Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Interview with Kyle Mills author of "Darkness Falls"

Kyle mills published his first book in 1995, "Rising Phoenix" and has gone on to write about one book per year since. His latest book "Darkness Falls" features the character Mark Beamon who has been 3 other books ("Storming Heaven," "Sphere of Influence," and "Free Fall")besides his first book "Rising Phoenix."

I had a chance to talk with Kyle about the book "Darkness Falls" and we talked about the book, the environment and a little Rock Climbing.

You can read my review of "Darkness Falls" at:

Gil T. Wilson: First of all "Darkness Falls" is an awesome book.

Kyle Mills: Well, thanks alot, glad you enjoyed it.

GW: You had me checking the gas prices everyday.

KM: Still not $20[per gallon]?

GW: This book tackles the problem the world's diminishing oil supply...except you give it a little boost by injecting an oil eating bacteria. How did you come across that idea?

KM: well primarily i wanted to explore the world's reliance on oil, there's alot of information out there about peak oil, which is these people that largely think that the reduction in oil supply is going to be a huge disaster for the world. I don't really agree with but if you did it FAST, then it would be a major disaster. So I wanted to destroy the world's oil supply in a short period of time. And then I had to figure out how to do it. It was a pretty hard task, you're talking about 4,000 producing wells across the world and you couldn't just go sabotage them. I came up with this idea because I had read somewhere about oil eating bacteria that they used to clean up oil spills. And I wondered, well, could you modify a bacteria to live in a well and destroy a well. I found out those bacteria you don't have to do anything with and they actually do destroy wells. There's really a real-world counterpart to this it's called Geobacillus thermodenirificans, and it was found in a Chinese oil well. The Chinese had actually sequenced it's DNA to clean up spills. It's a tough little bug, that lives entirely on oil and can survive in temperatures up to 160 degrees. It can now be modified to do whatever suits the person doing the modifying.

GW: So which came first your idea of this or did you do the research and discover this was the way to destroy the oil?

KM: First I came up with the idea that a bacteria would work really well, and deals with all my problems, being so many wells and everything. But the question was is that possible or feasible, and then that's when the research came into it and I discovered it wasn't only feasible but was that it was happening. I mentioned in the book problems in the Hawtaw Trend in Saudi Arabia with bacterial contamination damaging their machinery, that actually happened, I didn't make that up.

GW: The book brings back the character of Mark Beamon an FBI agent, who appeared first in "Rising Phoenix" and then in "Heaven", "Sphere of Influence", and "Free Fall". In this book he is now working for Homeland Security, not to give too much away, but after the world has changed in your book, we've lost almost all the oil, are you going to be bringing him back again? His world has changed.

KW: Tom Clancy has a word for it the "Ryanverse," he has this whole alternate reality where Baltimore's been blown up. I don't know, I could, certainly, I honestly don't think that given a lengthy time to adapt, that our lifestyles would change all that much, air travel would be problematic. Cars, well I drive a Prius, even with that technology, which is not particularly advanced, gas prices are irrelevant, it gets 50 miles to the gallon, if it went up to $20 / gallon then it would be bad but wouldn't kill me.
And with electric cars.
I hadn't really considered that when I did the book and wasn't sure how it was going to end. It's hard to imagine never writing another book with him, he's been with me for so long. It'll be complicated.

GW: If you ever did bring him back you would be bordering on the science-fiction genre, this book 10 years ago could have been viewed as science fiction. Have you ever thought of writing science-fiction.

KM: Yeah, well I always feel like that thriller writers write really near time science-fiction. Because 2 years into the future is this is what's going to happen. That's kind of what I'm shooting for. Of course, I could always write a book with him that is really pulled in, like him investigating a murder in a small town, where the rest of the world wouldn't be part of the setting.

GW: Mark Beamon is the central character in this book, more focus seems to be on the scientist Erin Neal and the destruction of oil, yet Mark is the one that fixes everything and whose character you care most about. Was Erin Neal the intended focus.

KM: That was intended. Honestly, when I started this book Erin was intended to be the lead character, and Mark would be a strong secondary character. In the end it sort of balances out and it probably depends on how much you like each character and which one is the lead character. But, the idea was that Mark would be secondary.

GW: If a movie is ever made featuring one the Mark Beamon books, who do you see playing Mark Beamon?

KM: That's such a hard question. You know I always that that at this time, I wouldn't mind Bruce Willis, if he didn't mind putting on 40 or 50 pounds. He's funny and sarcastic and I think you need that to bring that to Mark or else he can come off being really dark.

GW: This book seems to have a bit of an environmental message to it. How much of that was intended and how much just developed out of writing the story?

