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  1. Monterey Writers' Retreat 2022 Nell Sweeney Story Statement Maura, a struggling PhD student in her late twenties, must discover the truth about her sister’s death after receiving a flash drive full of neurological research. Did Clare, an artist and socialite with a history of mental illness, kill herself, or is a deeper conspiracy at play? The Antagonist Lazer Labs, a corrupt pharmaceutical company, is the main villain. A history of exaggerated data and employees who went missing abroad in the 1980s and 1990s is inherited by the current CEO, Peter White, who is continuing the tradition of illegal acts in the relentless pursuit of wealth. The missing research Maura receives via flash drive is the golden goose that would seal a merger and allow Mr. White to retire fabulously wealthy. Thus, he sends his fixer after Maura with instructions to secretly procure the research. The lab’s illegal activities have been successful because they have flown under the radar, so the fixer’s initial directive is to steal the research non-violently at first. When this proves difficult, he begins to employ more sinister means. Title Entomology Comparables The Red Lotus by Chris Bohjalian: this book is an excellent blend of thriller meets speculative fiction with a touch of literary sensibility. Bohjalian’s lead character stumbles upon a major conspiracy surrounding a drug company while dealing with her inner demons. This is strikingly similar to the main elements of my novel, Entomology. The Push by Audrey Audrain: this book captures the almost claustrophobic closeness to the main character and her inner thoughts that I have attempted in my novel. Audrain’s narrator is plagued by her own doubts and insecurities surrounding several “accidents” caused by her daughter; similarly, Maura is unsure of her suspicions surrounding her own sister’s death. Hook/Logline After receiving a flash drive full of mysterious neurological research, Maura begins to suspect that her sister’s supposed suicide was foul play. As she investigates Clare’s death, she must confront her own inner demons and a possible conspiracy – one that may cost her life. Inner Conflict Maura faces two main inner conflicts throughout the narrative. The first is her own depression and insecurity, which has been triggered both by a recent breakup and burnout in her PhD program. As a result, she relies heavily on drugs and alcohol following Clare’s death. We see this at Clare’s funeral as Maura becomes progressively drunker, ending the evening as a sobbing mess in bed. The second is her relationship with her father, who is a serial philanderer and left Maura’s mother while Maura was a child. Maura has a lot of unhealed resentment towards him for his absenteeism and unfaithfulness, but faces her own moral quandary when she falls in love with a married detective. Setting Most of the novel takes place in a snowy, noir version of New York City. Clare’s apartment (where Maura is staying) is a gorgeous pre-war condo that is beautifully furnished with marble, brass, and velvet textures, but feels “un-lived in.” Whenever Maura ventures outside, the streets are full of menacing shadows and the sound of footsteps just behind her. Cold pervades the story, and Maura often visits large, frigid churches as a place of reflection although she is not religious. The homes she visits – that of a neighbor, as well as her father – all echo her internal feelings of not belonging, either to a certain social set or the general happiness she seems unable to attain.
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