INTERVIEW: ‘Infected’ And ‘Ancestor’ Scribe Scott Sigler!

Yesterday marked the release of the newest novel by “INFECTED” scribe Scott Sigler titled, “ANCESTOR”, and after a long campaign of promoting and viral marketing through his website and other media outlets it looks like the New York Times Bestseller has another hit on his hands. Bloody-Disgusting.com was lucky enough to catch up with the author before he started on his cross-country promotional tour of the title and talk all things Scott Sigler. Read on for the full interview.

THEoDEAD:”The first thing that I would like to do is thank you very much for taking the time to conduct this interview with us. Before we get started why don’t you go ahead and introduce yourself to the readers who might not know of your body of work or listen to your podcasts?

SCOTT SIGLER:”I’m a New York Times best-selling author of INFECTED, CONTAGIOUS, and ANCESTOR, which just hit stores on June 22. I consider myself what I call a hard-science horror writer. Most horror writers are telling wonderful tales of the supernatural, with mystical vampires, zombies, ghosts and random devil archetypes. My stories, on the other hand, use real science and scientific theory to create the scares.

Before I started publishing with Crown, I built a large online following by giving away self-recorded audiobooks as free, serialized podcasts. I like chocolate and coffee.”

THEoDEAD:”I know that you have been an avid horror fan all your life, having written your first horror story at the age of 8, but you have also done your fair share of odd jobs before becoming a New York Times Bestselling Author. Growing up what inspired you to be the type of writer you are today? How did you go from picking fruit and selling guitars to writing top selling horror novels?

SCOTT SIGLER:”Well, picking fruit and selling guitars happened while I trying to get published. I have known I wanted to be a writer since I was in the third grade, and most of the interim work I did was just a means to an end. Out of college, I worked as a journalist so that I could write every day — both for the job, and for my fiction goals (I was probably writing 8-10 hours a day for those three years). I also spent a few years in the software industry, starting out in phone support and working my way up to marketing director. But in the end, come on, guitars are kick-ass.”

THEoDEAD:”You have written a lot of books, all with varying levels of success, but it seems like the one that really thrust you into the limelight and garnered you the largest readership was “INFECTED”. I know that Rogue Pictures had picked up the option for a film adaptation of the novel, so is there any new details you can let us in on on that end?

SCOTT SIGLER:”Well, Rogue had the option for two years, but now we have the rights back. I’m working with a new agent, and he’s jumping in with both feet. He’s leading with ANCESTOR. That book is a great summer blockbuster waiting to happen. We’ll see how he does with that. If ANCESTOR becomes a movie, I’m confident that INFECTED will be right behind it.”

THEoDEAD:”Alright, so onto the guest of honor: “ANCESTOR”. Can you tell readers what “ANCESTOR” is? How long has this story been in development?

SCOTT SIGLER:”I started writing ANCESTOR in 1996, then started podcasting it in September of 2005. It’s about a bio-tech company that creates a synthetic genome based on the ancestor of all mammals in order to create a herd animal with human transplantable organs. Since 1996, lots of the science of ANCESTOR has become a reality. The synthesized, living, self-replicating organisms Craig Venter created were just in the news two weeks ago. Somewhat smaller than the ancestors, but still, the science is real. Also, I theorized that someone could reverse-engineer the genome of the mammalian ancestor, based on digitized genomes of multiple mammal species. Dr. Greg Haussler did just that in 2004. So the two main elements of ANCESTOR began as science fiction — just as the book hits in hardcover, those elements have become science fact.”

THEoDEAD:”Recently we posted the teaser trailer for the title on our site, and honestly it was very impressive for a trailer made for a literary piece. What was it like doing something like that out of your own pocket? Do you feel like trailers for stories like this are beneficial?

SCOTT SIGLER:”I do. You Tube is the second most popular search engine on the planet. Having entertaining, easily accessible stuff out there, especially when it’s movie-quality work, is essential. The trailers also stay up on YouTube, and keep generating views on their own. The ANCESTOR trailer has 9,000 views in just two weeks. The INFECTED trailer has been up for over two years, and still gets 30-40 views a day. Each view is a potential book-buyer. No other form of book marketing has that kind of long-term persistence.”

THEoDEAD:”The story of “ANCESTOR” deals a lot in real world scenarios besides the more sci-fi/horror tropes that are thrown in. Things such as genetic testing, organ donation, biochemical threats, ect…What was it like creating this story? What were the inspirations behind bringing it to life?

SCOTT SIGLER:”I wanted to use proto-mammals and synapsids as a basis for a monster, because they look so damn cool. I’d been researching those creatures for a few years, then read about the work of Sudhir Kumar and Blair Hedges, who wrote about a “molecular clock” that showed the evolutionary order of mammals. In short, they postulated that all main lines of mammalia had branched off before the big dinosaur extinction. When I read their work, I mentally combined it with the efforts to digitize full genomes, and came up with the concept of reverse-engineering the ancestral genome. Once I had my main “reason for monsters,” the rest of the story filled in over the years. You can’t just have characters make these critters, you need a reason for them to be made. The worldwide shortage of donor organs and the ongoing xenotransplanation efforts gave me a real-world, real-life motivation for a biotech company to bend the rules.”

