Island 731 and Jeremy Robinson: An Interview

Yeah, yeah, yeah…I know. It’s been a while since I last posted on my blog and I truly apologize for that. It’s just that I’m working feverishly to finish up my current work-in-progress, The Dirge of Briarsnare Marsh and it’s taking a considerable amount of concentration on my part. Plus, with the “day job” and the publishing company…well, you can see where it sometimes gets a little crazy for me. 
But one thing I do make time for…new books by my favorite authors! As an author, it’s important to constantly be reading (or in my case, with my time restrictions, listening to them as audiobooks). Anyway, there’s been one book I’ve been waiting so impatiently for. A book that I knew would be so fascinating and eerie and exciting and thrilling. A book written by my pal, and one of my favorite authors, Jeremy Robinson called ISLAND 731. Well, that book was just  released on Tuesday and from the moment I woke up, I was busy listening to the audiobook (narrated by the amazing R.C. Bray). Well, I’ll admit…I was hooked the moment I heard the Prologue. So far, it’s every bit as intriguing as I’d hoped and I know you guys are want to put it on your “To Be Read” list…and maybe even bump it up to the front of the line. 
Anyway, to help introduce you to this awesome new read, I asked Jeremy Robinson if he’d mind taking some time for an interview. He graciously accepted. Even more fun, we got his RAGNAROK co-author, Kane Gilmour to ask the questions! What we get is a wonderfully candid interview about this book and some of its darker elements. So, without further ado…sit back, relax, and enjoy!
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1) Your new book, out this week, is ISLAND 731. Where did the idea for this one come from? On the surface, it’s like your other work in the sense that it has action and creatures, but it’s much darker in tone than many of your other novels, and the setting and early topics concerning WWII are very different. What was the origin for this tale in your head? 
This story basically emerged from research. After completing SECONDWORLD, which focuses on Nazis, I decided to do some research on the Japanese. We hear a lot about their brutal military tactics and the horrible conditions of the Pacific theater, but I was curious about just how sinister things got. What I discovered was far worse than what I expected. Japan’s R&D organization, known as Unit 731, committed atrocities on a grand scale, performing human experiments on Chinese villagers, Pacific Islanders and POWs. Limb replacements, rapid freezing and thawing, dissections and vivisections on women and children infected with various plagues, including pregnant women.
Basically, they did anything their twisted minds could come up with, all in the name of science…well, military science. The end goal of all of this was to come up with new ways to kill Americans. But the sick twist is that after the war, the U.S. pardoned the scientists, hired many of them, acquired all the research, and then covered the whole thing up.  This dark history quickly became the backdrop for ISLAND 731, which basically answers the question, “What would happen if Unit 731 had continued its research program?”
2) I can remember discussing with you the difficulties you had with the writing of this book. Over the few years I’ve known you, that was the first time you really sounded depressed. You were two months into the writing and only half way through the book, and still struggling. Granted, you had a ton of other projects going on at the same time. You were wrapping up the Chesspocalypse novellas, working on releasing the LAST HUNTER books, negotiating the deals on RAGNAROK and brainstorming with your co-author, putting together the SECONDWORLD trailer, negotiating for a Chess Team comic book that fell by the wayside, working on a deal with a new publisher for your Jeremy Bishop titles, and you were also talking me through releasing my first title at the time. Why do you think ISLAND 731 was so challenging—was the subject matter tough or was it a feeling of overextending yourself with all the multiple projects going on at the time, or a combination of both? What brought you out of that state to really get rolling on finishing this book? Going through the e-mails, it looks like you wrapped the last third of the book in two weeks, so things picked up at the end. 
Holy crap, that IS a lot to be working on! And if I’m honest, I have close to the same amount in the works now, I’m just pretending it’s not there. But it was probably a combination. What I do is fun. I love it. But I was definitely overextended. Again, I’m kind of always overextended, so that couldn’t be the cause on its own.
