Ep 119 Smart ways to publicise your book and meet L.A. Larkin, author of the new thriller “Devour”.

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podcast-artwork In Episode 119 of So you want to be a writer: Why you should submit to literary journals and how to give your writing rhythm. Smart ways to publicise your book, how to cope when your freelance writing client dumps you, and tips for surviving a structural edit. Meet L.A. Larkin, author of the new thriller “Devour”. What’s wrong with your author website, should you call yourself an “author” or a “writer”, and much more!

Click play to listen to the podcast or find it on iTunes here. If you don’t use iTunes you can get the feed here, or listen to us on Stitcher radio.

Show Notes
How to Start Submitting Your Work to Literary Journals

Does Your Writing Have Rhythm?

7 Ways Besides Sales to Make Money Off your Novel

How to Cope When a Freelance-Writing Client Dumps You

3 tips for surviving a structural edit

Writer in Residence

L.A. Larkin
author la larkin in a white shirt black and white photoBritish-Australian thriller author, L.A. Larkin, has been likened to Michael Crichton and Matthew Reilly. The Genesis Flaw was nominated for four crime fiction awards and Thirst described as, ‘The best Antarctic thriller since Ice Station’. Devour, the first book in the Olivia Wolfe thriller series, is published by Constable in the UK and by Hachette in Australia and New Zealand.

An adventurer at heart, Larkin has spent time in the Antarctic, and with scientists at the British Antarctic Survey and the Australian Antarctic Division.

Follow L.A. Larkin on Twitter

Working Writer’s Tip

Should you call yourself an “author” or a “writer”.

Answered in the podcast!

Competition

WIN 16 books in our crime and thriller short story competition

Your hosts

Allison Tait

Valerie Khoo / Australian Writers’ Centre

Connect with us on twitter

@altait

@valeriekhoo

Email us

podcast at writerscentre.com.au

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Interview Transcript 

Valerie

Thanks for joining us today, Louisa.

 

Louisa

Oh, my pleasure. Thanks for having me.

 

Valerie

Now for readers who haven’t read your book yet, Devour, can you tell us what it’s about?

 

Louisa

So, Devour is an action and conspiracy thriller. It is the first in a series of thrillers featuring a new character called Olivia Wolfe, who is an investigative journalist. The very nature of her job means that she goes to very dangerous locations, she investigates dangerous people and her life is pretty much in permanent peril, and that of course makes it very exciting for the story.

 

In Devour she is in Antarctica at a remote field site where they’re drilling down to what they believe is a lake that has been buried beneath ice for centuries. It is beneath three kilometers of ice, and in that lake these scientists believe that there is life, that there is alien life that has never before had contact with mankind. And so their mission is to bring that lifeform to the surface.

 

And, of course, the premise of the book is well, what if that all went horribly wrong. What if it was a bad decision to do that.

 

Valerie

Now, how in the world did the idea for this book form? Where did you think, “I’m going to write about ancient life buried three kilometers under the surface in Antarctica?”

 

Louisa

Well, I’ve always found Antarctica fascinating. As I think you probably know, I’ve been there myself, I spent time there. I’ve spent time with the Australian Antarctic Division and the British Antarctic Survey, actually interviewing a lot of their scientists, meeting their researchers, learning their survival techniques.

 

So, I’m a huge fan of the continent. I’m a massive fan of the protection of that continent.

 

But, the story of Devour was really inspired by a real expedition to Antarctica in 2012, to do exactly this. A British team went to a place in Antarctica above what they call Lake Ellsworth. So, the Lake Ellsworth in the story is a real place, it’s a real lake that they believe is buried down there.

And this team did try to drill down through the ice to reach what they believe is liquid water, because of the warm Earth geothermal currents underneath, and to find a lifeform. Unfortunately, their drill broke halfway through, you can imagine how difficult it would be to do that. And they had to cancel the mission. So, they never found what they were looking for.

