In September Simon & Schuster will publish my first two novels at the same time. The first, CAIN’S BLOOD, is a techno thriller from Touchstone Books. The second, PROJECT CAIN, is a stand-alone companion novel for teen readers from Simon And Schuster Books for Young Readers. It’s a unique project/event (in both writing and publishing), so here’s the scoop:
Q: WHY TWO BOOKS?
Cain’s Blood and Project Cain are two different novels written about the same fictional event. In both, scientists have been doing unpleasant things for the military and these unpleasant things escape. The two books explore the trouble/adventure that ensues… and simply do so differently. Cain’s Blood uses the form/devices of a traditional thriller. It follows the story from a dozen viewpoints; mostly from former-army-Ranger Shawn Castilllo’s narrative Point of View (the character brought in to fix things), but also via chapters/scenes from the POV of various killers, military schemers, evil scientists, and victims. All capturing the big picture as the full horrifying story unfolds.
Project Cain is told from the POV of one character: Jeff Jacobson, the sixteen-year-old clone of Jeffrey Dahmer who has recently discovered his true origins and who is recruited by Castillo into helping, we hope, save the day. It’s a much more personal story/journey told with the voice and reflections of a smart, lost and thoughtful teen. A thriller specifically written for younger readers (PG-13) and those adults still interested in young heroes.
These are stand-alone novels; you could read the one and never bother looking at the other and have a complete story. Reading both just gives a more complete story.
Q: IS IT JUST THE SAME BOOK TOLD A DIFFERENT WAY?
There are many “parallel novels” written by others to capture a new perspective on an old favorite (ie: Wicked and Grendel.) In this case, it just happens to be two books written by the same author at the same time. It was very important to me that readers curious enough to read both Cain books would be well rewarded. And so:
Jeff Jacobson would be shocked at most of the things that go on in Cain’s Blood. There are dozens of scenes/events of which he has no knowledge. At the same time, many of these same scenes would explain a lot to him. If you read Project Cain first, and then Cain’s Blood you should have several Ah-Ha! moments mixed with, I hope, the desire to not be in the house alone.
In turn, Jeff Jacobson faces challenges and adventures all his own that are outside the scope of the Cain’s Blood story. His narrative starts before Cain’s Blood and strays down new paths as he experiences incidents either “off camera” in the adult thriller or many not even mentioned. Project Cain allows this special character room and time to have his own life and journey. If you read Cain’s Blood first and then check out Project Cain, you’ll find a teenager struggling with the monster within and discovering his role in a newly-shattered world.
There are also a few scenes that do make both books. And in these, I try to have a little fun with how the exact same moment can be taken/told so differently depending on the person doing the telling. I’d originally planned to have only new scenes in each book but early readers actually liked coming across familiar ground in new ways. So I kept a few in.
Q: WAS IT ALWAYS THE PLAN TO HAVE TWO BOOKS?
Not at all. I originally wrote a short novella for a magazine in the traditional thriller/horror style. Various points of views. R-rated. People liked it, suggested I write a full novel. However, my students (I teach high school English) seemed extremely interested in serial killers so I decided a YA novel would be the best way to go for the Cain story. I eventually submitted a curious first-third person hybrid book specifically for teen readers (PG-13) to my future agents. They liked the writing but suggested I try a more traditional adult thriller instead with the same story. (In other words, a novel-length version of what I’d done in the novella.)
So, I went away for some time and wrote Cain’s Blood. They liked it, got ready to help find me a publisher, and then “innocently” added: We especially like the Jeff character. Would you consider a book just from his point of view for teens? (In other words, a more focused and personal teen novel I’d almost written when I’d first submitted.) I went off again and wrote Project Cain.
Simon and Schuster was in an equally creative spirit and came forward to publish both novels.
Our hope is that readers who like traditional thrillers will find and enjoy Cain’s Blood, and that readers who enjoy more personal stories and/or YA fiction will find and enjoy Project Cain. And, IF a reader from either group is particularly happy with my work and/or the frightful world of Cain, there is a “sequel” of sorts already in their favorite bookstore!