THEoDEAD:”On your website you have been doing a lot of cool things leading up to the release of “ANCESTOR”, including a prequel series. What are these ‘episodes’? Do readers have to read them in order to read “ANCESTOR” or will they be able to enjoy the book without them?

SCOTT SIGLER:”The prequel episodes are not necessary to enjoy ANCESTOR, but they do add to the fun. The stories connect ANCESTOR with other stories in the “Siglerverse,” which adds a layer of enjoyment for anyone who has read INFECTED, CONTAGIOUS, or EARTHCORE. Also, they’re audio-only. The print book starts with what will be Episode #4 of the podcast.”

THEoDEAD:”ANCESTOR” is quite graphic at times, and it is obvious that you aren’t trying to hold back with any of the issues within the story. I know that from doing some interviews a lot of writers have said that they don’t usually go as far as they’d like to because of concerns of readership or publication issues. When you’re writing a story like “ANCESTOR” do you ever find yourself needing to cut back on things or feeling as if you’re crossing a line?

SCOTT SIGLER:”I don’t hold back. Many times I want to, I think I’m going too far and become uncomfortable with a scene, but when that happens I know I have to continue. If it is a real part of the story, if it matters for the plot or to establish the brutality of a character or situation, I have to write it — otherwise, I’m cheating the reader (read also, I’m pussing out). I don’t, however, write gore for gore’s sake. If someone is being eaten, or torn apart in some way, and you are telling the story from that character’s point of view? Yeah, it’s going to be as nasty in the book as it would be in real life.”

THEoDEAD:”One of the best parts of “ANCESTOR” is the fact that all of the characters, not just the main ones, are very layered, and very interesting to learn about. How did you go about writing these characters? Do you feel it is important to make all of the players within a story as interesting as the next?

SCOTT SIGLER:”It doesn’t have to be a cast of featured players, but I am glad you enjoy them. It’s mostly a function of keeping the characters separate in the readers’ minds. All the little quirks and idiosyncrasies of the characters mean I have less work to do keeping the reader invested, because they know each character that much better. I just try to create characters that are like the people I know, the people I see — we’re all messed up in one way or another. What’s more, every last one of us tends to think that our way is the best way. Putting two of those “best ways” in direct opposition makes for great drama. If I do it right, the reader isn’t sure who they should be rooting for.”

THEoDEAD:”Are there any other projects besides “ANCESTOR” that you have coming up that you’d like readers to know about?

SCOTT SIGLER:”PANDEMIC is the third novel in the INFECTED & CONTAGIOUS series, and will be out around Halloween 2011. Other than that, readers should know I have weekly, free, serialized audiobooks available at scottsigler.com and at podiobooks.com. I have seven novels and three short story collections, and I’m adding to these audio stories all the time.”

THEoDEAD:”Before we let you go, is there anything that you would like to say to the fans or those who are thinking about going out and picking up “ANCESTOR”?

SCOTT SIGLER:”Just buy it. If you like realistic horror stories, you’ll love it. Vampires and ghosts and zombies are all great fun, but my work takes a different approach by removing any and all supernatural elements. If something happens in the book, it can be explained by the science of the world around us. I think this makes the story feel a bit more real, and allows the reader to dive that much further into the illusion.”

I would like to thank Scott for taking the time out of his schedule to do this interview with us, and for being such a great sport. For those of you who would like to check out “ANCESTOR” or any of Scott’s other books you can pick them up at any book retailer near you or head on over to his official website. As we speak Scott has started his cross country treck to promote “ANCESTOR”, and if you would like to meet the author you can catch him at one of the following dates…

BOSTON – JUNE 23
Pandemonium Books, 7:00pm

WASINGTON DC – JUNE 24
Borders @ Bailey’s Crossroads, 7:30pm

DALLAS – JUNE 25
Borders Preston Road, 7:00pm

SAN ANTONIO – JUNE 26
Borders at the Quarry, 2:00pm

PHOENIX – JUNE 27
Changing Hands Bookstore, 2:00pm

SAN DIEGO – JUNE 28
Mysterious Galaxy, 7:00pm

LOS ANGELES – JUNE 29
Book Soup, 7:00pm

SAN FRANCISCO – JUNE 30
Borders Union Square, 7:00pm

PORTLAND, OR – JULY 5
Powell’s Books, 7:00pm

SEATTLE – JULY 6
Barnes & Noble University Village, 7:30pm

DENVER – JULY 7
Tattered Cover Bookstore, 7:30pm

MINNEAPOLIS – JULY 8
Magers & Quinn Bookstore, 7:30pm

CHICAGO – JULY 9
Bookstall at Chestnut Court, 6:00pm

DETROIT – JULY 10
Barnes & Noble Royal Oak, 2:00pm

TORONTO – JULY 12
World’s Largest Bookstore, 7:00pm

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA – JULY 14
Books, Inc., 7:30pm

SAN MATEO – JULY 15
“M” Is for Mystery, 7:00pm

CORTE MADERA – JULY 20
Book Passage, 7:00pm