You’d be forgiven for thinking that Chris Mooney’s new novel Blood World (hardcover, Kindle, audiobook) is a vampire story or maybe a sci-fi thriller. After all, it has people doing weird things with blood. But in the following email interview, he explains that while this does take place in the not-so-distant future, and does get bloody, it’s actually more grounded and plausible than you might think.
Photo Credit: Berkley
To begin, what is Blood World about, and what kind of world is it set in?
Blood World is a crime novel / thriller set, maybe, five years from now, where scientists have discovered that certain people called “carriers” have a gene keeps their blood — and body — in optimum condition, whether that be fighting off disease or keeping them looking young and healthy. When scientists give non-carriers a transfusion of carrier blood mixed with a certain drug cocktail, the blood not only cures disease, it reverses aging, smooths out your skin, and gives you a ton of energy and the sex life of your dreams.
When my book opens up, we’re in Los Angeles, where carriers are being abducted in record numbers from their homes, schools, on the streets, and imprisoned in these secretive blood farms. Their blood is sold to the rich and powerful. Only my guy, Sebastian, has the best blood on the market: Pandora, and it’s in high demand. And the police want to find him. Badly.
My other main character, Ellie DeBatista, is a young policewoman who goes undercover because she’s the only one who has a possible lead on Pandora.
Where did you get the idea for Blood World and how did that idea change as you wrote it?
There’s this huge trend going on — especially in Silicon Valley — where people are trying to find the fountain of youth. I was reading a lot about people who undergo blood transfusions from donors who are much, much younger and healthier. They believe this new, fresh blood will make them feel better, maybe even prolong their lives. So, I took that idea one step further: What if that actually could happen today, right now, in modern society? What if there was this blood that could not only cure illness but erase wrinkles, firm up muscles, and give you unlimited energy? What if you could look not only ten years younger but feel stronger and more powerful, and eat whatever you want, whenever you want, and not gain a single pound? Then it became, well, how far are you willing to go to get your hands on that type of blood?
Earlier you said Blood World was a crime novel / thriller, but it also sounds like it’s a sci-fi crime novel….
It’s definitely not a sci-fi novel, or a medical thriller. There isn’t any sci-fi in it — which was done on purpose. It has a sci-fi aspect to it in the sense that Blood World takes place in the not-so-distant future, but all of the stuff that in the book reads as though it could be happening right now. Everyone knows about blood transfusions, and everyone can grasp the idea that, in this world I created, people get blood transfusions.
Instead, it’s a thriller / crime story that has a medical component that’s based in reality. It’s a modern concept with a slight twist. It’s a book designed for people who love thrillers and crime novels, because it centers on two main characters: Sebastian, the owner of the top blood farm in Los Angeles, and one of the most complicated and compelling villains I’ve ever written; and Ellie, the young policewoman who decides to go undercover and has to make very tough choice that will alter her life forever.
Did you ever debate making this a story about vampires? Or was that just too obvious?
That territory has already been well-covered by Stephen King and others. I was more interested in the question of, how far are you willing to go to stay alive? If you had a family member dying of disease, would you be willing to buy carrier blood knowing it came from some teenager or young adult who was abducted and then locked away in some farm like cattle? Would you cross that ethical line to save someone you love? Or, even better, would you do it if it meant you could erase ten years off your age, look fantastic, have great muscle definition and eat whatever you want and not gain a single pound? Those are the questions that interested me, and watching those characters navigate those waters in very interesting, unexpected, and thrilling ways.
Now, Blood World is not your first novel. Are there any writers, or maybe specific stories, that had a big influence on Blood World and not on anything else you’ve written?
Dennis Lehane’s Mystic River was one of my favorite books, and I always wanted to write a story with that emotional depth. When I was writing Blood World, I thought of it as Mystic River meets The Godfather. I wanted to write about two main characters, Sebastian and Ellie, and how their lives intersect, and the choices that they make. And I wanted it had to be a page-turner full of twists and turns.
What about such non-literary influences as movies, TV shows, or video games; did any of those have a big influence on Blood World?
It’s a great question, but there are probably too many to name. With movies, TV shows, and video games, I want to create that feeling we all get, which is, “Okay, I’ll just watch / play for five more minutes.” And that turns into ten and then twenty because you’re so wrapped up in the story. The same applies to my books. When you pick up Blood Word, I want the world around you to disappear. I want you to miss your bus stop and I want your three-hour plane ride or drive to feel like ten minutes. I want you to go to bed at a night and say, “I’m only going to read one chapter,” and you end up reading five or ten more because you can’t put it down. I love that feeling, and that’s what I want to give my readers.
A bunch of your other novels — including Every Pretty Thing, Fear The Dark, and The Soul Collectors — feature a CSI agent named Darby McCormick. Are you planning on writing other novels with Blood World‘s main character, Ellie DeBatista?
I would be open to writing more about Ellie. She’s a great character — she’s smart, empowered, knows exactly what she wants and won’t put up with any crap. I enjoyed my time with her. She and my other series character, Darby McCormick, would get along famously.
But while there’s no plan at this stage to turn Blood World into a series, or a trilogy, I will say that, as I was writing — especially Ellie’s character — I conceived of two more ideas that would fit nicely into a trilogy. It was sold as a stand-alone book, but if fans want more of Blood World and its characters, I’m certainly open to exploring them. But at the end of the day, the way I write is to make sure each book is its own separate thing.
Earlier I asked if Blood World had been influenced by any movies, TV shows, or video games. Do you think Blood World would work as a movie, show, or game?
Blood World would work best as a TV show. It’s gritty and dark — it reminds me, in some ways, of HBO’s The Outsider, or Westworld. The book has a lot of great themes, and a lot of character depth — a lot of twist and turns — and TV is the best vehicle for that.
If Blood World was going to be adapted into a TV show, who would you want them to cast as Ellie and the other main characters?
I didn’t have anyone specific in mind when I was writing it. At the end of the day, what you hope for is someone to come in and give serious thought to the idea and the characters. I like it when, for example, really serious actors and directors elevate a mainstream type of story into something that’s not only gripping but also something that also has a lot of depth to it.
Finally, if someone enjoys Blood World, which of your other novels would you suggest they read next and why that one?
I would suggest they start with The Missing, which is the first Darby McCormick book. It’s one of my favorites — and it seems to be a fan favorite, too. That’s the book that really launched me globally, so it holds a special place. And for fans of Darby McCormick, you’re going to love Ellie DeBastista in Blood World. Sign up for my newsletter at chrismooneybooks.com and you’ll get an exclusive prologue that’s not in the book. It takes you into the daily life of two carriers who have been living in captivity for years. They play a huge role in the book.