New York Times Best-Selling author Steve Alten recently released the fourth book in his "MEG" series, "Hell's Aquarium." The "MEG" series follows the adventures of Jonas Taylor and his family, and a giant Carcharodon Megalodon (or MEG), a 70-foot long prehistoric great white shark that escapes from the deep.
Steve has written several books, in addition to the four "MEG" books ("The Trench," "Primal Waters," and "Hell's Aquarium," arguably the best of the bunch), including two in the "Domain" series (following the Mayan prophecy of doom; "Domain" and "Resurrection" are both big sellers in the Latin world, and we could see a movie in the next year or two), "Goliath" (about a submarine with artificial intelligence), "The Loch" (probably the best book about the Loch Ness Monster yet; a film is in the planning stages, and I feel "The Loch" could end up being the best story behind Nessie); and "The Shell Game," a political thriller.
What's really amazing about Steve is his story leading up to the publication of the first "MEG" book and the then-Disney movie deal. Steve was married with several children and working at a miserable job. He was pounding away on "MEG" in his spare time, and unfortunately was fired from his job in September 1996. However, within days "MEG" was part of a bidding war with all the major publishers, and also the movie deal. As Steve would say, only in America could a guy be down on his luck, but his hard work and perseverance paid off.
The book has almost come to the big screen twice, first in 1997 when Disney's Touchstone Pictures had the film option but let it expire, then again in 2004 when Guillermo del Toro and New Line were ready with Jan de Bont attached to direct. Unfortunately, New Line let the film go when the budget became a concern.
Fast-forward to today, and it looks like the "MEG" movie could be happening again. Steve talks a bit about it in the interview below.
I've known Steve for a few years now, and even worked as a second assistant director on a short film version of a feature-length script he wrote called Mintz Meats, which is about a very family-owned meat factory comedy, and all the "drama" associated with it. I met Steve by through an e-mail I sent him which he answered and we've stayed in touch ever since.
He recently sat down to answer some questions about "Hell's Aquarium," and what's next.
Screen Rant (SR): Let's talk about the fourth "MEG" book, "Hell's Aquarium." What happens to the Taylor family and their friends?
Steve Alten (SA): "Hell's Aquarium" has two interwoven plot lines that merge together. The first involves the Philippine Sea Plate... the deepest, most unexplored realm on the planet. Hidden beneath its ancient crust lies the remains of the Panthalassa, an ocean that dates back 220 million years. Vast and isolated, the Panthalassa in inhabited by nightmarish species of sea creatures long believed extinct.
The second involves the Tanaka Institute in Monterey, California where Angel, the recaptured 76 foot, 100,000 pound Megalodon, has birthed a liter of pups -- five females -- far too numerous and aggressive to keep in one pen. One solution: A Dubai royal prince is building the largest aquarium in the world and seeks to purchase two of the "runts." The deal hinges on hiring Jonas Taylor's 21 year old son, David, to be their trainer. Jonas reluctantly agrees, and David is off to Dubai for the summer of his life-- --not realizing he is being set-up to lead an expedition that will hunt down and capture the most dangerous creatures ever to inhabit the planet!
SR: What's the latest news on the "MEG" movie? Do you have a new script?
SA: Yes, a great new script, and things are progressing, that's all I can say.
SR: Ah, Steve, always playing it close to your vest! Anyway, the third "MEG" book, "Primal Waters" came out five years ago; what have you been working on since that time?
SA: I wrote and published "The Loch," "The Shell Game," "MEG: Hell's Aquarium," several scripts, and I am nearly finished writing Grim Reaper.
SR: What's "Grim Reaper" about? Is it an original story, or a sequel?
SA: "Grim Reaper" is an original story; a modern-day horror/thriller that introduces a dark hero whose quest for justice parallels the hero’s journey in the divine comedy: Dante’s Inferno.
SR: Sounds very cool! Aside from the "MEG" books, I think "The Loch" is really one of your best works. Will we see a sequel?
SA: Nothing is planned, though I could resurrect the characters. We'll see how well the mass market paperback does, and a future movie.
"Hell's Aquarium" is out now, in two special covers fans got to vote on. It was so close, the publisher decided to put out both. I've read it and I have to say, it's terrifying but incredible! The covers are by Erik Hollander, who was part of the Jaws documentary, The Shark's Still Working. Erik is a fan of Steve, and contacted him just like the rest of us.
Find out more about Steve and his non-profit work (Adopt-An-Author) and sign up for his newsletter at stevalten.com. Thanks again for the interview, Steve!