Wednesday, April 04, 2007

M. D. Benoit on Synergy

Robert: What drew you to your interest in genetics?

Dominique: I became interested in genetic engineering during the controversies about Genetically Modified Organisms. Then I came upon a newspaper article about genetic warfare, and I followed avidly the issues around cloning with Dolly the sheep and the race to map the human genome. This gave me ideas for stories. Synergy is about genetic modification and warfare. The next in the trio of novels about genetic engineering, Catalyst, is about human cloning farms. The third, which I’m working on right now, is entitled Entropy, and deals with the consequences of monoculture and genetically modifying food staples like rice, maize, and wheat.

Robert: Where did the complex characters come from in this novel? Did you model the characters on people you know, or are they entirely from your own imagination?

Dominique: Torver Lockwood, one of my two protagonists, popped out of a dream, all grown up. I woke up one morning and there he was, standing, and saying "Damn. I missed five years." He was the catalyst for the story I wanted to write.

Demetria was harder to write. As you noted earlier, I seem to be more comfortable writing from a man's point-of-view, so she was more difficult to "create". But part of the concept of the story was to have two broken people who became whole when they were together, like yin and yang, or sister souls. One white, one black. Or one black, one white. No one's perfect. I'm not talking about romance, here, but of finding something in someone else that makes you a better person when you're with them.

So I constructed Demetria painstakingly, but neither of them were based on people I knew. Occasionally, I'll do that. In Meter Made, I modeled one of the minor characters after someone I despised, then killed him off. Great fun.

Robert:There are a couple of important dream sequences in this novel. Were they inspired by Watson's story that he dreamed the double helix, or are you just interested in the role of dreams and the unconscious in research/creativity?

Dominique: I've always been a vivid dreamer. I dream in color, and can often remember my dreams days or weeks after I've had them. People shake their head when I recount my dreams, in great detail. I've also read a lot of Jung, and his interpretations of dreams have always fascinated me (some of these analyses are downright weird, almost as weird as the dreams themselves). In Synergy the visions, or dream sequences, were a way for me to explore the subconscious and provide Demetria with an outlet to question herself and her actions, to destabilize her world, while at the same time provide a connection with Torver.

Robert: What do you hope readers will take away with them from reading Synergy?

Dominique: First, that it was an entertaining book, that it took them away from their own reality, that they escaped into a new world for a while. Second, that it gets them to think about genetic engineering and its implications. A lot is happening, these days, from patenting genes and weaponry research, to modifying our food. It's important to be aware and informed, and not necessarily believe the politicians.

Robert: And, kind of a trivial question, but I'm curious: Where does the name "Torver" come from?

Dominique: Funny you should ask that. His name is a deviation of Trevor, but I had the idea from the French word "torve" which means grim, menacing, baleful. The names of my characters are all somehow related to the story. Demetria means "earth mother"; she provides Torver with grounding and a dose of reality.

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