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Author Interview: Alex Adams Talks Debuts, 'White Horse', and the End of the World

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Debut author Alex Adams presents her post-apocalyptic vision in 'White Horse'.

There have been many different visions of the end of the world. What once was the domain of organized religion has since been turned over to writers, artists and filmmakers, and the apocalypse now comes in a variety of different flavors. Zombies seem to be enjoying a resurgence, but there’s also ecological disaster, climate change, nuclear war, meteoric impact… take your pick.

In her debut novel, White Horse, Alex Adams imagines a particularly grisly end to human civilization. An engineered virus runs rampant through mankind, altering our genetic structure and creating mutant abominations that roam the derelict wasteland. Some of these aberrations make zombies look like small fry. As in all the best post-apocalyptic literature, however, White Horse doesn’t just dwell upon the death and destruction – it also sends a message of hope and endurance that can survive even the darkest days.

For more on White Horse, read our book review and giveaway article. We have three copies to give away to our readers, so click on the link and enter if you want to get your hands on a free copy. The giveaway ends April 23, 2012.

We also had a chance to ask Adams a few questions prior to the publication of White Horse, picking over her brains like a scavenging mutant:

Dan Coxon: Apocalyptic (and post-apocalyptic) stories seem to be in vogue right now. Why do you think this is? What appealed to you about the genre?

Alex Adams: It’s 2012, the world is in a pretty crappy place politically, and I think there’s the lingering thought in people’s minds that the world could end, so we’re looking to stories where humanity has faced those trials and—ultimately—prevailed. They give us hope.

My own interest stems from optimism. I don’t want the world to end, but writer-me loves the endless possibilities of world end scenarios. It’s that chance to raze society and rebuild. It’s like Lego, but with words.

DC: White Horse goes to some pretty dark places very quickly. Were the violent and traumatic scenes hard to write? Or did you find that the story led you through?

AA: Oddly enough, I don’t find violence and trauma, in and of themselves, all that difficult to write. It’s the resulting emotions that tug at me in all the uncomfortable places; I really have to work to get those on the page. The story needed to be violent so I could push Zoe, my protagonist, to examine every single thing she knew about herself and the world. And that’s the tough part: pulling a psyche apart and poking at the entrails.

DC: I detect a justifiable mistrust of big business, and pharmaceutical companies in particular, in the plot. Was this intentional? Why did you choose them as the villain for your apocalypse?

AA: I don’t have a beef with big business or with pharmaceutical companies. Both have their place and are capable of great things; I was a chronic asthmatic and I’m alive because of the work they do. But depending on who’s at the helm they’re also capable of terrible things, especially when there’s a few extra dollars to be pocketed. And my distrust definitely stems from that triumph of greed over greater good. But they weren’t intentionally cast as the villain. I didn’t start writing with any message in mind—I was only seeking to entertain readers. But as the story evolved, so did the role of Pope Pharmaceuticals—the company Zoe works for. It sounds cheesy to say, “It was organic!” but really it was. Much of what’s on those pages came as a complete surprise to me. But with all the news about the tinkering that goes on in laboratories, it’s not a huge stretch to consider that something could escape and wreck havoc—be it accidental or in the pursuit of profit.

'White Horse' is published this April.

DC: You’ve traveled a lot over the years. How do you think this fed into your writing? And has is made it easier or harder to find time to write?


AA: The bulk of my traveling was done in my childhood, but at an impressionable age. Seeing things outside my previously self-contained world definitely altered me. Nothing brings about change like getting a first-hand look at the different ways in which other people live. And it has definitely affected my writing. I find it difficult to stay within geographical borders because I’m constantly curious about what’s going on outside them.

As far as my writing schedule goes, I’m a little more stationary (at the moment, at least!) so it’s not putting a dent in my writing time.

DC: As a debut novelist, what advice would you give to aspiring writers? How did the publication of White Horse come about?

AA: Be patient and learn your craft. Be curious—about everything.

It’s funny, I did several years worth of writing and learning and waiting, but when the sale of White Horse happened it happened like whiplash. I’d written this book that was quite unlike anything I’d written before (most of my previous writing is humorous), and just a little over a month after I began querying I signed on with my now-agent, Alexandra Machinist. One month to the day after that, we were wrapping up the auction. It was a years of writing and waiting so everything could happen almost overnight. I so love the unpredictability and excitement of the publishing business; there’s nothing like it!

DC: Finally, I see that White Horse will be the first of a trilogy. Any hints on where the story might head next?

AA: Red Horse starts out on an island, a handful of years after the events in White Horse. Emma, the protagonist, now lives in a broken, paranoid society where asking questions is a crime; a major problem because she hosts a radio talk show. But as the story expands Emma embarks on her own journey, one that will collide with White Horse‘s characters.

White Horse is available now from all good bookstores, and from the Simon & Schuster website. Also remember to check out our free book giveaway!