John is here today interviewing Daphne Olivier. She is the author of the upcoming “Thunder on the Veldt,” but John will be talking to her today about her 2013 mystery/sci-fi release, “Pegasus Project.”
About “Pegasus Project”:
When Jack Randal lands a job with Bells Biological Research Centre, he sets off for the remote South African farm, unaware of the dangers lurking behind the high, electrified fence. It doesn’t take long for him to uncover a top-secret project. When a fellow scientist dies under mysterious circumstances, Jack zeros in on the Pegasus Project. Tension mounts as he probes the dark secret surrounding the genetically modified bio-fuel, and the time comes when he must decide whether to risk his life in order to prevent a global catastrophe.
John: The subject of Pegasus Project deals with GMOs, but the story hails from a long tradition of noir mysteries. What prompted that aspect of the story?
Daphne: I’ve spent a good deal of my life on a farm so agriculture was a natural choice for a theme. A high-security GMO research farm was the perfect setting. All I needed was a protagonist to step into danger and risk his life to prevent a global catastrophe. Bingo—The Pegasus Project was born!
John: A hero’s foibles and a villain’s virtues can be as compelling in a story as the plot itself. The actor, Stephen Lang, who plays Colonel Quaritch in the movie Avatar, describes the villain he plays as, “Half a step away from being a hero.” Yet the main antagonist’s redeeming attribute in Pegasus Project, that of wanting to address climate change is itself marred by his desire to prove himself to the memory of a father who thought he’d amount to nothing. Tell us more about how you devised this character and why.
Daphne: Most of my characters start off as carbon copies of people I know. But pretty soon a strange thing happens— they take on a life of their own. And when I ‘got into the antagonist’s head’ I discovered that few men set out to do evil. Most times their actions are the result of circumstances combined with a flaw in their character. That’s what I wanted to portray with Brandt.
John: Certain action scenes and the many research projects in the novel strike me as an interesting mix of Dr. Moreau and a scheme that James Bond would be dispatched to stop, all with the background feel of the movie of District 9. What did you base the Pegasus 694 research program on, and the actions taken in the story to maintain its secrecy?
Daphne: Some from my research, some from my imagination and some from talking to a friend who worked on a similar research farm in a remote part of South Africa.
John: You live in South Africa, where the story takes place, so the regulations governing GMOs differ from those of the FDA and EPA. Do you think that program like Pegasus 694 or the other practices portrayed in the novel could happen?
Daphne: I most certainly do—not only in South Africa, but anywhere in the world. In my opinion, the danger of GMO is not the fact that they are genetically modified (most GMOs in use today are beneficial) but the possibility that the research may fall into the wrong hands. If that happens, the result may be worse than the scenario painted in my novel.
John: If given a choice of research projects in any company, what scientific challenge would you tackle?
Daphne: Medicine. I trained as a nurse so my choice would be some aspect of medical research.
John: Your other works include The Way It Was, The Kennaway Woman and Rock-A-bye Baby in the Having My Baby anthology. The first reminds me of a Bruce Hornsby song title about people facing hard times and discrimination in hiring in America. Pegasus Project seems like a sharp break from those genres and closer to science fiction, which I enjoy most. Is this the start of a new tract in your writing?
Daphne: Not at all. I read and write in a wide range of genre. When not working on a novel, I write science fiction. Most of my stories have appeared in sci-fi magazines. Maybe, just maybe, my next novel will be a SF… or a thriller… or historical fiction… There are so many ideas going around in my head, it’s difficult to settle on one.
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About Daphne Olivier
From an early age Daphne Olivier read everything she could lay hands on—biography, fantasy, historical fiction, thriller, mythology, science fiction and the classics. Her novels reflect this wide interest for she has written in several different genre—thriller, science fiction, young adult and historical fiction—all set in South Africa. She lives in a small South African town with her husband and their two dogs.
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About John Steiner
John Steiner earned his Associate of Biology at Salt Lake Community College, where he is currently working as a tutor in math and chemistry. He exercises an avid interest in history, science, philosophy, mythology, martial arts as well as military tactics and technology.
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Winner will be chosen on March 11, 2014.