Debunking myths on genetics and DNA

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Serenity Strain by Chris Pourteau: how gene therapy made it into the Apocalypse Weird!

cover art by MS Corley

The big awesome launch is just around the corner! Are you ready?

By now you know what Apocalypse Weird is, and you know that in a little under two weeks, five more books set in the Apocalypse Weird world will be released:

Today my guest is Chris Pourteau, the author of The Serenity Strain, a book you are going to love because the premise is deeply rooted in viruses and gene therapy -- my kinda stuff. ;-)

EEG: Welcome, Chris! How did you get involved in the AW project?

CP: I knew Michael Bunker from organizing the Tales from Pennsylvania anthology (set in his world of Pennsylvania) and writing the first fanfic piece published in that world, Gettysburg. He likes my work and so invited me to join up back in the fall. Since Nick Cole is the creative director on the project — I’ve known Nick longer than Michael, actually — I submitted a pitch to him for my take on the apocalypse, and he thought it was great. Basically, both said “Go for it!” and I started writing. So, there ya go: my AW origin story.

EEG: Tell us about the premise of The Serenity Strain.

CP: Basically, a university professor named Stavros creates a gene therapy — introduced to the brain by a virus dubbed Serenity — that is meant to mollify impulsive behavior. As part of a Phase I trial for the therapy, Stavros applies his therapy to hardened (highly impulsive) psychopaths in the Texas State Prison, located in Huntsville (about an hour north of Houston). Though it works at first, the therapy goes terribly wrong (of course!). Even worse — at the same time the therapy goes wonky — several massive hurricanes hit Houston, and society breaks down. That sets the stage for the prisoners to escape. All that chaos lures a demon from another dimension to our reality; she sees an opportunity to further some nefarious plans of her own, but I don’t want to say any more about that part of the story. I’m already stepping across the spoiler line a bit.

My heroes are a family — a mother, father, and daughter — at the tail-end of a contentious divorce. The storms throw the husband and wife back together, and as a family, they come face to face with the evil that’s been released.

EEG: How did you get the idea of using gene therapy in your book?

CP: When Nick asked for a pitch, for some reason I thought of all the genetic research that’s currently going on; I think maybe I’d seen an article recently or something. Honestly, that stuff scares the hell out of me: monkeying around with our genetic code, I mean. A little Googling, and I discovered that, in 2010, scientists actually discovered the part of the brain that can affect impulsive behavior; essentially, by regulating the HTR2B gene. Scientists have since discovered that deactivating the gene produces highly impulsive behavior. Currently, real-world researchers are looking at controlling impulsivity as a way to regulate, for example, ADHD and addictive behaviors. Researchers have actually looked at how controlling impulsive behaviors in criminals can be done by regulating the HTR2B gene. So I took that premise and turned it up to 11 in TSS.

EEG: Pretend we're at a party and you have to introduce your main characters: what would you say about each one of them?

CP: Hmm, OK. Well, taking them in the order of appearance in the novel, I guess there are six main characters I’d mention. All of them “move” in terms of who they are in the novel. (I hate writing static, predictable characters.)

