Today we caught up with J.M. Lanham to talk about his latest book, Costa Rica and of course elephant rides! Check out the interview below:
Thanks for taking the time to talk with us today! Can you tell me a little about your latest book? The R.E.M. Effect is a hard science-fiction thriller set in the near future. It’s 2021, and our protagonist has landed a job at one of the most successful drug companies in the world, Asteria Pharmaceuticals. Asteria is the first drug company to develop a gene-modifying sleeping pill using antisense therapy (a real technology currently in the early stages of development). The sleeping pill, Ocula, blocks the genes responsible for insomnia, creating the perfect eight-hour sleep cycle—in most patients. While the results of the clinical trials look promising at first glance, nefarious forces inside Asteria soon realize a handful of clinical trial participants are experiencing some pretty uncanny side effects; side effects that quickly turn the worlds of everyone involved (and a few who aren’t) upside down.
What inspired this story?
The inspiration for The R.E.M. Effect originated from the stories I grew up reading. The first full-length novel I ever read was Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton. I was in second or third grade at the time, and I’ve been hooked on hard science fiction ever since. Although a lot of different authors have inspired me to take a crack at writing fiction, I wanted to pay homage to the man who got me hooked on contemporary literature by writing a story based on science fact—in this case, a very new and promising type of gene therapy called antisense. Of course, there are other elements within the story that could probably be attributed to other influences like Philip K. Dick or Stephen King, but Crichton set the groundwork for this novel in my adolescent mind over twenty years ago.
Are your characters based off real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination?
A little bit of both. The idea behind the self-help guru Donny Ford came from this guy (we won’t name names) I used to see on late-night infomercials back in the 90s. He was a modern-day snake oil salesman, putting on a slick show while basically selling common sense. I wanted to explore what makes a person like that tick, and what might happen if that someone had some frightening experiences after taking a new drug. That being said, I also had fun interjecting a little bit about myself in Ford. I had a “job” right after high school selling kitchen knives, and I thought that sounded like something a motivational speaker might have done in his teenager years, so I threw it in. Other characters like Paul Freeman, Alex Freeman and Claire Connor suffer from migraines, just like me. But for the most part, they are mainly the result of long walks, a little brainstorming and a lot of coffee.
What is your favorite part of the book?
It’s hard to pick just one, but the Costa Rica scenes are right up there. I don’t want to give anything away, but there are a few big reveals there that shed a lot of light on what’s causing these strange things to happen with a handful of patients who were exposed to Ocula. I also enjoyed writing the Costa Rica scenes the most. It’s where the action really picks up, and it’s quite a rollercoaster ride from there, so it’s definitely one of my favorites.
Does your book have a lesson or moral?
I think readers will take several lessons away from the book by the time the curtain is called, but I’m not going to give away anything here. 😉
Fair enough! Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
The exciting part about The R.E.M. Effect (for me, anyway) is that it’s only the beginning. While the book certainly stands on its own, there is plenty of room left for sequels. I currently have plans to write a trilogy around these characters, with everything already outlined, down to the final scene. And, it’s a story I really think sci-fi thriller fans are going to like. I’m halfway through the second novel, with plans to release it spring of 2017. If all goes well, I’ll have the trilogy wrapped up and published by the end of the coming year. Wish me luck!
Thanks for your time today J.M. Lanham! It’s been great to get to know you a bit better. Our final question is a bit of fun: You’ve been given an elephant. You can’t give it away or sell it. What would you do with the elephant?
Charge $10 for elephant rides, of course! (Although I would be willing to substitute cold hard cash for lawn services during the summer months.)
The R.E.M. Effect is available at Amazon now, and is only .99c until December 21st, so get your copy now!