This week, award-winning author Veronica Scott shares a snippet from her latest book and talks about how disaster movies inform her writing. Take it away, Veronica!
STAR CRUISE: MAROONED by Veronica Scott
Why I Love Disaster Movies
I love disaster movies, the bigger the better. Although small works for me too. I’m always fascinated by the idea of ordinary people suddenly being thrust into some catastrophe that they then must fight their way out of. If there’s romance involved, so much the better. Unlike the movie “Speed,” where the Sandra Bullock character says romances formed under such intense circumstances never last, I choose to believe they DO.
There are definitely tropes to disaster movies. First you meet the characters rather briefly because unless you see them pre-disaster, how are you going to care about this subset of people in the midst of flaming chaos and danger on all sides? There should be some foreshadowing and foreboding that perhaps the characters don’t pick up on but we, the readers (or viewers in the case of a movie) go “Uh oh.”
There’s a hero and a heroine – and in my books they’re both strong individuals who work together to save themselves and the others. Think Ripley and Hicks in “Aliens,” which is one of my all-time favorite movies. Although it did need more romance…but I digress! There should be some people who need saving, and who do their best to do the right things….and at least one, maybe two people with their own agenda, or who do the completely wrong thing at the wrong moment. And a LOT of heavy obstacles stacked against survival.
I’ve written two science fiction romance novels that I feel are pretty classic disaster movie format – Wreck of the Nebula Dream, set on a large luxury liner that meets a Titanic-like fate. This story was in fact loosely based on the Titanic tragedy but set in space, in the far future. I’ve had reviewers tell me I spent a bit too long on the intro phase (which is their experience of course – obviously I liked it) – someone quantified it for me, saying the first 19% of the book was set up and then hold onto your hats because it’s nonstop thereafter inagoodway. For my second such story, Star Cruise: Marooned, just released in June, I decided to tell a story about the crew and passengers of a much smaller luxury charter ship, who venture onto the surface of a nature preserve planet for a scheduled beach party.
At first things go pretty well and by the book, although surprisingly the ranger station is deserted and there aren’t very many other tourists, which is decidedly odd. But the crew members’ main worries at this point are keeping the customers happy so the tip at cruise end will be generous, and not running out of food or ‘feelgoods’. Then the other ship’s party enjoying the beach receives an urgent call back from their captain and leaves so hastily they abandon all their equipment…concerned, my heroine, Cruise Staffer Meg Antille, tries calling her ship to check on things but the conversation is mysteriously interrupted from the other end….then a passenger is bitten by a venomous creature that ought not to be there on the friendly beach….and events spiral from there.
I like upping the stakes a few times before the adventure concludes. Think about “Speed” (spoilers I guess although it’s an old movie) – the psycho who put the bomb on the bus can also watch them from a hidden camera. In “Aliens”, the creatures cause the crash of the dropship, marooning Ripley and her few companions on the planet. In the remake of “Poseidon Adventure”, the big air bubble bursts and the ship starts sinking faster…In the first “Jurassic Park,” it’s the huge storm that throws everyone’s plans and lives into jeopardy…
So in Star Cruise: Marooned, after the shuttle suddenly takes off, abandoning Meg and her party on the planet, there are some definite raising of the stakes moments. I won’t do spoilers, but I’ve had a number of people tell me they ended up reading the book late onto the night, to find out what happens. That’s music to a story teller’s ears!
Here’s a short little excerpt for you:
On the beach, there was chaos. An eel, easily two feet in diameter and eight feet long, lay convulsing on the sand, Red’s hunting knife buried to the hilt in one eye. The crewman had the medkit open beside him and was struggling to staunch the blood flow from Sharmali’s lower leg, while she lay on a red-stained towel and moaned. Callina was standing beside them, trying to help. The other men and women milled on the beach nearby, drinking and talking in too loud voices. As Meg headed for the injured passenger, the Primary intercepted her.
“Miss Antille, I demand to know how something like this could happen.” Purple in the face, he waved a hand at Sharmali. “I paid top dollar, if not an exorbitant price, for a safe, enjoyable cruise for myself and my guests, and now the poor girl’s had her foot eaten!” He was so upset he was spitting.
“On behalf of the Line, I certainly apologize, sir. We do everything we can to ensure the safety of our guests under all circumstances, but if she swam beyond the sonic barrier—”
“She was standing in three inches of water right next to me,” Finchon said. “That monster could have just as easily gotten my foot.”
“The barrier’s off,” Red informed her, not glancing up from his task. “Can you argue with him later? I need your help.”
Meg ran to his side, the Primary matching her step for step, yelling at her about lawsuits and refunds. She tried to stem the tide of his vitriol so she could concentrate. “Sir, please, let us assist Sharmali, and then I’ll be happy to discuss the legalities.”
Trever, the retired pro athlete, came forward and took his host by the arm, shoving a drink into his hand and drawing him aside. Meg took a deep breath of relief and knelt beside Red. “What do you want me to do?”
“Apply pressure to the wound for a minute while I see what antivenom we’ve got.”
Gulping against her nausea, Meg set her hand on the makeshift bandages and pressed hard. “You said the barrier was off?”
“Must be. There was more than one of these things right in the shallows at the beach. We were lucky no one else got attacked. I got her out of the water as fast as I could so the blood wouldn’t attract other predators.” He sat on his heels, frowning, holding an inject. “This is only a generic. Will it work on eel venom?”
“It’s all we’ve got on the shuttle. It’ll have to hold her until we get to the ship’s sick bay.”
As he gave Sharmali the inject, Meg eyed the wound with deep misgiving. The woman’s leg was definitely swelling and there were ugly purple streaks advancing toward her knee. “This is my fault,” she said.
“How do you figure?” Red applied a light tourniquet.
“I should have known if the ranger station was closed, the barriers might be shut off, but I didn’t check.”
“Well, keep your voice down, the Primary is pissed off enough right now. Don’t add fuel to his fire.”
Best Selling Science Fiction & Paranormal Romance author and “SciFi Encounters” columnist for the USA Today Happily Ever After blog, Veronica Scott grew up in a house with a library as its heart. Dad loved science fiction, Mom loved ancient history and Veronica thought there needed to be more romance in everything. When she ran out of books to read, she started writing her own stories.
Three time winner of the Galaxy Award, as well as a National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award, Veronica is also the proud recipient of a NASA Exceptional Service Medal relating to her former day job, not her romances!