 

I was reading about this and I thought, “This is just the perfect premise for a thriller,” because if I then take it from that point where they do actually succeed to bring it to the surface and then all sorts of nasty things happen, sabotage, murder, people turn up who shouldn’t be there, it’s quite clear that it could be used for something that is not good. I won’t say too much, because I don’t want to spoil it for people. And Olivia is, amongst all of it, trying to find out what is going wrong and to prevent a global catastrophe, and that’s really what the story is about. She will become a person who will try to prevent this, will become very isolated, will not be believed by her peers, by her boss, by the police, by anybody. And, she will have to potentially sacrifice herself to stop this terrible thing from happening.

 

Valerie

Olivia Wolfe is the protagonist, and I know that you’re really passionate about having strong female leads, particularly in books like this where this is, as you say, a conspiracy thriller. Do you think they’re generally missing from the thriller genre?

 

Louisa

You know, Valerie, that is a really great question, because… the reason why I write thrillers is because I love reading them, and I read every night. And I’ve always got, you know, a thriller under my nose from somebody. Thrillers do span — the term ‘thrillers’ does span a very, very broad spectrum of the genre, and you can get anything from the sort of more psychological thriller where you have sometimes, say, a woman being stalked by a bit of a pyscho nut, and the woman is sometimes, but not always, the victim of the story, who then becomes the heroine. You have a lot of thrillers where women play important roles, but they are the supporting character.

 

So, I mean just off the top of my head, I don’t know, everybody tends to know, say, Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code, the support character is a female who is also a symbologist, and she provides a vital role, but she’s often in terrible trouble, so she needs rescuing.

 

There are some thrillers, more of the action conspiracy, which is where I write, where you do have some female leads. They, then again, tend to be more your ex-military types, or, or are FBI, some kind of trained person. I think that is possibly because inevitably when you write the kind of face-paced action end of the world as we know it where the stakes are high and the enemies are usually armed and trained and very dangerous, that you tend to have male leads, because there are almost inevitably fight scenes and people get hurt. And the central character does get hurt.

 

But, I see no reason why you can’t have a woman in that role. But, I’m not keen to create, or I wasn’t keen to create a female lead who was ex-military or ex-military police, or ex-police or so on, because I’m very fascinated by what investigative journalists do, and actually how incredibly hard the work is, and actually how incredibly dangerous. And the inspiration for Devour, and the inspiration for the character Olivia Wolfe, although I must stress that this particular journalist in no way resembles Olivia Wolfe, I completely made up Olivia Wolfe’s life and personality and everything else, but the inspiration was a journalist that I used to read, I used to read her articles voraciously. And her name was Marie Colvin, she was an American journalist who reported mainly from war zones.

 

You may have seen photos of her, because at one point she lost an eye, was badly injured and she was sort of an attractive woman, but she had a black eye patch as a result of that. Anyway, she was a great believer in reporting the innocent victims of wars, and they were often the women and children. So, it meant that she was going in where bombardments were happening and so on to report this. And I believe from the top of head it was mainly for The Guardian in London that she was reporting for. So, forgive me if I have got that wrong, but I think that’s correct.

 

But, very sadly, in the bombardment of Homs in Syria in 2012 she died. But, her bravery and her resilience and her desire to pursue the truth, because that’s what she felt, that was the role that she had, she kept governments and the military and all of us honest by telling us about what was really happening. And I thought, “Wow, I write about made up heroes and made up heroines, but here is a woman who I believe was really incredibly brave.”

 

Then I thought, “Well, wouldn’t she make a fantastic character in a thriller?” That’s really how the idea of having someone like Olivia Wolfe as a series character, that I send her off to all sorts of dangerous places, and she uncovers all sorts of nasty things going on. But, she’s brave enough to keep going.

 

Valerie

You say that this is going to be part of a series, presumably you’re working on the second book already?

 

Louisa

I am. So, I’ve just got back from South Africa, where the next book is mainly set. And, there is already a YouTube video out about this, so I’m not going to spoil it, if I basically say that there is a topic which I think is very close to a lot of people’s hearts, if they’re concerned with the poaching that is going on in South Africa and the syndicates, the powerful syndicates that are behind it.

 

So, I won’t say anymore, but it’s called Prey. And, that’s the next one in the series.

