Cyrus Keith is the fortunate by-product of an Englishman who one day happened upon a charming young lass of Irish origin. The world has never quite been the same since. He has published four novels and a novella in his award-winning series The NADIA project, and is working on his next project, a time-travel thriller called Tempus Fugitive, see below for a sneak peek. He lives in Michigan with his wife, four children, and the ghost of a young girl.
PD: What have you written?
CK: So far, I’ve released four books in The NADIA Project:
- Becoming NADIA: a novel. “What’s one more little white lie?”
- Unalive: a novel. “Nadia Velasquez is not the only transhuman. The Unalive are among us. And no one is safe.”
- Critical Mass: a novel. “On their own, they’re deadly. Together, they could save the world—if they don’t destroy it.”
- Lies and Paine: a novella. “The truth doesn’t hurt. It kills.”
PD: Is there a message in your novel/s that you want readers to grasp?
CK: I know my books feature a lot of action, and that’s all fine. I love the bullets flying, and normal people turning into bigger than life heroes, and romance, and all the sorts of things people expect in a thriller. But I also wanted to include something deeper, and ask questions that make my readers think.
In The NADIA Project, I want my readers to look at life in a new way, and to realize how precious a gift it really is. Additionally, I ask “What constitutes life?” Donna Hermsen, one of my characters, asks, “What makes a person?”
I want that question to linger in your mind as you read through the series.
PD: Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?
CK: A little bit of both, lately. But Becoming NADIA started with a fixed working outline generated by myself and a friend in a frenetic evening’s work. Where many “plotters” like to have Point A, Point B… all the way down to Point Z all lined up and ready to go, I started a Point A, but by the time I got to Point H some very unexpected things began happening. For one thing, Bunny Kalinsky and Irving Ratzinger just kind of generated their own, and when you give a hyperactive computer nerd just a little too much room, he will surprise you, guaranteed.
PD: What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing Becoming NADIA to life?
CK: First off, I’m a father of four and a husband of the most understanding and supportive wife in the world. They gave up a lot to make sure I had time to put fingers to keyboard making this story happen. It’s their vision as much as it is mine, and I appreciate them all.
This story drove itself from the word “go.” My research went into areas I never even knew existed, and some were downright frightening. Of course, that played right into making the story even better, but these technologies (cloning, genetic design, antimatter, and neurostructural personality applications) are dangerously close to being realized today.
I will say this: One of the hardest things about bringing this story to life is saying goodbye to some of my characters. I knew not everyone would survive through to the end, and I wasn’t even sure when I started who would and who wouldn’t. But they all became my friends, whispering over my shoulder, surprising me with their quirks and foibles, hidden strengths I never even knew were there when I conceived their names in my mind. I mourned for weeks after completing the series, because I knew it would be a long time before I saw any of the survivors again, and it was time to move on to another project. There may be a story or two left, but for now the Project is complete. Saying goodbye is the hardest part.
EXCERPT – Tempus Fugitive
Ellie set a glass of Sprite on the work bench next to my elbow. I listened to the fizz for a second before I took a swig. “What do you want?”
“I want you do keep doing what you’re trained to do, Simon. I want you to make history.”
I laughed, a sarcastic chuckle. “You got the wrong man, Doc. The last time I made history, the Marines damn near hanged me for it.”
Doc pulled up a chair of his own. He locked my gaze with a stare so deep, I could swear he looked right into my soul. “But they didn’t. They settled for your plea deal, because they knew you were really in the right. They only had to press the issue because someone raised Cain in the State Department.”
“Lot of good that did me. I might as well have let them stretch my neck for all my chances of a normal life.”
“Simon, that makes you perfect for what I need. As of right now, thanks to that truck and the rain, you area dead man. You can be invisible now. In and out quickly. No one knows any better.”
It was my turn to stare down the doc. “I don’t know if I like where this is going.”
He grabbed a manila envelope from the next bench over. “This is where it’s going, Mr. Crocker.” He took out a photo and handed it to me. I found myself staring at a police mug shot of a middle-aged, scruffy-looking character with hard eyes and a scar on his forehead in the shape of a circle with a diagonal bar across it like one of those “Do not” signs. Doc went on. “This is Gerard Alan Fikus. He’s a six-time murderer.”
I handed the photo back. “He’s in jail now, right? Busted?”
“Oh, yes. He’s in custody. And in sixth months, he’ll take a needle.”
I shrugged. “Sounds like he’s getting his due.”
“I want more,” said Doc. He slid the picture back into the manila envelope. I caught a glimpse of several sheets of paper as well before he slipped the tabs through the hole in the flap and folded them flat. “I want you to save all six of his victims, in one fell blow.”
By way of an answer, Doc pulled a strange-looking pistol from a drawer under the work bench. I say “pistol” only because there’s no mistaking a pistol. It had a grip on one end, and a hole on the other. The barrel was a smooth, solid piece of a dull, gray metal about nine inches long. The grip had a hollow slot in the bottom for a magazine. It didn’t have a slide or charging handle of any kind, and the bore seemed to be too small to do any good. Doc handed it to me before pulling out a black rectangle with two bright metal tabs on one end. “This,” he said, “is the charge pack. It has twenty-five needles, and the power supply.” He pointed to the metal tabs. “Never connect these two leads. If you do, we’ll have to find you with a HEPA filter.” He handed the pack to me, and told me how to insert it into the grip. “The safety is that lever on the left side, just above the firing stud.” He sat back and nodded, an eager grin on his face.
“So,” I said finally, “you want me to bust him with a BB gun? That might make him cry, but I doubt it’ll do those people he killed any good.”
“No, Simon.” Doc stood and beckoned me to follow him. He walked over to the same door through which I’d nearly lost my sanity not ten minutes before. Before I could protest or pull him back, he flung it wide open and stepped through.
Into a brick-walled alley strewn with dumpsters and trash. At one end, a brick wall turned the alley into a dead end. In front of the wall stood a stack of railroad ties. A paper target was tacked to one of the ties, about five feet up. Doc took the gun, inserted the charge pack, and handed it back to me. Then he dropped back and pointed at the target. I shrugged my shoulders and thumbed the safety, took a standard isosceles stance, and squeezed the stud. A shockingly loud ripping noise erupted from the muzzle. The target flew into a cloud of shreds and wood chips as the burst of needles chewed it into dust. I stood amazed, listening to the power whine in my ears. The barrel still pointed at the ties, where a football-sized hole stared back at me from the ties.
I figured this would be a great time to say something deep and philosophical. “What the Hell, Murgatroyd?”