Meet 14-year-old Sean Malone. He has an IQ above 200, a full-ride scholarship to one of the country’s top universities, and more than one million dollars from his winning streak on Jeopardy! However, Sean wishes he could just be normal.
But his life is anything but normal. The US government manipulates him, using him as a codebreaker in pursuit of a drug lord and killing innocent people along the way.
For reasons related to his personal security, Sean finds himself in Rome, building a new life under a new name, abandoning academics, and hiding his genius from everyone. When he’s 18 he falls in love. The thrills begin again when he learns that his girlfriend is critically ill and it’s up to him to use his intellect to find a cure, a battle pitting him against a multi-billion-dollar pharmaceutical company and the demons of his past.
Elixir is a story about identity, secrets, and above all, love.
Tell us about your book? How did it get started?
Elixir is a thriller about a young genius who just wants to lead a normal life. However, based on his intelligence, he finds himself getting forced into situations that are anything but normal. Mainly, when he’s 14 he cracks the biggest mystery in computer science, something called The Traveling Salesman Problem, and the US government exploits him so it can control the code he came up with.
Things escalate and he finds himself on the run from the government, hiding out in Rome under a new name. When he’s 18 he falls in love. His life finally starts to feel normal. However, when his girlfriend unexpectedly falls ill with an incurable disease, he takes it upon himself to use his intelligence to find a cure. He winds up going on an action-filled adventure, returning to America, hiding from his old enemies, and taking on a corrupt pharmaceutical company that wants to steal the drug he’s working on.
Elixir is loaded with action and suspense, but what sets it apart from other thrillers is that at its core it’s really a love and coming-of-age story about a boy who’s different and is fighting to lead a normal, happy life.
The book initially got started because I thought it would be interesting to write a story about a young genius who gets thrown against his will into wild situations because of his intelligence. However, I didn’t want to write something that felt cold or academic. The story really came to life when I decided to introduce Natasha, the love interest. This gave Sean, the main character, something to fight for and gave the book its heart.
How do you create your characters?
Sean, the main character, was the first one I came up with. When writing him, I wanted to give off the impression he was of course very smart, however, deep down he was just a normal teenager with normal teenage problems. It took some time to get this balance right. However, once I felt I had him in a good place, the other characters came pretty easily. They started as the personification of certain “forces” that moved Sean around his world, some for good and others for bad. Once I knew what sort of “force” the supporting characters would each represent, breathing life into them and making them feel real came pretty naturally.
What inspires and what got your started in writing?
I got my start in writing when I was 15. I was really into screenwriting from 15 through 18. Though none of my scripts ever actually got made into movies, it was a great experience and taught me a lot about characters and story building. I wound up taking a 10-year hiatus from writing. Elixir is my return back to writing and my first book.
I’m inspired a lot by music. Listening to a great song definitely puts me in a writing mood.
Where do you write? Is there something you need in order to write (music, drinks?)
I like writing in private, usually at my desk in my living room. I’m not one of those writers you’ll ever see at a cafe with a laptop. Music is a must for me. I have headphones on and am listening to music about 90 percent of the time I’m writing. A lot of the music I listened to when writing Elixir I actually pay tribute to in the book itself. Bands like The Cure, New Order, The Doors, and The Smashing Pumpkins were big inspirations for me when writing and all find their way into the book.
As for drinks, I usually just stick to coffee when I’m writing and then will enjoy a real drink or two when I’m done for the day.