 

Valerie

So, the book is called Prey?

 

Louisa

Yes, the next one.

 

Valerie

 

Louisa

After Devour.

 

Valerie

Yes.

 

Louisa

So, we’ve got Devour, then we’ve got Prey. And the title is really sort of — well, the plan is the title will reflect the main topic of the story.

 

Valerie

Yeah. Brilliant.

 

So, you obviously take your research seriously because you have just gone to South Africa for the next book. You have previously gone to Antarctica, because of course one of your previous books, Thirst, was set in Antarctica as well. When you went to Antarctica did you go there with specific research that you wanted to do, because you knew that these were some of the plot points in your book, or did you go there just to basically suss what was going on and then write your plot accordingly, depending on what you discovered?

 

Louisa

Well, when I was in Antarctica I was working on Thirst. I think there are some locations where through research, through reading, say, journalist blogs and all sorts of things you can get away with perhaps not being there. It is difficult, but I think you use pictures and so on to try and bring locations to life.

 

But, I think when the environment is something that you’re really not used to, I think it’s very difficult to do so. So, if it is at all possible I do try to get there. So, Thirst, for me, going to Antarctica at that time was to experience the cold, to know how debilitating it can be, to understand how dangerous a location is in itself, without adding murderers to the mix, you know? Or potential assassins or anything else, you know?

 

Valerie

Yes.

 

Louisa

And to smell it, to touch it, to taste it, to hear it, to hear the noises. You know? I remember one time when I was there when I thought — you know I’m a dog lover.

 

Valerie

Yes.

 

Louisa

And there are no dogs in Antarctica. Many years ago there used to be dog-sled dogs, but they were banned from Antarctica a long time ago. So, unlike in the artic where they have sled dogs, in the Antarctic they do not.

 

But, I was sitting there thinking, “I can hear a dog barking. Am I going mad? Maybe I am.” But, it was a fur seal that sounded, I swear, honestly, it was like a dog. It completely amazed me. And I turned around and I could see this fur seal on a rock, looking very stroppy and staring at me. He was doing this barking noise.

 

But, it’s little details like that, that I think it’s very hard to pick up if you can’t actually be there and live it. And, I hope — I hope it helps bring the story to life.

 

Valerie

Absolutely. There are some scenes where I’m sitting there and I’m shivering, because…

 

Louisa

Oh, good. Well, that’s a great response. Thank you.

 

Valerie

Yeah, because you actually feel, “Oh my god, really? People need to exist through this kind of environment?” And it’s really, really visceral, and it’s really, really real, obviously.

 

So, I think, obviously, sitting there rather than just reading blogs on Google, it makes a big difference.

 

You’re onto the second Olivia Wolfe book, now before you wrote this one, before you wrote Devour, had you planned out the journey? Had you planned out the plot? Or are you the sort of writer who just discovers? Starts with a premise and starts writing and sees what happens?

 

Louisa

Well, it’s interesting because I have changed a bit over my writing career. And I think it’s because — how should I put this? With every book I want to do better. With every book I want to challenge myself. And I want to produce the absolute best novel yet. And so what has been happening is leading up to Devour, and particularly with Devour, it’s the most complex of my thrillers, as in lots of plot twists. There is a psychological thriller element to it with the stalker, which is the subplot.

 

There are lots of potential villains in the story. And I’m deliberately keeping Olivia, and I hope the reader, guessing all the way along the way. There’s one character, Vitaly Yushkov is he or isn’t he — should he or shouldn’t he be trusted? Is he or isn’t he with SVR, which is what used to be the KGB.

 

Because it’s such a complicated, and I hope therefore intriguing and exciting plot, with subplots, I needed to plan a lot more. And so when I first started out it was much more just keep the pen moving, as you say, which really these days, of course, is keep your fingers tapping over the keys.

 

Valerie

Yes.

 

Louisa

I’m a great believer in the combination of the two. But, the way I worked with Devour and the way I am now working on Prey, and this is going to sound so embarrassingly old-fashioned, so just bear with me, because I’ve tried all sorts of things and all sorts of ways of doing this, and eventually I think you find what works for you.

