{Virtual Book Tour} A Book Chat with Laura Liddell Nolen, author of 'The Ark'

We're thrilled to be hosting Laura Liddell Nolen on her virtual book tour today! Laura grew up in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, where she spent lots of time playing make-believe with her two younger
brothers. They supplemented their own stories with a steady diet of space- and superhero-themed movies, books, and television. The daughter of a comic book collector, she learned how to handle old comics at an early age, a skill she’s inordinately proud of to this day.

Laura began work on her first novel, The Ark, in 2012, following the birth of her daughter Ava, a tiny rebel and a sweetheart on whom the novel’s main character is loosely based. Completion of The Ark was made possible in part due to an SCBWI Work-in-Progress Award.

Laura loves coffee, dogs, and making lists. She has a degree in French and a license to practice law, but both are frozen in carbonite at present. She lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband and two young children, and their dog Miley, who is a very good girl.

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About the Book:
Title: The Ark
Author: Laura Liddell Nolen
Publisher: HarperCollins
Pages: 239
Genre: YA Scifi
Format: Paperback/Kindle/Nook
There’s a meteor headed for Earth, and there is only one way to survive.
It’s the final days of earth, and sixteen-year-old Char is right where she belongs: in prison. With her criminal record, she doesn’t qualify for a place on an Ark, one of the five massive bioships designed to protect earth’s survivors during the meteor strike that looks set to destroy the planet. Only a select few will be saved – like her mom, dad, and brother – all of whom have long since turned their backs on Char.
If she ever wants to redeem herself, Char must use all the tricks of the trade to swindle her way into outer space, where she hopes to reunite with her family, regardless of whether they actually ever want to see her again, or not . . .

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Q: Welcome to The Writer's Life!  Now that your book has been published, we’d love to find out more about the process.  Can we begin by having you take us at the beginning?  Where did you come up with the idea to write your book?

I was pregnant with a girl, and I thought, here’s this person I’ve never met, and I love her so much it hurts. I would do anything for her. What if that’s not enough? What if she can’t find her way in the world despite my dead-level best efforts?

So I created Char, another girl I fell in love with, and gave her all the “flaws” I’m most afraid of. She doesn’t see the world in black and white. She doesn’t follow rules she can’t make sense of. She’s fiercely independent, but not as independent as she believes herself to be. Her understanding of good and bad are much more complex than mine, a quality I find inspiring in others and terrifying in a daughter. And I gave her friends and enemies who bring out those attributes in her, as well as a mother who really, truly loves her.

In real life, I’m more like Eren. He’s happy to follow the rules. His life has given him no reason to question authority. But if you think about it, in some ways, that’s way more screwed up than Char’s point of view.

Eren thinks he’s a good guy because his decisions are based on a deep-seated belief in right and wrong. In his mind, he always does what’s right; therefore, he must not be a villain. But reality is a lot messier, and sooner or later, Eren will have to confront that.
Q: How hard was it to write a book like this and do you have any tips that you could pass on which would make the journey easier for other writers?

I find writing to be a huge challenge, but not necessarily in a bad way. My personal experience in writing The Ark taught me that the harder the going, the worse the scene is going to read. When the action flows more easily, it also rings truer. At least, that’s true for me!

Q: Who is your publisher and how did you find them or did you self-publish?

I’m with Harper Voyager, the global science fiction and fantasy imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. A little while back, they put out a call for unsolicited submissions– an unprecedented move for a publishing house of that size. I sent in The Ark, but never expected anything to come of it. I think Voyager received around 5,000 manuscripts.
When I got the call from Natasha Bardon, the editorial director, I couldn’t believe it. It was totally surreal. Still is.

Q: Is there anything that surprised you about getting your first book published?

It’s been wild hearing feedback on the book from people I know. I’ve felt so much love and support from places I never expected. 

And I’ve said this before, but the writing community is incredibly supportive of its own, and you don’t even have to be published to plug in there. I hope I’m in a position to give back one day. I’d love to offer support to upcoming authors in the way that people like Mindy McGinnis, CJ Redwine, and Mary Robinette Kowal are doing right now.

Q: What other books (if any) are you working on and when will they be published?

The Ark is going to be a trilogy. Harper Voyager are down for two more! So Char has a long way to go before she finds what she’s looking for. And that’s great. I’m not ready to say goodbye to her yet.

After this series is done, I have another story I’m excited to get back to: a fun, action/adventure romp with a protagonist who takes himself a little too seriously. It will be my first in the fantasy genre. I’m looking forward to that.

Q: What’s your favorite place to hang out online?

I love visiting the sites of authors I respect, especially the ones who also do a great job of keeping their blogs up. There’s been no shortage of big names making public statements lately: Mary Robinette Kowal, George R.R. Martin, John Scalzi, and plenty of others have had lots to say about the Sad Puppies’ slate of Hugo-nominated works. Right now, GRRM has had the most activity on his site I’ve seen in a long time. It’s clear that he is still as invested in worldcon as he ever was. In other words, his mind-blowing success hasn’t changed his passion for the form. Given his tenure, his opinion is not to be taken lightly. Last week, he made something like three posts within 24 hours. I can’t look away.

Q: Finally, what message (if any) are you trying to get across with your book?

I’m not looking to put any one, big message out there. The book deals with lots of potentially divisive issues: gun control, police accountability, and prison recidivism, just for starters. My goal was to present multiple angles for each issue in a balanced, humanized way. If I’ve done my job, you probably won’t even know where I, personally, come down on any of the above.

My main goal is always to give the reader a good time. If you end up thinking a little about the way the world works along the way, so much the better! But I just want you to have fun.
Q: Thank you again for this interview!  Do you have any final words?

Wow, that sounds so… final. Thanks for your time, everyone, and let me know what you think of the book! You can find me on twitter @LauraLLNolen, or drop me a line through my site- www.lauraliddellnolen.com.

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