KM: Yes because it has become a big issue. A Bizarre issue, in that it has become sort of religious. You've got the believers and the non-believers. I feel it should be a scientific debate. It should be dispassionate, you do this and it benefits you and you don't it could harm. It has become such a polarizing issue, Al Gore is such a polarizing figure, not necessarily his fault but he is. There is a lot of of misinformation out there. I'm always interested in that. I wrote a book about the Tobacco Industry ["Smoke Screen"]almost for the same reason, that it gave me the opportunity to wade through all this interesting subject where there's a lot of misinformation and to try to kind of weed out the truth. That is pretty much what I wanted to do here because it's such an interesting subject. Again pretty much everything I said was true. That's what I like are thrillers where it is true and you just do aslight twist on it. There are a lot of thriller writers that write much more fanciful stuff, you know stuff where the guy keeps shooting and never run out of bullets. People love it and people write them really well. It's not really my style. I've always loved those books where like you said "make you check the gas prices," where you think, "yeah this could really happen tomorrow."

GW: You said you drive a Prius, how far off the grid do you live?

KM: Not far off, my other car is a '52 Chevy pickup and gets about 4 miles to the gallon and belches smoke everywhere.

GW: Do you think you could ever get off the grid? Because that is a "worst case scenario" in the book, that those that could get off the grid easily would survive.

KM: I read a book on building "Off Grid Houses" because obviously this guy [Erin Neal] lived in one. Honestly I was fascinated, I seemed it could be fun.

GW: You live in Wyoming, I imagine winters would be really hard to live "off grid"

KM: I know people that do it. You'd have a pretty small house with a pretty big wood stove. It's amazing when you really start thinking about what you need. There's a theory, which I think is true, that says the more energy you have the more energy you need. If you have a ton of electricity you invent stuff like iPods. And I'm guilty of this, I could live without my iPod, I have 2 of them. But if electricity was expensive or wasn't available you simply wouldn't have items like that. But it sort of continues to grow. Which is a problem for the environmental movement, as it's structured now. You have people like Al Gore who seem to be preaching austerity, though unfortunately he's preaching from a 10,000 square foot house and a private jet. And that is never going to work.

GW: You in fact touch on that in this book in that the character Erin Neal wrote a book about how the environmental movement will never work unless it becomes profitable.

KM: And strangely, I just discovered that THAT book was written by somebody, and I'm in the process of reading it. The environmental movement did not start because the environment was being damaged. During the industrial revolution, we damaged environment like crazy. What caused it was affluence. People suddenly said, "It's irritating that the river keeps catching on fire. Why don't we clean it up? We have the money, the time and we're not starving to death. Let's Do it." If you take away the affluence, well, a hungry person doesn't care what they throw in a river. So It's really creating industries, I think is what's going to solve it. People can make money and also benefit the environment. Telling people they have to ride their bike to work, I don't think too many people are going to want to do that.

GW: How and when did you decide to become a writer?

KM: I kind of came into it in a weird way. I worked for a bank, and didn't feel I did anything creative. I was into athletics, so I was physical and worked with numbers just not creative. So I decided I was going to build furniture. My wife realized that that was going to take up the whole garage. It gets really cold here in the winter and she was thinking about having to shovel her car out every day, so she said "Couldn't you just buy a computer and write a novel?" and I said "Yeah, that would be kind of fun." So I bought all these books about how to write a novel and read them all and bought a computer and hammered out "Rising Phoenix." With no real expectation that it would ever be published. Everyone tells you it's impossible to get published, and it is really hard. So I thought if I went into it thinking I was going to be a rich and famous author, it wouldn't be too much fun. But to do it as an intellectual exercise and exercise in creativity was really fun. I've never had as much fun writing a book as writing that one. Because there's no pressure, no deadline and nobody has to really like it. I finished it and let some people read it that I thought wouldn't be critical of me. In fact I told a couple that a friend of mine wrote it, so they could be critical of it. Everyone seemed to like it. I'd ask them, "Does this seem like a real book to you?" So I started trying to get it published and it took forever and it eventually became really successful, so I went on to sign a 2 book deal and many many since then. Actually 9 books, "Darkness Falls" was titled "Book 9" for a long time.

GW: Your other books are "Second Horseman"(FBI), "Fade"(Homeland Security), "Burn Factor" (FBI), and "Smoke Screen" (Tobacco Industry), why is it that government agencies (especially the fbi) are the subject matter of your writing?

KM: Well lazines probably. My father was and FBI agent for 25 years and went on to be director of Interpol in the US. I grew up in an FBI family and I have known alot of FBI agents and it's a world that I'm really familiar with and I don't have to work hard to be authentic in.

GW: What do you do when you are not writing?

KM: Mostly Rock climbing, I've been obsessed with it forever. I always thought I'd outgrow it, someday I think I will. I go on a few climbing trips every year still and probably climb 2 or 3 times a week.

GW: What are you working on now?

KM: I'm working on a book about Africa. I spent a lot of time in Africa, I lived there a lot in winters, because it's so cold here [Wyoming]. I've always wanted to write a book about Africa, It's such a fascinating place. I've never really quite figured out the right story. It's gotta be a thriller, but I like to also deal issues in my books. I finally thought up a story that I thought would work, be exciting and interesting and hopefully informative so I'm working on that now.

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