Today we have the pleasure of speaking with Dave Edlund, author of the suspense novel titled Unintended Consequences. Thank you for joining us and allowing for this interview.
DE: Thank you, it’s a pleasure.
PBR: Your story has a powerful level of credibility within the concept, actions and reactions of the characters. Please tell us a bit how the concept of synthetic petroleum undermining the foundation of OPEC and other oil producing nations became developed to become such a suspenseful story. Do you think events like this are a real possibility?
DE: As I observe global events—politics, economics—it seems that the unexpected is more often the norm. I owned my first car during the oil embargos in the ‘70’s; energy prices soared. We want to think we are helpless, but I don’t believe that’s true . Forty years ago, OPEC thought it could dictate US policy by severely limiting the supply of oil. But what if we didn’t need to import oil because the US was close to learning how to synthesize it? How would the OPEC countries, as well as large oil companies, respond to the threat of losing billions in revenue? As a country, we strive for energy independence. But maybe there are unintended consequences of achieving that goal? I think that premise is very real, and the technology is within our grasp.
PBR: Your book carries the reader through Ecuador. Have you actually traveled or simply researched the locations used in your book?
DE: I have been fortunate to travel a lot, although I have never been to the jungles of Ecuador. I have been to Caracas; transited the Panama Canal; French Polynesia, Hawaii, and the Caribbean Island many times; Europe and Asia—in fact I was in London on September 11, 2001. But my most memorable trip was to the former Soviet Union, just prior to the fall of the Iron Curtain. And yes, I have been that guy at the professional conference who is severely jet lagged, can hardly keep his eyes open during the proceedings, and is startled to waken in the middle of the night, not know where he is or what day it is.
PBR: You have formed a memorable character with Peter Savage. How did you come up with his character and what attributes of his do you enjoy writing about the most?
DE: I love to read action-adventure novels, or action thrillers. But I am disappointed by characters—heroes—who are too perfect to be real. So, I set my mind to create a hero that is very real. He has weaknesses; flaws that make him vulnerable. He is not Dirk Pitt or James Bond. Rather, I wanted Peter Savage to be what I image a real person to be when faced with incredible challenges. Peter Savage wants to believe that life will unfold according to a standard script, but when tragedy strikes he is forced to make difficult choices. I like writing about this. I think that at some level everyone has had to deal with personal loss or tragedy. How we manage that says a lot about our character. I also wanted Peter Savage to carry a strong belief about what is right and what is wrong, and then allow him to struggle with the shades of gray that are inevitably present in complex circumstances.
PBR: Your personal knowledge in fuel reforming products is impressive. What changes do you see for the near future?
DE: Fuel reforming is a term used to describe the process of converting carbon-containing materials—such as garbage, biomass, manure, coal, and oil—into hydrogen-rich gaseous products. It is old technology, and as I mentioned in the book, this technology serves as the basis for production of synthetic petroleum. The South Africans use this technology to this day, and Germany used it to prolong World War II. For better or worse, the impact that reforming will have on society is rooted in economics—it is not a question about technology. As long as petroleum and gas from the ground are relatively cheap, fuel reforming and synthetic oil product have limited commercial scope. But it is finding use in niche applications such as backup power at telecom sites.
PBR: Who are some of your favorite authors or what books have influenced you the most in your writing career?
DE: That’s a tough question, because there are so many. My list of favorite authors changes with time. But those authors that have influenced me? I’d have to say Clive Cussler, Matthew Reilly, James Rollins, and Michael Crichton—maybe with a dash of Tom Clancy. I truly like the Dirk Pitt adventures; they are very entertaining—witty characters, intriguing plots, and exciting locations. Probably more than any other author, it is those novels that sparked my interest in writing someday. And then there is Matthew Reilly. Three of his novels—Ice Station, Scarecrow, and Contest—are, in my opinion, some of the best examples of “can’t-put-it-down” nonstop action that you’ll ever find. Rollins also pulls together some exciting plots and interesting characters—I especially like his Sigma Force team. But for a demonstration of the subtle art of melding science fact into science fiction, I think Crichton is at the top of the list. And I’d say that Jurassic Park is as good as it gets.
PBR: What other prior works have you published?
DE: I’ve published an engineering text on reforming methanol to make hydrogen for fuel cell applications. The book deals with the current state of the science and technology, and discusses the barriers to commercialization—which are primarily rooted in economics. In fact, mostly my writing has been technical—more than 85 patents and a dozen technical papers. But writing technical papers and books has become boring in the sense that your material is defined for you. In contrast, when writing fiction I define the content—the characters, the action, the plot and locations—I enjoy that. It’s intellectual creation at a different level.
PBR: We have learned Peter Savage will continue his exploits in your next novel, The Devil of Darfur. Please tell us what you can about the sequel.
DE: The plot is based on the premise that genetic material, recovered from Neanderthal remains, can be infused with human DNA to cause cellular transformations. This research is being conducted by a secretive character named Colonel Ming. He is a rather brilliant geneticist, actually, although his goals are less than honorable. Naturally, Peter helps the SGIT team, led by his good friend Commander James Nicolaou, on a clandestine raid on Ming’s compound in western Sudan, where it is believed human exprimentation is being conducted. How Peter happens to be in that part of Africa is a major part of the novel and I don’t want to give too much away! I’ve introduced two of Peter’s friends—Todd Steed and Gary Stout—and they play significant parts throughout the story. The action is fast and furious; but, in keeping with my goal of making the characters “real” and the plot plausible, there is also tragedy, and not everyone will make it home. There is a sample chapter posted on my web site.
PBR: We certainly wish you the best of success with Unintended Consequences and with your upcoming sequel. Again, thank you for sharing some of your thoughts with us.
DE: Thank you.