The Husband Who Refused to Die follows Carrie as she deals with the loss of her husband and his decision to be cryogenically frozen. The novel is a thoughtful review of grief, love and family. What was the inspiration for this story?
The idea came to me after reading an article in a women’s magazine a few years ago about a young couple, in their 20s, who’d both signed up to have their bodies frozen when they die.
They’d paid a large sum of money to be cryonically preserved, in the hope they can be revived and come back to life at a later date – when science has moved on.
I was intrigued by their story and the motivations and implications of such a radical – and unusual – choice. I’d been searching for an original premise for my debut novel, and I knew this was it.
I’m often drawn to stories in which the extraordinary happens in ordinary lives, and relished the prospect of learning about something outside my own – and most other people’s – experience, yet, at the same time, exploring grief, an emotion that we all face at some point.
I discovered that several hundred people are signed up to be preserved after death and was very excited to learn that, although cryonics has been given the sci-fi treatment in books and films, it’s never been the hook in realistic, contemporary women’s fiction. Dare I say it’s a first?!
My head was spinning with ‘what ifs’ when it came to contemplating cryonics: What if someone I loved passed away and wanted to be frozen? What if there was no funeral? What if I felt I couldn’t grieve in the normal way? What if I thought it was creepy and confusing? What if I couldn’t find closure?
It’s these questions that led me to create Carrie and Dan’s story.
On top of her current troubles, Carrie must also try to deal with her ornery teenager. I felt that their relationship had depth that is rarely seen in novels. How did you approach writing about their relationship and what did you want to accomplish with it?
I have a son who was a similar age to Carrie’s daughter, Eleanor, at the time I was writing the first draft, as well as many friends with teenage children. So my starting point was my own experience and observations of life with a young person going through this turbulent time. I then tried to imagine the extra strain and pressure the mum and daughter relationship would be put under when faced with the difficult and distressing situation Carrie and Eleanor find themselves in.
What kind of research did you do on cryonics for this novel and do you see it as a viable option today for people?
After some initial research on the internet and in the media, I interviewed several people who have signed up to be cryonically preserved to gain a deeper understanding and some first-hand insights.
I was particularly fascinated to hear about how others had responded to their decisions: family, friends, strangers, and the media. It’s an emotive topic and some have endured a lot of negativity.
I also attended a weekend training course with Cryonics UK, a group of volunteers who carry out emergency procedures to prepare bodies for preservation in the UK before they are shipped out to one of the storage facilities in American or Russia.
There’s a lot of controversy surrounding cryonics, particularly here in the UK following the recent heartbreaking case of the terminally ill teenager who had to fight in the High Court for her wish to be frozen after death to be granted.
Many experts believe there’s little or no chance of bringing a frozen corpse back to life, now or in the foreseeable future, but cryonicists would argue that things declared scientifically impossible a few decades ago, like IVF and organ transplants, are now possible, so it’s worth a punt. Either way, I believe that it’s a personal choice.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be published?
I’m working on another contemporary women’s fiction novel, which I hope will be published next year.
“Carrie’s no ordinary widow. Husband Dan has died unexpectedly and left behind an extraordinary wish – to be frozen. He believes his life’s simply been ‘suspended’, that he can come back … one day … when science has moved on. He’d hoped his wife would want to do the same. But she doesn’t.
Two years on and Carrie, mum to increasingly truculent teenage daughter Eleanor, tentatively reconnects with an old boyfriend, whose dramatic exit from her life has always been a painful mystery. But their romance is hampered by Carrie’s never-ending personal problems, not least her interfering sister-in-law Sunny, a reflexologist with a soft voice, loud clothes and a bag full of natural remedies. Sunny’s intent on keeping her brother’s memory alive and ensuring Carrie honours his request.
After Dan’s story is resurrected in the news headlines, some distressing secrets from the past are revealed, and Carrie is taunted by someone with a serious grudge.
But are the secrets true? Will she discover who’s behind the malicious acts – and why?
Told with warmth and wit, The Husband Who Refused to Die is a pacy novel with an original premise that casts an unusual light on a story about love, loss, family and friendship.”
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Mystery, suspense, reality television and revenge all come crashing together in this entertaining story. Where did the idea for Thawing A.C. Nielsen originate and develop into a novel?
The idea for the book originated with, frankly, my disdain for reality TV and the self-importance of the people on those shows, as well as the show producers making fortunes. When I began the book I thought, who better to take down reality TV than an icon from the past–namely, the real A.C. Nielsen. Of course, once you read the book, you will realize that my original goals shifted quite a bit (can’t say more–spoiler). Savvy readers will notice clues as to the real-world reality TV celebrities that the characters Khail Santana and Dimi Konstantos are based on!
The protagonist joins up with ExitStrategy, a facility devoted to cryogenics and the revival of the dead. Did you do a lot of research into cryonics for this book?
Ah, but they’re not dead- they’re just really cold, haha! I did a lot of research into the strange world of cryonics. There are a handful of cryonics companies and I combed their websites and read a few books. Probably the best resource was a massive website with a lot of scientific detail by a cryonics expert who is a bit of a screwball. Once I read more, I realized I could have a lot of fun with this scenario. I also made sure that just about everything in the book is based on reality. Some of the strangest things in there, the things people may think I made up, are totally fact-based. Also, I had a lot of help from my brother, who teaches medicine at University of Southern California, on the medical-based chapters where test animals and people are revived. I couldn’t have made those seem realistic without his help
When writing Thawing A.C. Nielsen, did you want the novel to be satire first, or science fiction first?
