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.
For More Information
- Visit Laura Liddell Nolen’s website.
- Find out more about Laura at Goodreads.
- Visit Laura’s blog.
Q & A with Laura Liddell Nolen
Where did the concept for The Ark?
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.
Why did you feel you had to write this particular book?
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. So I wrote the book in order to explore that difference.
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.
What was the hardest part in writing this book?
Finding time! I have a one-year-old and a two-year-old. They’re fantastic, engaging, tiny little people, and they are the biggest priority in my life. Writing occupies nearly all of my waking thoughts, but physically sitting down to tackle a story can be a challenge.
What do you want readers to take from The Ark?
A sense of adventure! I wrote the book to be as fun and entertaining as possible. Of course, it touches on some heavy subjects: the role of police in society, rehabilitation, and redemption, for starters. If you end up considering those things when you read the book, so much the better.
What 4 tips would you give a person wanting to write a Science Fiction book?
Wow, great question! First, science fiction is broad. Just look at the difference between Robert A. Heinlein and Octavia Butler, who didn’t necessarily consider her novels to be science fiction at all! They’re two of the most important sci-fi authors ever, and their work has very little in common. So don’t worry about categorizing yourself too much.
Second, don’t feel obligated to follow any “rules” of sci-fi. Our genre exists to shatter them. When Octavia Butler wrote Kindred, she didn’t spill a single drop of ink explaining why Dana travels through time. She simply does. Other novelists might have gone twitchy at the thought of not explaining the science fiction part of their science fiction novel, but Butler was focused on other things. She knew exactly what she was doing.
Third, that being said, you do need to establish rules for the story you’re telling. I think of it as the You-Can’t-Apparate-Inside-Hogwarts Principle. In Dragonflight, for example, the farther back in time you travel, the sicker you get. You can bet this will become an important obstacle toward the end of the book.
In The Ark, the world has come to an agreement: citizens of the Arks are entitled to rights and bound by laws set forth in the Treaty of Phoenix. But everyone has also agreed that if they ever reach a new planet, the treaty will be invalid as soon as they touch down. What’s going to happen then?
And finally, reach out! This is a fantastic community, so don’t hesitate to find your place in it.
Who is Laura Liddell Nolen?
I’m a fan of sci-fi in all forms. I used to be a lawyer. Before that, I had other jobs and interests, but this one has been a constant part of me.
Do you believe it is important for writers to also be avid readers?
Yes, but I am not sure why anyone would want to write if they hadn’t been inspired by other writers’ work. There are some writers who don’t read in the genre they’re working in while they’re writing, because they want to keep their voice pure, but they’re definitely still reading.
What has been your biggest challenge/achievement as an author?
Finishing my first manuscript is the hardest thing I’ve done so far. It was like coming up for air after being underwater for years. I wasn’t sure I could do it.
What new project (s) are in the works for you?
Right now, I’m working on the sequel to The Ark. Char has a long way to go before she finds what she’s looking for.
After this series is done, I have another story I’m excited to get back to: a fun, action/adventure tale 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.
Where can readers find you?
Thanks for asking! I’m on twitter @LauraLLNolen and facebook.com/lauraliddellnolen. My website is www.lauraliddellnolen.com
About The Book
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 . . .
For More Information
- The Ark is available at Amazon.
- Pick up your copy at Barnes & Noble.
- Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.
- Read Chapter One here.