Which brings us to the subject matter of ISLAND 731. While I would recommend that everyone learn about this history, I would do it lightly, and have a comedy on hand to watch when you’re done. This is some dark stuff, made darker by the fact that it’s real. I was reading books and watching documentaries, listening to the testimonies of people who survived Unit 731 (there aren’t many) and those who lost family in the torture factories. That kind of in depth research into one of the darkest, most disgusting points of human history can have a profound effect. And so I struggled to get through it. As for why things picked up toward the end, that’s simple, it’s when the good guys get to kick some ass and I get to express all of the anger that’s been building up while I’ve been focused on the darkness of the subject matter. 
3) Some of the scenes, like the ones in the jungle, with death from above, are very tense. How do you plan out these scenes, when writing them? Do you consciously think about layering suspense and increasing stakes, or do you find that comes naturally as you work through a scene? 
The only real preparation I do for writing a scene is a lot of daydreaming, typically before I roll out of bed in the morning. I see what’s going to happen, hear what the characters are saying, and allow the scene to play out over and over, evolving as it does, until I’ve got a pretty good idea of where it’s going.
The key is that I’m not consciously thinking about what to write, but am simply watching the result of my imagination, like a movie, noting what I enjoy most and attempting to reproduce it in words. For the most part, my writing isn’t a product of forethought and planning. I allow scenes and plots to evolve. The scenes that surprise my readers are a surprise to me too. I find it much more fun to write this way, since I get to be entertained by my own story, but I think the end result is better for it, too. The compliment I most often get from other authors and reviewers is that I’ve got a crazy imagination. I think that comes from this method of writing from the subconscious.
4) Long-time Robinson fans are well aware of your fondness for Kaiju, but this is the first we are really seeing of other parts of Japanese history and culture in your work. Are you interested in broader Japanese culture and history, or did you need to do a huge amount of research for this book? 
Artist Matt Frank’s depiction of NEMESIS
I have been a long time fan of Kaiju like Godzilla and Gamera. Ever since childhood. But I was also a fan of Japanese animation like Robotech, GaiKing, Grendizer and more. When I reached my teens and started watching movies I probably shouldn’t have, I became a big fan of Japanimation. Movies like Akira, Ghost in the Shell, Ninja Scroll, Fist of the North Star and Vampire Hunter D. And most of these were watched in the original Japanese with subtitles. So I’ve had a long-time affinity for Japanese pop culture. But I’ve never delved too deeply into Japanese history until now, and I have to say, it wasn’t the most positive introduction one could have to the culture of Japan. Not that my overall view of Japan is tarnished, but there is definitely a dark side to the country of which I wasn’t previously aware. 
5) Without giving the ending away, there are some open-ended aspects that might allow for a sequel. Any plans for such a book? 
I tend to end all of my books with the possibility for more. You never know which book is going to be a runaway hit of which fans will demand a sequel. So it’s certainly possible. What’s unique about ISLAND 731, is that I decided ahead of time that it would take place in the same universe as PROJECT NEMESIS. The main characters are friends, and Mark Hawkins, the main character of ISLAND, is mentioned by name in NEMESIS. With both books focused on Japan and Kaiju, and primed for sequels, it’s possible that I will bring them together at some point in the future. It would be a lot of fun for me and for fans.
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About Jeremy Robinson:
JEREMY ROBINSON is the bestselling author of thirty novels and novellas including ISLAND 731, SECONDWORLD, PROJECT NEMESIS, THE ANTARKTOS SAGA and the Jack Sigler series including PULSE, INSTINCT, THRESHOLD and RAGNAROK. Robinson also known as the #1 Amazon.com horror writer, Jeremy Bishop, author of THE SENTINEL and the controversial novel, TORMENT. His novels have been translated into ten languages. He lives in New Hampshire with his wife and three children. Visit him online at www.jeremyrobinsononline.comor friend him on Facebook at facebook.com/sciencethriller.
About the interviewer, Kane Gilmour:
KANE GILMOUR is the co-author of Jeremy Robinson’s bestselling Jack Sigler / Chess Team thriller, RAGNAROK, and the upcoming sequel, OMEGA. Kane also writes his own thriller novels, including RESURRECT and the upcoming nostalgic horror thriller, THE CRYPT OF DRACULA. When he isn’t writing, editing or formatting, he’s paddling a kayak into oblivion or learning how to juggle chainsaws. Only a few people call him ‘Lefty’. Follow his work at www.kanegilmour.comor friend him on Facebook at facebook.com/kane.gilmour.author

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