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Interview with Rebecca Riley

15 January 2017

When she receives a mysterious email containing photos of an incredible discovery made deep in the Amazon, entomologist Rebecca Riley finds herself on the next flight to Brazil, heading down to join the team of scientists assembling there. What she uncovers is beyond imagination. The author asks her about her experience.

Rebecca, thanks for your time. 'Eight' is told through your eyes. You had a pretty rough time of it in the jungle. Tell us about your experience.

Where do I start? To be honest, it was absolutely terrifying. The jungle was daunting enough: the heat and humidity, the biting insects, the rain and being constantly wet. But really, all that was child's play. The other stuff - and I can't say much without spoiling it for everyone - well, you really put us through the wringer. It was horrible.

I didn't make things easy for you, I guess. Sorry about that.

And the boro! What is with that? Again, if you haven't yet read the book, I won't spoil it for you. But if that scene - you know the one - wasn't bad enough, once I got back home... and, oh my goodness, I can't believe I'm telling you this... but once I got back home, I had another twelve of those things removed. Absolutely repulsive. Disgusting!

Um... so you wouldn't go back?

To the jungle? No. But something tells me you're not done with the story. Not yet.

I have some ideas. Tell the readers about your line of work.

I'm a researcher with the American Museum of Natural History in New York. I work in the Department of Entomology, specialising in predator-prey dynamics.

You're Australian. How did you land a job in the Big Apple?

A few years back a team from the museum commissioned a study of Australian spiders, joining forces with Australian researchers. I was involved with the cataloguing. Before I knew it, I was offered the position in New York. The museum houses the world's largest collection of spiders - over a million. I love working there. 

You told me of an experience you had when you were younger, back when you were a university undergraduate. In the context of what happened in Brazil, it's eerily relevant. I almost put it in the book.

You mean the story about 'The Far Side'? The comic strip by Gary Larson?

Yes.

I remember one day - it was my first year at university, and my first biology tutorial - and the tutor was running late or something and I was hanging around waiting outside his office with some of the other students for him to turn up, just standing there, and pinned to the noticeboard outside the door was a photocopy of one of those cartoons. It had obviously been there a while - it was yellow and curled at the edges and barely poking out from a sea of papers and notices. Anyway, it caught my eye. It was a drawing of an empty playground, a children's slippery-slide filling the whole picture and at its base, at the bottom of the slide at ground level there was a large web strung across it from one side to the other. The two spiders who had built it were admiring their handiwork when one of them said to the other: 'If we pull this off, we'll eat like kings.'

 Again, in the context of what you went through, that story has ominous undertones.

When you put it that way...

What has happened since your return to the States?

You mean in terms of the discovery? There have been developments. But the incident... what happened down there, in the jungle, and what has happened since... well, let's say it's been hushed up.

I believe the term is 'classified'.

As you are aware, I can't comment on that.

Some of our readers have been wondering about you and Ed. How are things since the events in the Brazilian Amazon?

You're fishing for a scoop - surely you don't expect me to answer that? Ed and I are good friends.

I suppose you don't want to spoil anything for the readers. Any last words?

To the readers, I really hope you enjoy the book. Bringing it to you was the most terrifying experience I've ever had, and trust me, you wont be disappointed - it's one hell of a ride! To you, the author, I say this: try and take it easy on us next time.

I can try...