work?
I thought - but what if they were more than just robots? What if they were some combination of spider and robot? Cyber-spiders? Cyborg-spiders! Yes, that would work, but where to set them?
I thought about making it an island off the coast of Scotland or England at first. I had an image of a body washing up on shore of a small island and then picturing these spiders taking over. I even had a scene in my head where a boat pilot gets attacked by the spiders and crashed the boat into a dock.
Then I remembered a news story I had seen about Whittier, Alaska. It was an NPR story about this place near Anchorage where almost the entire population lived in one building and there were even people there who didn't leave said building. It was a harsh place, where the residents couldn't even get back home because the tunnel from Anchorage to Whittier was closed off after 10 pm.
Huh...now THAT was a location.
So, my apologies to my friend Iain Rob Wright, whom I consulted about the islands off the coast of England and Scotland. I had thought I might use those (and I stuck something about them into the book anyway), but I ended up finding a place that worked.
Then - it just clicked. That magical moment I wait for as a writer where I could see the characters, the interior of the building, the nature of the spiders and how they would evolve. I used my knowledge of insects and pests to create the ultimate bad-ass spiders.
I thought I had a really great story. My Beta-reader agreed. So, I shopped it around to agents and publishers. For some reason, agents said no even though I felt this was my most marketable and genre-specific book in a long while. Then Beacon Publishing Group came along and said - yes.
I am thankful to them. I am thankful to my Beta-reader Rob for the encouragement. I am thankful to my wife and for the friends at my day job who answered the weird questions I would ask them (would a spider that bites be scarier or one that crawled inside and took you over?).
I hope you enjoy the book - but I also hope it terrifies you.
AVAILABLE NOW - S.P.I.D.A.R.
The town of Whittier is isolated in Alaska, and the people all live within towers once used by the military. The tourist season is over, and winter is on the way. Then, a body washes up on shore. A body that says it's from the government facility across the sound at Esther Island. With a storm coming, the citizens of Whittier have to deal with this on their own. They put the body in the basement of the towers, but their doctor wants to find out what killed this man. Was it a disease? How dangerous is it? Then, the horror begins.
S.P.I.D.A.R. is out today in ebook, paperback and audiobook formats at Amazon!