Science fiction author Scott Burn is in the hot seat today. We’re chatting about The Enemy Within.
Scott Burn is a former lawyer turned writer. He is the creator of the science fiction comic book series AGON and has sold several feature screenplays as well. The Enemy Within is his first novel. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Sarah, three step children and two toe-nibbling cats. He loves that LA offers biking, hiking, surfing and skiing all relatively close by. He doesn't do any of those things, but imagines he might in an alternate universe.
Welcome, Scott. Please tell us about your current release.
Seventeen-year-old Max has always felt like an outsider. When the agonizing apocalyptic visions begin, he decides suicide is his only escape. He soon finds himself in a psych ward under the guidance of a therapist who sees something exceptional in him. Just as he begins to leave the hallucinations behind, Max discovers the visions weren't just in his head.
There are three others who have shared those same thoughts and they've been searching for Max. Like him, they are something more than human. Each of them possesses certain abilities, which they're going to need when a covert military group begins hunting them down. As the danger escalates, Max doesn’t know which side to trust. But in the end, his choice will decide the fate of both species.
What inspired you to write this book?
I work in Hollywood as a screenwriter. While there is a certain amount of freedom about what you create, if you’re looking to sell it or would like to be kept onboard for rewrites, you have to be cognizant of the market and what studios are after. For years I had wanted to write something that was completely mine and could be, for good or bad, precisely what I wanted it to be. I had been looking to build a story around the idea of teenage alienation, but didn’t quite know what it was. Then one day I heard a fascinating tidbit about how NASA knows precisely how many satellites are orbiting earth at every moment. I thought, what if one day they found one more than there should be - that led to the first page of The Enemy Within.
Excerpt from The Enemy Within:
Clouds of smoke and ash swirled through the city. Tidal waves of fire consumed every helix-shaped building that rose into the burning sky. Max watched the colossal structures collapse with crushing force, shaking the earth.
Agonized screams echoed around him, but all Max could see through the scorching haze was the thousands of charred corpses - their arms outstretched as if reaching for salvation. Brittle bones turned to dust beneath him as he tried to run, but there was nowhere to hide.
No one ever survived the inferno - no one except Max, who was forced to watch a world’s end over and over each day.
Cold, wet pavement pressed against his face. Max opened his eyes to find himself in the alley. Rain deluged the streets. He winced as he pushed himself upright, his fingernails raw from clawing at the pavement while in the grip of the last vision.
Max didn’t want to die, but he knew there was only one escape and he’d take that tonight. Clutching the bolt cutter, he stepped out of the shadows into the night.
Streetlights reflected on the slick black pavement as he ran across the avenue to Miller’s Drug Store. A thick padlock held the rusted gate shut. Using bolt cutters was more challenging than he imagined. Max strained until the lock split open. The gate screeched in protest as he slid it aside.
An alarm warning pulsed red through the window like the winking eye of a Terminator – but it didn’t matter. By the time the police responded, he’d be gone. Max shielded his eyes and smashed the heavy bolt cutter into the window. Glass shattered. The alarm pierced the stillness as he cleared shards from the frame and darted inside through the gaping hole.
The flashlight cut a swath through the darkness. Cold and flu remedies were lit on one side, toothpaste on the other as he made his way down the aisle.
With a leap Max was over the pharmacy counter, scanning the rows until he found Klonopin. He emptied the container in his palm. Don’t hesitate…
What exciting story are you working on next?
I’ve been working on a Faustian story about a town that makes a deal with a dark supernatural force… then makes a grave error when they break the deal.
It’s a ways off, but I’m enjoying it.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
As a kid I wrote short stories, started a literary journal in college, and underground newspaper in law school. But I didn’t call myself a writer until I left the practice of law and sold my first screenplay.
Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I’m fortunate in that I’m able to make a living solely as a writer. Sometimes that income happens from the screenwriting side when I sell a script or get hired to write/rewrite one. Perhaps it will also come meaningfully from the novel side as well. Time will tell.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I find it hard to write in a completely still room. I like to have life around me. If I can get to a place where I don’t even notice the action taking place a few feet away, then I feel pretty good about what I’m working on. But silence can be oppressive.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A professional backgammon player.
Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
If they take the time to check out the book, I’d love to hear what they think. They can drop me a line through my website.
Thanks for stopping by today, Scott! All the best with your writing.