That’s basically my favorite plot, protagonist or problem.
How so? Well, Unique can be good or it can be bad.
As a girl, I liked many things…other girls didn’t. For instance, I don’t remember one of my young adult girlfriends being thrilled with The Island of Dr. Moreau. You remember that one, don’t you? Written in 1896 by H. G. Wells, the tale follows a scientist, who experiments on animals on a remote island.
So, I know a little about unique. My parents, very normal people, who never read science fiction in their lives, most likely thought me an alien as a kid—one who inhaled Star Log Magazine and read every fantasy book in her school’s library. I didn’t meet more of my kind for many years…till I hit some writer’s conferences!
My new book, Project Mendel, deals with stem cell cloning. I remember scanning the science news one day (yes, geek alert) and came across an article dealing with species recombination. Humans and animals, D.N.A.-ed together, for experimentation. This isn’t the workings of my twisted brain—it’s all too real. In 2003, at Shanghai Second University, researchers fused human cells with rabbit eggs, creating the first animal-human chimera. The chimeras were allowed to develop for a few days in a Petri dish, before they were destroyed and their stem cells harvested.
This got me thinking…what if they’d been permitted to live? At what point, how many genes, does a being stop being an animal, and become a human? Should that being have the same rights as other humans? Disturbing. Which is always a good place to start a story.
Enter Project Mendel. My books always deal with science, in one form or another, as it’s my day job. I am lucky enough to have some very intelligent friends. One of which just happened to be-ta da!-a stem cell scientist. She gave me a crash course and I took it for a ride on my warped imagination.
So, if you like romance, Hitchcockian suspense and science, I might be your all-too-strange gal.
Here is Project Mendel’s Back Cover Blurb and an excerpt. Enjoy. Hope you leave the light on.
Pittsburgh, Pa. 2030
It is a brave new post-war world. A world where parents can not only choose the sex of their child, but their eye color, hair color and talents. Project Mendel decides to take humanity a step closer to perfection.
Dr. Eve Fyfe, a stem cell scientist, signed onto Project Mendel to heal the sick. Around the city, the homeless are disappearing, orphans are reported missing in record numbers. The doctor's research produces amazing, and horrific side effects in the nation’s military children. She's reporting them. But no one is listening.
Because once in Project Mendel, always in Project Mendel
Blaire sat cross-legged in front of her cell-door, unmoving.
Craning her neck, she focused all of her attention on the small window above her door. A quivering started, first in her hands and feet, and shot, lightning fast up her spine.
I feel like the world’s largest tuning fork.
The pounding inside her head, right behind her eyes rose to an almighty crescendo. A makeshift ruler lie on the floor at her feet. She had taken to measuring the size of her head with a piece of paper. Her newest pencil mark showed her head larger than ever.
Just call me Charlie Brown.
She was a kleptomaniac, pilfering bits and pieces of all sorts of equipment, ferreting them away—unsure when she might need them. This particular thieved article was proving useful. Her head was a full three inches larger around than it had been last week.
Blaire's forehead felt heavy. Was a brain tumor festering as the vaccines spread their poison behind her eyes?
The humming sensation happened daily, now. She'd always stopped it—terrified. As if someone had taken a clanging bell and struck it in her brainstem.
The sensation started again, and she swallowed. She willed herself to let it go, let it have its way with her, even if she died. Adam and Anne were gone, and she refused to breathe another minute without knowing their fate.
She dropped her defenses, going limp—giving herself to the sensation.
Her limbs contracted-relaxed, contracted-relaxed, as her concentration mounted.
The bolus liquid in her forehead shimmied madly, as if it would explode, but she bore down harder. She imagined a disgusting, bloated, amniotic sac behind her eyes. That's what it felt like.
Thrusting out her jaw, she copied Anne's clucking sounds.
The ones she'd made in the water, before the white coats carted her off.
Blazing images ripped into her head; the hallway behind her door appeared with clarity.
Not as the eye would see it, but like a sketch. It looked like 'Harold and the Purple Crayon.'
She laughed, wiping tears from her eyes.
The hall was empty.
She clucked, and the window above the doorframe rippled like water. She sucked in a breath.
Did I do that?
She clucked louder and lower, bracing the sides of her head in her hands.
The window vibrated; she clucked madly, the dizziness making her ill.
Glass shards rained down around her. She scrambled out the window. To freedom.
Brynn Chapman (R. R. Smythe) is a member of the Young Adult Chapter of Romance Writers of America and is half of the team responsible for Agent and Editor Interviews for their monthly Newsletter. She is also the Moderator of Editors, Agents and Blogs, Oh My! She writes Non-fiction articles for the Age of Autism Weblog, and is represented in Non-Fiction by Bookends Literary Agency.