 

Do you remember when you used to go to libraries they used to have little index cards, in wooden boxes.

 

Valerie

Ah, yes. In the catalog, yeah.

 

Louisa

Yes! And you’d pull them out and you’d search for an author name and then there would be this little card. Well, those little cards you can actually still buy from the post office, believe or not. And so what I do is I summarize my chapters on these little cards. I tend to write shorter chapters, we’re talking normally around 70-odd chapters for a thriller, so there’s quite a few of them. And then I plan… I make it clear on those cards whose point of view is it. So, in Devour there are a number of different points of view, Olivia’s of course is the main one, but there are others, like the stalker.

 

I put down the point of view, and I write down what the key points of the particular chapters are. Am I writing a revelation about how the villain is? Is it about — is it an inciting incident that will propel the central character out of their comfort zone?

 

So, I sort of go through in that sort of way. And then I go to the dining room and I lay all of these cards out on my dining room table, because it’s a big one. And I look at it and I take a step back and I go… I might say to it, say, “I’m allowing too much time to introduce this important character. I should introduce them earlier.” Or, “This action is taking far too long, it’s not exciting enough, I’m going to bring it forward.”

 

And so by stepping back that way, but I prefer to do it physically.

 

Valerie

Yep.

 

Louisa

I know you can do this sort of thing, there are all sorts of, like, software programs that you can do. I prefer to physically pick up the card and move it around. I also prefer to physically read a printed copy of a book. So, I clearly like to be that more sort of directly engaged type of person.

 

Valerie

Wow.

 

Louisa

I was in a debate a couple of years ago, which was are you a plotter or a pantser, which I’m sure a lot of people have attended those kinds of debates. And, I put my hand up for a plotter, because I think I’m not meticulous as some authors are. I know there are authors out there who almost plan their whole book.

 

Valerie

Yes.

 

Louisa

It’s so detailed. But, I like to know where I’m going to make sure I’ve really got it as tight and exciting as possible. But, then I give myself total permission to let the writing process take over. So, if I find myself doing something that really isn’t as I had planned, but it is almost inevitably way better, I just let it happen.

 

So, it’s that strange mixture of your imagination taking over, but at least knowing the direction that you want to go.

 

Valerie

When you let it happen. When it’s taking you off in another direction, in your experience have you typically found that you stick with that direction and then you need to rearrange the rest of your cards kind of thing?

 

Louisa

Yes, yes.

 

Valerie

Right.

 

Louisa

Absolutely. I’d say some of the best plot twists, the ones that people have really commented on — you know, you get the nice comments on Facebook and email saying, “Oh wow, I never saw that coming.”

 

Valerie

Yes.

 

Louisa

“What a great…” you know?

 

Valerie

Yep.

 

Louisa

Then it’s inevitable, because I’ve let the character do what they would do naturally rather than trying to force, perhaps into a behavior that just wouldn’t be right. They wouldn’t react that way.

 

But, I think to be able to do that you need to know your characters really well.

 

So, I spend — I’m in a genre that’s very plot driven, inevitably.

 

Valerie

Oh yeah.

 

Louisa

But, I spend — the first thing I do when I’m approaching a book is the characters. It’s knowing those characters back to front, everything about them, how they would react to certain situations, what their strengths and weaknesses are. You know, do they believe in god? What socks do they wear? I mean I’m talking everything.

 

Valerie

So how do you do that? If you’re starting to formulate a character do you write all of that down or have a file on them with their socks and stuff like that? How do you do that?

 

Louisa

I do write it all down. When I’m teaching with the Australian Writers’ Centre and we get to character, characterization, I actually share these questionnaires that I have. I have these questionnaires, which are based on physiological, psychological and sociological questions, which help me form the entirety of the person. There are some strange ones on there. Like, one of the questions might be, “Do you have many, if any, friends?” Or, “Are you kind to animals?” Which, of course, there’s a lot of criminal evidence that people who end up doing horrific things to people actually, very sadly, start out on animals.

