Glenn Cooper is the author of the Cal Donovan series which includes Sign of the Cross, Three Marys and The Debt. His latest standalone novel, The Cure, was published by Aries Fiction on 20 August 2020.
Glenn kindly answered a few of my questions
1. Tell us a little about The Cure.
The book is about a pandemic wholly different and rather more frightening than our present coronavirus pandemic. A medical experiment to treat Alzheimer’s Disease goes horribly wrong and a new virus is unleashed that wipes out the memory of infected people leaving them lost and vulnerable. It doesn’t take long for society to fall apart—no functional governments, no electricity, no long-distance communications. Conventional rules and laws no longer matter. Survival is in your own hands. Our heroes, Jamie and Mandy, each possess one-half of the potential cure. Jamie, a neurologist, must journey across America with his infected daughter, navigating a dangerous landscape to reach his lover, Mandy, a virologist. Without their collaboration, all will be lost. It’s a tough, raw, adventure story, but in the end, an inspirational one.
2. What inspired the book?
I began the book well before our current global health problems. As a thriller writer, an infectious diseases physician and a student of historical epidemics, I’ve been anticipating the “big one” for years. I thought it would probably be an influenza virus—a bird flu or swine flu—and the fact that it’s a new coronavirus makes things even more challenging because no one had immunity and vaccine development for coronaviruses is more difficult. My motivation wasn’t to write a straight pandemic thriller, but to explore deeper issues of how our memories define us as individuals and how ruthless individuals will always try to exploit and brainwash vulnerable people. Readers will undeniably detect allegorical connections to our current, sorry state of political affairs.
3. Are you a plan, plan, plan writer or do you sit down and see where the words take you?
A very apt question because of the fourteen previous book I’d written, The Cure is the first book in which I didn’t construct a highly detailed, chapter-by-chapter outline in advance. Most of my other books have time shifts and complex, non-linear plots. Without a roadmap, I’d get lost and might never find my way. This book was completely different because I wanted to be lost, just like my protagonist, and to experience the challenges and terrors of his dangerous journey across a dystopian America as he was experiencing them. And unlike my other books, I had no preordained notion of the fates of any of my characters and no idea whatsoever of how I would end the story. When the time came, the ending took me completely by surprise.
4. Is there anything about the process of creating a novel that still surprises you?
Before I wrote my first novel, Library of the Dead, I wrote screenplays. Before I became a fulltime writer, I had challenging day jobs in medicine, research, and business. Given my time constraints, writing a 120-page screenplay always seemed far less daunting and more manageable than writing a novel. When I started Library of the Dead, I worried I might never finish it and when I did, I was relieved and maybe even a bit astonished. To this day, after seventeen novels, I am still relieved and a bit astonished when I type THE END.
5. What do you do when you aren’t writing? What do you do to relax and get away from it all?
I am a ridiculous workaholic. I write seven days a week, six to eight hours per day. I’ll usually start researching a new book a couple of weeks after finishing the last. I love writing and all the rituals associated with it and I’ve got a lot of stories I still want to tell. I’m an avid reader but I have trouble consuming fiction while I’m actively writing because I’m something of a magpie—I hate (even unconsciously) lifting someone else’s turn of phrase. My main outlets for blowing off steam are films and TV. I subscribe to every streaming service. It’s hard to beat an addictive, bingeable series.
6. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life which book would it be?
I suspect no one else in the world has the same choice! It’s a touching, humorous novel published in 1935 called Tortilla Flat, written by my favorite author, John Steinbeck. Set in Monterey, California and populated by rogues and drifters who connive their way to bellies full of other people’s chickens and wine, it was Steinbeck’s low version of King Arthur and the knights of the roundtable. It’s a book ostensibly without grand aspirations that nevertheless succeeds in portraying human frailties and strengths in ways that exceed any other book I’ve read. I dip back into it every year or two.
7. I like to end my Q&As with the same question so here we go. During all the Q&As and interviews you’ve done what question have you not been asked that you wish had been asked – and what’s the answer?
I’m often asked when I knew I wanted to become a writer, but no one has ever asked why it was so important for me. When I was fourteen, I was inspired to write a short story based on my first solo ride on the New York City subway. It wasn’t for a school assignment—I just wanted to do it, and it was the first time I wrote something on my own account. When it was done, I showed it to my father who was a kind, gentle man, but not someone given to dishing out praise. When he told me he loved it and he was proud of me, I was pretty sure he was being sincere. He didn’t live to see me publish my first book, but whenever I reread a few decent pages of a work in progress, I conjure up his praise and smile a little.
About the Book
If you catch it, you forget everything. Your only hope is the cure…
He wanted to cure Alzheimer’s Disease…
Single parent and neurologist Dr. Jamie Abbott makes a key contribution to treating Alzheimer’s Disease. But the principal investigator short-circuits the study safeguards, releasing a highly contagious virus that wipes the host’s memories. His daughter is one of the first victims.
As the virus spreads and civil order breaks down, Jamie embarks on a perilous cross-country journey. He needs to reach Dr. Mandy Alexander. She has the other half of a potential cure.
If he fails, he’ll leave most of mankind to the oblivion of total amnesia.
About the Author
Glenn Cooper is a Harvard-trained infectious diseases physician who became the CEO of a large public biotech company in Massachusetts. He sold his company in 2009, about the time that his first novel, Library of the Dead, was published. He has been a full-time writer ever since, with fourteen top-ten bestselling thrillers published in thirty translations, and seven million copies sold. A TV series based on his first trilogy is in development.