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Interview: Eileen Merriman talks about Black Spiral

Eileen Merriman talks to NZ Booklovers about Black Spiral.

Tell us a little about your novel.

Black Spiral is the third and final book in the Black Spiral trilogy, preceded by Violet Black (book one) and Black Wolf (book two). The triology is set in the mid 2030s, and is best described as dystopian/science fiction. In Black Spiral, we see the two main characters, Violet and Johnno, battling to maintain their freedom from the sinister Foundation while uncovering the truth about the M-fever (mutated measles virus) that has killed hundreds of young people and left the survivors (including Violet and Johnno) with extraordinary abilities. There is also an added complication that Violet is pregnant, and the Foundation will do anything to get their hands on the baby.

What inspired the triology?

I began writing this trilogy in March 2019, not long after the measles epidemic in New Zealand and Samoa. I’d started wondering what would happen if, due to falling vaccination rates, a mutated form of measles began to circulate – a more deadly form that was resistant to the current measles vaccine and afforded its survivors with extraordinary abilities – initially to read the minds of others, and then to travel outside of their bodies in a form of astral projection, including in animal form, as well as development of a ‘collective’ consciousness.

What research was involved?

I researched the complications of measles and then amplified those exponentially! I set parts of the trilogy in Northern Territory Australia and Germany, so I had to brush up on some of the geography and animals peculiar to these areas, although I did set these parts in places I’d already been. As the books are set in the mid 2030s, I had to think about what the world would look like then – with regards to climate change, disease, what species might have gone extinct, energy sources etc. That was a lot of fun! I often would ‘invent’ something and then realise it had already been invented! And my predictions as to what would happen if such a pandemic became eerily true, with school closing and people washing their fruit and vegetables after bringing them home from the supermarket.

What was your routine or process when writing this book?

Many of the chapters are quite short, so often I would sit down in the evening and write one to two chapters, which was quite satisfying. About a third of the way into the first book, I realised that it was definitely going to be two books and maybe even three, but didn’t definitely know it was going to be a trilogy until I was halfway through writing book two (Black Wolf). I wrote the second book in nine weeks, but took longer to write Black Spiral, around three to four months. Black Spiral was definitely the hardest book to write as I had to tie all the threads together and draw it to a satisfying conclusion. Also, I wrote a lot of Black Spiral during the first lockdown in 2020, which made it harder to focus!

If a soundtrack was made to accompany this book, name a song or two you would include.

Learning to Fly – Pink Floyd (good for the scenes where the characters are in bird form, swooping over Uluru, or Ayres Rock, and King’s Canyon in Central Australia ).

Ocean Eyes – Billie Eilish

(and can I name a third one? Grenade - Bruno Mars)

If your book was made into a movie, who would you like to see playing the lead characters?

Violet Black – Natalia Dyer (off Stranger Things)

Johnno (Phoenix) Fletcher – Joel Courtney (starred in The Kissing Booth)

What did you enjoy the most about writing this novel?

Seeing where my imagination could take me – how far I could push the limits of plausiblity with a science fiction novel – and seeing whether I could write in this genre at all!

What did you do to celebrate finishing this book?

I sent it to my publisher, went for a run, and that evening celebrated with a glass of red wine!

What is the favourite book you have read so far this year and why?

I think it would have to be Greta and Valdin by Rebecca Reilly. This was funny, quirky and heartwarming, and I loved the whole family dynamic.

What’s next on the agenda for you?

The first book of my Eternity Spiral duology, Indigo Moon, will be released in September of this year. This is the story of the next generation of virally optimised teenagers, set about thirty years on from where Black Spiral ends. It’s not a prequisite for the reader to have read the Black Spiral trilogy beforehand. The second book, Time’s Raven, will be released in the first half of 2023. I’ve recently finished writing a psychological thriller for adults, and have started work on another young adult book (contemporary fiction this time).

Penguin Random House


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