Sophisticated Suspense and more . . .

A Conversation With the Author

Here are Reader Questions (RQ) for Dorian Paul (DP).  If you want to join in the conversation, send your questions to

Reader's Question (RQ): Where did the idea of a bioengineered form of TB come from?

Dorian Paul (DP):  Well, lots of attention is being paid to TB as a major problem in people with HIV/AIDS, especially in Africa, so the idea makes sense.  TB is an old "new" disease and people are aware of it.  Most of us remember hearing stories of the TB hospitals from the last century.  Now that it's come back to haunt the world again is downright chilling.  And by the way, bioengineering TB as a form of germ warfare is not outside the realm of possibility and most definitely inside the realm of scaring the heck out of us.

As an aside, on a trip to Los Alamos recently (where the top secret Manhattan project that gave us the Atomic bomb at the end World War II was conceived) an interesting detail popped out in a visit to a local historical museum.  Robert Oppenheimer, the physicist who led the project, knew of the New Mexico mountains from the time he went there to recuperate from TB in the late 1920s.  He was a big proponent for the Los Alamos site due to its remote location, one he knew well. Of course, that's just an odd connection between a world-class scientist and TB, but you've got to admit that in the field of modern medicine, HIV/AIDS is one of our major adversaries and don't we wish it could be solved by something like the Manhattan project.  TB goes hand-in-glove with the problem of opportunistic infections caused by HIV/AIDS and its resurgence in recent years is largely due to the explosion of HIV. 

The Science Corner has more about TB:    Read more about TB

RQ:  Why did you pick a bioweapon that didn't cause mass casualties?

DP:  What do you find creepier?  Knowing everybody is going to die or that only some people will . . . but you've no way of knowing if it's going to be you or one of your kids.


The Science Corner has more about germ warfare:    Read more about Germ Warfare

RQ:  Morocco seems like an unlikely setting for a sophisticated terror plot.  Why choose Morocco, London, and Paris for the action rather than NYC?

DP:  Good question.  For one thing Morocco is a known gateway for terrorists, as Aziz Bouchta tells David.  And there's a lot more going on there than meets the eye according to those in the know.  So, while the remoteness of the Atlas Mountains as a choice for a high-tech terror lab might seem unusual, you could also call it inspired.  

As far as London and Paris, they represent the 'old' world, the 'civilized' world.  New York is the 'new' world and has already been attacked by terrorists on a huge scale.  NYC images remain fresh in people's minds to this day.  London and Paris can be imagined because of 9/11, and the fact that these cities have had their own terrorist attacks even more recently.  Also, given the terrorist events in the news throughout the world today, any place would seem a real possibility.

RQ:  Have you ever worked as a scientist?

DP:  Not in a lab as a PhD scientist, but as a career in medical and scientific writing with tons of visits to labs and interviews with scientists.  The most technical of technical papers have passed my desk, been used in publications, and been double and triple referenced from peer-reviewed journals.  Claire and Sandra's world were a living and breathing part of daily experience.

RQ:  Overall your view of the good guys includes the government.  That goes a little countercultural these days.  Was that a risk?

DP:  Depends on what you mean by risk.  Yes, in terms of political correctness.  No, in terms of personal knowledge.  The world abounds with good people trying to do the right thing.  That David and Claire found one another isn't all that surprising.  That they had a hard time trusting one another is a sad fact of human nature.

RQ:  Claire and David each have enemies they have a lot in common with.  Was that intentional?

DP:  Yes.  We all have a doppelgänger or 'double' and what we see in David and Claire's enemies is just another form of them.  Could Claire have been Dr. Black?  Well, not in terms of putting her scientific knowledge to use to kill not cure, but in terms of her quest for knowledge, she and Dr. Black share the same passion to know and understand the reproductive cycle of TB.  And they want to best each other.

David and Varat are really two sides of the same coin.  There but for fortune, they might be interchangeable.  David knows this and so does Varat.  Their fight to the death is like suicide.  When Claire realizes this about David, she really has trouble trusting him.  Will she in the end?  What do you think?

RQ:  Varat has no religious or ideological beef with Western culture, yet he's behind a terror plot of massive scale, not just the people his TB kills, but also inciting a war between the U.S. and Iran.  Why did you choose a villain more interested in personal vengeance than global jihad?

DP:  Sure, there are folks intent on global jihad, and yes, they do want to wreak havoc in the world.  Those people fit the mold of the terrorists we hear about every day.  And we have to be aware of them and keep our wits about us.

But Varat's personal vengeance against those who destroyed his own family and family name, the turning of that into a circuitous scheme where he plots the downfall of his own Persian heritage by using the Western powers against them, that's more like a one-off.  Such a plan would have to have been nurtured over a lifetime.  People hold a grudge, that's human nature.  But Varat has a chip on his shoulder that makes UBL look like a piker.   Unfortunately, personal vengeance can definitely trump ideology.  Ask David.  It makes Varat both an interesting and believable character.

RQ:  The science seems completely believable.  Could something like this really happen?

DP:  Absolutely.  Maybe it wouldn't be TB, perhaps another bacterium or virus, but bioengineering is capable of more every year.  The same goes for nanotechnology, and Bucky Balls really do exist.   The cancer research that gave Claire the idea of attaching a bactericidal agent to a vector has been tried, and these kinds of things are the hope of tomorrow for many of the diseases and conditions that plague man.  Unfortunately, science can be turned against us.  Just ask Dr. Frankenstein.

The Science Corner has more about nanotechnology:   Read more about nanotechnology

The Science Corner has more about Bucky Balls:          Read more about Bucky Balls  

RQ:  You manage to get into the heads of David and Claire without making either seem typically male or female by giving them each male and female characteristics.    Do most of your readers like or dislike this way of treating the hero/heroine?

DP:  Hard to say, but I like to think they appreciate it, especially in the opposite sex.

RQ:  Do you figure out the plot step by step or does it just magically come together?

DP:  Writing is a fascinating process and many different constructs can be used.  Having a plot with threads that work together makes the writer and the reader interested, but sometimes things you never thought of suddenly give the story a whole new pastiche.   Jeremy was a late addition to the story, but his death wound up infusing the actions and motivations of so many characters it's hard to believe he was never part of the original story.  That was true for Roscoe's sister Amy too, but by having her, Claire came to see Roscoe in a whole new way.  Maybe she even sort of loves him.

In the final analysis, storytelling is everything.  That's what makes the characters come alive.  No joy for the writer, no joy for the reader!

RQ:  Is one of the characters in the book you?  Or do you have a favorite character?

DP:  Whoever the point-of-view character is becomes the favorite at that moment.   That's true and necessary in order to uphold the pact the writer has with the reader – to produce a book worth the time it takes to read.  Hope you enjoy Risking the World!