When I was contacted by literary publicist Rebeca Seitz about The Influenza Bomb, I jumped at the chance to feature it on my blog. In my years as a drama director, I used many of Paul McCusker's plays and drama sketches, so I was sure I'd love a novel written by him. Welcome, Paul and Walt. Glad to have you as my guests. I know that this is a collaboration. How did this story come about?
Did you find it easy to work together on it?
WALT: Paul and I met in 2001 when we both worked at Focus on the Family. We admired each other’s work and became friends. When Paul had the idea for the first TSI book, he contacted me about writing it with him. It’s been a lot of fun working out the plots, characters, and medical science in both books.
How did collaborating with this team impact you?
WALT: Paul and I have become dear friends. And, I’ve had the privilege of learning from his extensive writing experience. Most of all, we’ve had a ton of fun.
PAUL: I’ve enjoyed becoming closer friends with Walt. And his enthusiasm for the story and the characters has been inspiring for me. He has a wonderful passion for everything he does.
What is the hardest thing about writing as a team?
I understand that. I'm between contracts myself. What are you reading right now?
WALT: I’m reading Jerry B. Jenkins’ Riven and Ayn Rynd’s Atlas Shrugged.
PAUL: I’m about to start a novel by Alan Furst and just finished one by Robert Hugh Benson.
How did you choose your characters’ names?
WALT: Paul and I invented most of them. However, a few of the names come from people we know and love (all are credited in the After Word of the book).
Would you want to work on another book together?
WALT: From my perspective, absolutely.
PAUL: I’d love to, given the right opportunity.
WALT: Although a novel, as best-selling author Debbie Maccomber said after she read the manuscript, “This could happen.” It really could. And, that’s terribly frightening.
Where can our readers find you on the Internet?
WALT: My Web site is http://www.drwalt.com/ , my books can be found at www.DrWalt.com/books , and my blog is at www.DrWalt.com/blog .
PAUL: I can be found at http://www.paulmccusker.com/ and on Facebook.
How much of the book is based on fact?
WALT: We’re meticulous about our medical and historical research, to make sure the medical facts are correct and our speculative ideas are, at the very least, plausible. We want everyone to remember, though, that this is a work of fiction not a textbook, so we’ve used the information in a way that makes for a good story.
PAUL: What’s frightening to me is that everything we’ve written is possible in our world. Any terrorist group that could get their hands on “influenza bombs” would do mankind terrible damage.
What about the historical characters involved in the search for the "Influenza bomb," are they historical?
PAUL: Some are based on actual people, and some of the conspiracy material is based on genuine theories, but we’ve fictionalized everything to create a new mythology.
And is there actually a TSI team at NIH?
WALT: Not that we know of. But you can never really be sure with the government …
Is the Return to Earth Society fictional?
PAUL: The name is, but there are real people and animal-rights groups who genuinely believe that man is no more or less special than any other creature in nature. Some of these groups are very dangerous and readily use violence to accomplish their goals.
One of your main characters, Mark Carlson, endures a lot of emotional conflict in this story. Is there anything from your lives that you tapped into fo that part of the story?
WALT: I believe all of us can be deeply wounded and must, at one time or another, come to a place of forgiveness for those who’ve hurt us. Mark’s challenge is one we all face. And then it’s a question of how to forgive but still maintain healthy boundaries with those who’ve hurt us.
PAUL: We also wanted to explore how a lack of forgiveness can destroy a person and lead to terrible circumstances. We don’t say that forgiveness is easy – but it is necessary to live a healthy life.
Since forgiveness in hard circumstances was one theme in my last novel, I love seeing that in your book. And I love romance. There are a couple of romantic relationship developing in these novels. Which one of you is the romantic?
PAUL: We both like the relational aspects of the stories, but Walt is definitely the romantic. He’d have all kinds of smooching going on if I didn’t stop him.
Hosting the two of you on my blog has been a lot of fun. Paul and Walt, thanks for spending this time with us.
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