 

So, those questions might seem bizarre, but particularly if you’re creating a pretty nasty character who is the adversary, I need to really get into their head. I need to know why they’re doing the things that they’re doing, and how they have become that person, because I’m a great believer that people will be doing these terrible things not because they are innately evil, it’s because of the world that they have come from, it is because of something that has happened to them, a brutal way that they’ve been treated, or they’ve been indoctrinated.

 

I’m not very good at books where a character is presented as just evil. I like a book to give me at least a bit of an insight into how this person could be doing these awful things.

 

Valerie

Yes.

 

Can you give us some milestones in terms of — let’s just take Devour, because that’s the book at hand, like, how long did it take you to think of the 70 index cards, to write them down, then to start the writing process, how long did that take? Until your first draft? How long was then the editing process? Can you just give us some key blocks, if you know what I mean? Of time? So that people get an idea of how long this process actually took for you?

 

Louisa

Well, so I think one of the really good things about having a contract with a publisher, apart from the fact that eventually you get paid, which is always helpful, is that it gives you a deadline, because one of the pitfalls of the genre that I write is that it takes you into fascinating zones, and you start researching fascinating people, and it can be quite distracting.

 

But, to answer your question, I think… I don’t have a shortage of stories that I can write. I’ve probably got about 20 in my computer already lined up.

 

Valerie

Really?

 

Louisa

I will find the inspiration from anything — from watching something on the news or googling something, or a friend will prompt me and say, “Have you heard about this? This is really weird.” I note it down as a story idea.

 

If we park the idea that I’m not searching for an idea for a story, I already know broadly the story I want to write, and I’ve done enough research to know that the story can be told credibly, so that it actually does have legs, it’s not ridiculous, it could work. Then really the index cards and planning it out… probably a couple of weeks. But, that’s very big picture stuff.

 

Valerie

Sure.

 

Louisa

You know, you’re just sort of jotting down on cards like a few bullet points, maybe. But, if we’re starting from the very beginning the thing I spend the most time on are the central characters, so if you want to call them the hero and the villain of the story, the two most important, because they need to balance each other. And you need to start a thriller with all of the odds stacked against the hero or heroine, and seemingly all in favor of the villain.

 

I spent quite a lot of time on the central character. I’d say probably… it’s very hard because then they cross over each other, but I’d say probably about a couple of weeks on those as well, on the characters and supporting characters. Like, there’s an SO15 metropolitan police detective, there’s a retired detective in it. You know? Et cetera, et cetera. There’s a stalker character — that character required a lot of research, because I needed to make him credible. So, I needed to talk to a clinical psychologist about this who has dealt with this kind of person who also has a brain injury.

 

So, then I think really it’s a case of you start writing. And, then you just let it go and see where it will go.

 

Probably the first draft is more about finding the direction of your story, and I would say probably that’s about — I don’t know, five months.

 

Valerie

Right, and in that five months how much time are you committing to it, like on a daily basis? Do you write every day? Do you aim for a word count each day? How do you actually make sure that the words come out?

 

Louisa

Well, when I’m not having to do promotions and things like that, because Devour, of course, it’s coming to a time where I’m getting a bit distracted, relaunching websites and writing articles and things like that. So, that’s a difficult one that I find to balance, but on the whole I will always work at least five days a week, and I like to start really early. So, I’m sitting at my desk, usually in my pajamas, with a cup of tea, by 7:00, if not before, sometimes 6:00, because that is the best time. You wake up, your head is clear, and it is the time when I write the best scenes, because you haven’t got cluttered with the distractions of the day, phone calls, emails asking you to do things, all of which is important, but it drags you out of this imaginary world.

 

And, I find that the quality of my writing is hard to maintain later on in the day when there are other distractions around, which I try and not — I try not answer emails and things like that until later, or do any kind of marketing activity until much, much later.

 

I probably stop writing about 5:00.

 

Valerie

You stop writing at about 5:00?

 

Louisa

At about 5:00 and then I’ll do the other stuff that I need to do.

 

Valerie

Yep.

 

Louisa

Generally. Although at the moment it’s a little bit the other way around, because there are a lot urgent emails coming in from, say, Hachette, for publicity stuff. And I’m thinking, “Well, I’ve got to make that a priority, because they need it quickly.”

