Thursday, June 9, 2016

Laura Liddell Nolen, author of The Ark

Welcome Laura Liddell Nolen, author of the YA SF novel The Ark (HarperVoyager UK) to It's All About Story.

Laura's blog:

Hi, Katherine! I'm a big fan of yours, so it's great to be here!

1) Thank you! Describe The Ark in one paragraph.

Charlotte Turner is trapped in prison on the last day of Earth during a world-destroying meteor strike. She has screwed up so many times that she is no longer eligible for a place on an Ark, a massive bioshop designed to protect Earth's survivors.

Her final wish is that her family will visit her before they leave, so that she can apologize to them for all the pain her decisions have brought them. Her goodbyes turn into something much more complicated, and Char decides to try to break out of prison and stow away on a spaceship, even knowing that she'd be relegated to life as a criminal and noncitizen, in hopes that one day, her family will forgive her.

2) What inspired The Ark?

The Ark is a story about redemption. In that sense, it was inspired by The Count of Monte Cristo, and by all the fun I had reading sci-fi adventures growing up.

I'm also fascinated by hypothetical apocalyptic events and the breaking down of polite society during a paradigm shift, so I had a lot of fun imagining the end of the world.

3) Was The Ark your first work of fiction?

I . . . I cannot lie. I may have written a "practice" novel before this one. But you'll never be able to prove it.

4) What song or music piece would you put on a soundtrack for The Ark?

That's a tough one, so I gotta pick three: The Unforgiven I, II, and III.

I love Metallica's music, and this series in particular captures the pain, desperation, and ultimate acceptance that run through many of their songs. It ties in really well with Char's story, too! In the first two songs, the speaker places the blame for his anguish squarely on others--society and a woman, respectively. In "Unforgiven III," his perspective undergoes a radical shift, and he seems to condemn himself far more than everyone else. He's contemplating the decisions he's made and how they've shaped his life and his relationship with the darkness that constantly threatens to overwhelm him. "The Unforgiven II" has an undercurrent of guilt as well, but in the third song, Hetfield's introspection forces him through the darkness and toward something closer to acceptance.

5) Which character in The Ark was easy to write? Which was the most difficult?

Char was, by far, the easiest to write. I'm working on the third book right now, and I feel like I've known her for years, and we're about to reach this final goal together.

The hardest was Isaiah. My concept for him, from the beginning, was someone with clear principles that run counter to his personal desires. Isaiah is strong because he will always, always choose the greater good over his own advancement. His idealism is not always good, in an immediate sense, for the people he loves the most, but he rarely wavers. Although that's the kind of person I want to be, it's sometimes hard to relate to, especially because of the pain it brings him. I had to make his choices believable, and I hope I've done that.

6) What is your writing space like? Or can you write anywhere?

I like to write in a public place where there's a nice, steady hum of background noise. Writing is isolating enough without forcing myself into hermitage for months at a time.

7) Any odd writing habits? Rituals?

Earplugs. I have boxes of them in my laptop bag. For some reason, wearing them helps me stay focused and off the internet during my workday. I know that's ridiculous, but hopefully my inner procrastinator never gets wise to that trick.

8) George R. R. Martin describes 2 kinds of outliners, the Gardener (let it grow) or the Architect (plan it.) Which are you?

Alas, I'm an Architect who longs to be more of a Gardener. I love it when my stories take a spontaneous turn.

9) What are some of your favorite world myths or fairy/folk tales? Why?

I like the Tam Lin ballad, and your retelling of it in particular. At the other end of the spectrum, I have a funny relationship with Belle from Beauty and the Beast. I appreciate the redemptive aspects of that story, but I don't understand her choices.

10) What is your favorite fictional world, one you'd want to visit?

Must not say Hogwarts. Must be original. Must not say Hogwarts. Must be . . . UGH Hogwarts. It's Hogwarts.

11) Who is your favorite fictional character?

I like Professor Sno--Mulan. She is brave and strong.

12) What is the best writing advice you've ever received?

"Writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair." -Mary Heaton Vorse, as conveyed to me by my good friend and author Benjamin Morris. Aaannnnd we're back to my constant battle against procrastination. I think all the best writing books mention this concept at some point, and I've tried to take it to heart. For example, Stephen King says he writes every single day, including Christmas. That is a lot of chair time.

13) In The Ark, are there any hidden acknowledgements to friends, places you've lived, favorite writers, etc.

Yes,and the best part of my day is when I get a text from someone I love saying "I found me!!"

14) Can you tell us anything else about your writing experiences?

One of the best things about this job is meeting and interacting with other writers. The writing community is utterly huge, but surprisingly supportive. I love how we look out for each other.

15) What do we have to look forward to after The Ark?

The Remnant, the second book in The Ark trilogy, is out in July! (Amazon: Char has a long way to go before she finds what she's looking for.

Thank you, Laura!

Thanks to you too!

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