Great question! It is satire first, for sure. The sci-fi cryonics was just a means to a satirical end. Genre-wise it is a mix of sci-fi, satire, medical mystery, and plenty of humor. Overall, I think the mixing of genres makes the book unique. As far as the scifi category goes, I am proud that the book is not one of a million books categorized as dystopian. There also are no spaceships or aliens, but I do work David Brin’s bestseller Startide Rising into the book in a significant way.
I find that good authors have an ear for speech and dialogue. What’s the best way you find to capture natural prose?
I have to believe the characters are real people and I am just eavesdropping on their conversations. I sort of see them in my head and learn their personality from them. I also have to get inside their heads and spy on their secrets, their weaknesses, and then tumble them out to the reader at appropriate times.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will that be published?
I’m 75 percent done with a middle-grade wacky scifi yarn called “The Grandma Apocalypse”, an alien invasion story set in a sleepy central Illinois town during the 1960s. There are humorous threads relating to “The Princess Bride” which tie things together in an odd way. It’s all about DNA-stealing aliens, snickerdoodle cookies, cats &goats, sweet tea, mind control, multiple dimensions and so on. After that I am writing a sequel to “Thawing A.C. Nielsen”, which will be quite a bit darker. The working title is “The Mozart Murders”. Mozart is in the book in sort of a Voldemort way, and he’s a pretty bad dude–not the wacky Mozart of the film Amadeus. I don’t have a publication date yet for these two new creations.Thanks for the great questions!
Brilliant young microbiologist and self-professed lab rat Kate Pearson has just landed her dream job, although she worries it might turn into a frozen nightmare. She’s been hired to discover a way to successfully revive people who have been in cryonic deep-freeze stasis for years at the Chicago firm ExitStrategy, a company founded by scientist Mike “Cold Smokey” Burgess, holder of dozens of major patents. Kate is succeeding Dr. Enzo Saltieri, Mike’s partner for years, who has died suddenly under strange circumstances. As Kate sifts through mountains of Saltieri’s scribbled-upon legal pads she finds paths that lead nowhere. Was Saltieri on the verge of great discoveries or just sinking into the illogical world of dementia? Along the way, Kate has to deal with Miles Coleman, a sarcastic idiot savant assistant at the lab who’s hiding his true identity; Gloria Dunham, a famous former Hollywood actress, now ninety years old and bent on taking over control of the company; plus reality show egomaniacs Dimi Konstantos and Khail Santana, megastars who’ve been polluting television’s airwaves for years. After Kate has some success reviving lab animals frozen in the 1980s such as Mr. T, the guinea pig, and John Cougar, the housecat, her attention turns to the first human subject, famous TV ratings guru A.C. Nielsen, who has been frozen at ExitStrategy for twenty-five years. Between Mike Burgess’s lofty expectations, hidden research files, secret medical procedures, switched identities, drugged drinks, randy Irish folk musicians, beefy bodyguards, plus the likes of Miles, Gloria, Dimi and Khail—Kate begins to realize that reviving A.C. Nielsen and stumbling upon a major medical discovery may actually be a stroll in the park.
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A mutiny on the spaceship Hegira kills everyone on board. The ship is not discovered until thousands of years into the future, when it is found to be carrying all of the remaining DNA samples of the Brin, an extinct race of birdlike humanoids. Using advanced technology, two DNA samples are used to clone two of the Brin. The clones, Karm and Maripa, are sent back in time to save their race, before their planet explodes when its sun becomes a supernova. Karm gathers the greatest Brinian minds, to prepare a new life on a distant planet, but he must stay one step ahead of the ruling family consisting of a power hungry monarch and his brother, the leader of a fundamentalist religion, as science goes head to head with both religion and big government in this fast paced Sci Fi adventure.
Since Galileo, religious fundamentalists have asserted their violent opposition to ground breaking scientific discoveries, and time and again, history has shown their efforts to be naive. In Hegira, a new science fiction novel by Jim Cronin, a fundamentalist religious sect known as The Faith attempts to stop the work of the good guys, who are doing dynamic cloning research, which happens to be the only hope to save the entire race. Cronin sets all of this up rather quickly, while relying heavily on familiar time travel tropes, i.e. using knowledge of the future to make a fortune as an investor while not doing anything to alter future events. The pacing improves once the protagonist Karm establishes himself on his home planet Dyan’ta and gets to work on his mission: to save the entire race.
The strength of the book lies in the critique of the meddling of governments/militaries, and religion, with science. Hegira’s subtitle could have been: The Ethics of Cloning and the Religious Dimwits Who Think Their Opinion Matters. The bad guys in Hegira are a pair of power-hungry and conniving brothers. Brach, the king, kills their oldest brother to become the monarch, and Lerit, whose treachery leads to his position as the Archbishop of The Faith, team up to oppose Karm and his cloning research. In a way all too reminiscent of the way the church and right wing politicians have combined their forces to keep stem cell research, and other recent revelatory developments in genetics at bay, Hegira’s plot builds around what appears to be Cronin’s thesis: scientists should be left alone to do their good work.
Karm represents the future, both literally and figuratively, and his name being one letter short of karma does not seem to be a mistake. Such is an example of one of the more enjoyable quirks of the text: Cronin’s naming of things. He imagines alien animals like “thick furred pretzels,” and then hilariously, he creates great curse words, “I’ve got to get the strix out of here!” and my favorite: “Holy mutes!”
While Fans of more literary science fiction might be less than impressed with all of the tells in the dialogue, Hegira is fast paced and fun enough that such common errors of paperback fiction should not be judged too harshly. Written by a former middle school science teacher, Hegira contains plenty of cool science including cryogenics, cloning, and string theory-inspired time travel, to keep its Sci Fi readers interested. And it even manages a sweet love story.
With a little bit of everything, Hegira is a quick and fun read for fans of science fiction.
Pages: 292 | ASIN: B010E3EKC6
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