 

But, there are some authors who absolutely will write every single day. I think Stephen King writes every day. Robert McCall Smith, I think, works every day, even on Christmas day, would you believe it?

 

I don’t find the writing bit — I don’t ever have a problem with the writing bit. I have a problem with distraction.

 

Valerie

Yeah, sure. Of course.

 

Louisa

I find I start thinking, “Oh, I really should answer that email.” Or, “I haven’t put anything up on Facebook yet.” The publishers say you’ve got to keep interacting with people on Facebook and Twitter, and I absolutely understand that, but then I find myself taken out of the writing world.

 

Valerie

Of course.

 

As you say you teach crime and thriller writing at the Australian Writers’ Centre, and people love your course. What I’m interested to know is when you are teaching that and you’ve got people who are fresh to writing the genre, anyway, they probably do read it, what are some of the common misconceptions people have about crime and thriller writing that they might learn? Or that you feel is important for them to know?

 

Louisa

Well, one of the first things I try and help clarify is what kind of story the people in the class actually want to write, because there is a little bit of confusion about what a thriller is, and, say, what a detective-based story is. They are actually very different.

 

And sort of try and help them, because I think you kind of broadly need to know that.

 

Valerie

So, can you just flesh that out a little bit?

 

Louisa

Yeah, of course. So, a thriller is generally about a character who needs to prevent a terrible thing from happening. The stakes are incredibly high. And so thrillers tend to be at the — they’re talking about things like the assignation of the President of the United States, the release of a virus that will terminate mankind.

 

It could also be some, you know, terrible killer who has just got a terrible plan to blow lots of people up or to hurt children at a school or something like that, but these are big things. It’s about a central character stopping, trying to discover what’s going on and stopping it.

 

So, there are people who do die along the way, I mean that’s inevitably the case with a thriller. But, it’s not like a detective-based crime fiction story where you have a body at the first chapter, almost at the first chapter, almost certainly in the first chapter, and then the detective, FBI agent and so on then has to find the killer. It’s sort of the big event has already happened. Now, more people may die along the way, but it starts with the death of somebody, and that’s the focus.

 

So, it goes about a different way and the detective tends to be a bit more procedural, not always, but a bit more how are they going to go about hunting down the identity of this person? With a thriller it often involves a lot more mystery about what is this all about? What is actually going to happen? And you’ll find that the central characters will be going off in all sorts of wrong directions, assuming that in fact this person is about to do a.) when in fact, really the plan is to destroy b.).

 

That’s one of the sort of things I try to help with.

 

The other thing is that having a central character, a lead character. Now I know there are books out there where you have, say, numerous points of view and numerous characters, like, I mean, you know, Game of Thrones, you’ve got all of those different characters. With crime fiction and thrillers it’s not to say that you can’t have that, but if you’re beginning your writing career it’s very complicated and it takes a lot of skill to do that. Generally you’re talking, if it’s detective-based fiction, you’re talking the lead detective and the person they’re trying to catch, you want those characters. You don’t want three lead detectives all — you’re following all of them, because you really want to be supporting and cheering one character that you really identify with, so when they fail or get hurt you’re really moved by it.

 

The same with a thriller. Like, I sometimes get questions of, “Well, if my central character really can’t cope with meeting the villain of the story, maybe I will just sort of kind of send the cavalry and let them just sort it out.” I was like, “Well, no, you can’t redo that because the whole point of a thriller is it’s a battle between good and evil and good needs…” not always, and this is something we do discuss, the whole idea is that, you know, your reader will want the good character to vanquish the bad character. And you can’t deny your central character that and let someone else come in and take the glory, because if that’s the case we should have been following the character who comes in and saves the day.

 

Valerie

Yes.

 

Louisa

Because the climax of the thriller is the ultimate battle between them, and it doesn’t have to be a physical battle, but it is where the two characters will face it off and one will win, or half win, and the other one won’t.