  • 1. Eamon Stavros. Ph.D. & Professor of Genetics. Creator of the Serenity Virus that delivers the gene therapy. Stavros is — as are many academics I’ve known — pretty full of himself. He’s brilliant, and he knows it. He has trouble dealing with it personally when Serenity goes off the rails. Especially since he’s trapped in Huntsville State Prison when it happens…
  • 2. Mark Hughes. The husband of the couple that’s two weeks away from divorce. Mark isn’t the most likable guy at the beginning of the novel, but I’ll leave it to readers to discover why. But he’s a great example of the kind of character I love to write — complex, imperfect, human, but basically a good guy even if he makes some bad decisions. He loves his daughter very much, despite the animosity he and his wife have for one another.
  • 3. Lauryn Hughes. The almost-ex of Mark. Lauryn is a junior corrections officer at Huntsville State Prison. Let’s put it this way, she’s taking the divorce much harder than Mark is. And, as the custodial parent of Megan, their daughter, she’s dealing with a lot more than Mark is on a daily basis in terms of fallout following the separation.
  • 4. Megan Hughes. The teenage daughter of Mark and Lauryn—a young teenager who carries with her all the angst and entitlement that status implies PLUS being in the middle of her parents’ divorce. Kind of like a contemporary version of Sansa Stark without the satin dresses. ;-)
  • 5. Peter Ray Marsten. Stavros’s principal test subject and a convicted murderer. Marsten took an axe to an entire family for no better reason than he wanted to kill them. Sitting on death row, appeals exhausted, he sees participating in Stavros’s study as his possible path to staying alive. Put it this way: when things go wrong at the prison, Marsten is the man leading the charge.
  • 6. The Big Bad Boss. She’s definitely a major character — crap! I told you the boss was a “she”! Spoiler alert! ;-) — but that’s all I’m gonna say. Discovering what she’s all about will be part of the fun for the reader, I hope.

EEG: If Serenity Strain were to be made into a movie, who would you like to play the part of Marsten?

CP: Wow, that’s a great question! And a tough one. Marsten’s described as a hulking behemoth—bald and badass is probably the simplest way to put it. I’d almost see someone like Ron Perlman, post-Sons of Anarchy, in the role. Quiet (which is more menacing to me) and confident in his personal power, but also merciless when he goes off on someone. And Marsten is certainly fond of expressing his inner psycho…

Marsten, out on the town

EEG: Haha, cool! Thanks so much, Chris.

Find out about The Serenity Strain and all other books by Chris by visiting his website at And don't forget:

You should really absolutely and categorically come to the Facebook Launch Party.

Why? Because there will be prizes! And freebies! And Dr. Midnite! And you get to know the authors, awesome readers like you, and have lots of fun. All in the comfort of your home, so you can dress whatever you want. ;-)

Talking about prizes ...  Advance Reader Copies (ARCs) of Reversal, The Dark Knight, The Serenity Strain, and Immunity will available starting in early February and leading up to the launch. ARC readers and reviewers will be eligible for some great prizes before and at the Facebook Launch Party on February 23rd from 2:00 to 8:00 Pacific Time.

Prizes for ARC readers and reviewers will include:

  • Five signed paperback copies of Nick Cole’s Soda Pop Soldier for the review voted most helpful on Amazon by midnight on February 23. There will be one prize per launch book.
  • Three paperback copies of Texocalypse Now signed by Nick Cole and Michael Bunker. To be eligible, ARC readers must post their favorite excerpt from one of the launch novels on Facebook and/or Twitter and tag the author in the week leading up to the Launch Party.
  • A signed copy of pirated print copy of Osage Two Diamonds, by Michael Bunker, which officially does not exist in print. This prize will go to the best review of one of the launch novels on Amazon as voted by the launch authors by 6:00 PT the day of the launch.
.... and ... drum roll, please ...

The grand prize will be a tier two contract for the Apocalypse Weird world. This prize will go to the best pitch for a novel set in the Apocalypse Weird world, as chosen by five launch authors at 4:00 PT on February 23rd. Purchasing and reading at least one of the launch books and demonstrating your author platform through sharing of information regarding the Apocalypse Weird launch books will be an essential part of developing a pitch.

Interested ARC prizewinners will also be put in a draw to receive book trailers developed by Apocalypse Weird authors Hank Garner and Kim Wells, as well as a podcast slot with Hank Garner on his popular Author Stories podcast series.

Readers will be notified of ARC availability via the Apocalypse Weird mailing list. Make sure you are signed up and don’t miss a single ARC.

Let the wyrdness begin !!!!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are moderated. Comments with spam links will be deleted and never published. So, if your intention is to leave a comment just to post a bogus link, please spare your time and mine. To all others: thank you for leaving a comment, I will respond as soon as possible.