Friday, May 29, 2015

Interview with Laura Liddell Nolen, author of 'The Ark'

Laura Liddell Nolen 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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Can you tell us what your new book, The Ark, is about?

The Ark is about a young convict trapped in prison on the last day of earth. With her criminal record, she doesn’t qualify for a place on an Ark, a massive bioship 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 her.
If she ever wants to redeem herself, she’ll have to break out of prison and stow away on a space ship, a crime punishable by death. So the closer she gets to her law-abiding family, the more of an outlaw she becomes.

Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

They are from my imagination. Someone once told me that you develop a character by the choices s/he makes. I think that’s good advice for writers. The choices my characters make are based on circumstances unique to the story. You don’t confront a lot of space pirates in real life! That being said, I try to make their emotional reactions both relatable and realistic.

Physically, about half of my characters are based on actors, and the other half are people I’ve known. But I won’t say which people! A tiny number are faces I made up.

Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel or do you discover it as you write?

I outine so. much. I have outlines for my outlines. The story doesn’t always follow the outline, so I end up revising them constantly. The times I’ve stepped off-script have been some of my favorite moments in the books, though.

Have you suffered from writer’s block and what do you do to get back on track?

Yes and I have NOT A CLUE how to cure it! I’ve tried everything. It seems to come and go all on its own.

What would you do with an extra hour today if you could do anything you wanted?

I’d go for a long walk, preferably with a friend.

Which holiday is your favorite and why?

I mean, you get the most chocolate at Easter, so...

If we were to meet for lunch to talk books, where would we go?

Gosh, food and books. The pressure!! We need a spot that can live up to that amount of awesome. I love when people visit Houston because this city has some excellent food, and it’s so much fun to share that with newcomers. It’s hard to go wrong here, but Punk’s in West U has an awesome back porch.

If we were in Hattiesburg, we’d hit the deck at Branch.

What is the most pivotal point of a writer’s life?

This is a hard question. I think writing is unique among other industries in that there is a series of moments that really matter. Finishing your first manuscript might be the first, then finally getting up the nerve to ask someone else to read it might come next. Then there’s the moment you find out you’re going to be published and the day the book comes out. I was a little nervous for my first interview, too. It’s several crucial steps along a long path. Ugh, maybe I should add “losing the inclination to make bad metaphors” to the list!

What kind of advice would you give other fiction authors?

Read, write, revise, and repeat. Keep writing- don’t give up. It’s never over until you quit.

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