 

Valerie

So you say that you read thrillers. You have 20 stories in your computer ready to go. Obviously you’re a big fan of the genre, do you… when you’re doing the laundry or driving in the car, are you thinking about, you know, saving the world from destruction and that sort of thing all the time?

 

Louisa

Well, yeah. I do constantly think, everywhere — it’s a bit sad, isn’t it? Everywhere I look I think… I sometimes will pass someone on the street and go, “What a face. What a look! Oh my goodness, that person would be ideal for ‘X’ character.” Or, you know, I’ll see something on the news and I’ll actually scribble it down. Or… I’ll suddenly have an idea, as you said, when I’m driving and go, “I realize why this isn’t working,” because sometimes you’ll do something, you’ll think, “You know, this just isn’t right.” And at the moment I just have that kind of same situation where I thought, “There’s something not quite…” there’s not the right balance of characters at the moment in the next book, and then I’ve realized why and I need to change the role from a journalist to a detective. This is a supporting journalist, not the central character.

 

Valerie

Yep.

 

Louisa

To a South African detective, and that will actually rebalance it.

 

Yes, so very sadly I do. It can sometimes get a bit depressing if you’re focusing on the horrors, because I’m constantly reading… a lot of my stuff is based in science and scientific research. For instance, I was asked to do an article recently about the ten most amazing things I’ve learnt while researching Devour. And one of them is about, and you may know this, Valerie, but I was a bit shocked, that we potentially have the capacity to eliminate small pox from the planet completely. So, all we have to do is destroy the last remaining small pox viruses and it’s gone.

 

But, these viruses are kept in two maximum security laboratories, one in America and one in Russia. Now, the big question is why? Why are we keeping them? And then the next thing that I thought was really quite spooky was they were supposed to be the only places in the world where small pox existed, obviously sitting in these vials. And in 2014 some janitor, I believe, was clearing out an old laboratory in Maryland in the US and came across this sort of storage unit that had been completely neglected, and opened the fridges, the freezers actually, it was a frozen sample. And it was later discovered that was small pox that had been sitting there quietly in this laboratory. And you think, “Yeah, that’s not a good idea.”

 

Then, of course, it leads to the question, I’m not particularly planning on writing this story, but what if someone who knew a bit about science thought, “Wow, I’ve got the chance here to release small pox. What could I do with this? Could I use it as a weapon?” And I tend to think about all of these things. And when I’m reading these things I’m thinking, “Now, would that make a good story?”

 

So, this is kind of a bit of a dark world that I’m afraid I do spend a lot of time in.

 

Valerie
Yeah, do you ever have to check yourself and pull yourself out of it, if you’ve been delving into too much of the dark side of things?

 

Louisa

I do, because I think, you know, sometimes it can be a bit, “Wow, we just do some…” human beings do some pretty terrible and sometimes really dumb things. I mean we do great things too, and this is the problem. It’s like if I spend as much time as I do thinking about what could go horribly wrong, because that’s really what a thriller is about. It’s like the worst thing that could possibly happen and I’m creating stories around it. So, I do, yes, I do. And that’s one reason why I wrote, you know, the dog detective story, the humorous story, because it was light and uplifting and fun and completely different.

 

Valerie

Yes.

 

Louisa

So that took me into another world where I would giggle to myself. I think sometimes I find I’m getting a bit too dark and gloomy I’ll call up a girlfriend and I’ll say, “I think I need to meet you. I need a glass of wine, I need to refocus on the good things in life.”

 

Valerie

I really enjoy reading thrillers, but when I’ve gotten to the end of one I’m often a little bit exhausted.

 

Louisa

Yes.

 

Valerie

I keep that tension, because I want to know what happens next, and I’m living in that world for that period. What do you hope people will feel when they’ve read your book?

 

Louisa

Right, what do I hope they’ll feel?

 

Look, I think if you are feeling emotionally exhausted at the end of a thriller, then the author has done a really good job, because a thriller is an emotional rollercoaster. It is meant to be… you’re meant to be terrified when the character is in terrible danger, elated when they’ve had a success, mortified when everything has gone horribly wrong. You know, upset when they’re upset. So, you’re taking on quite an emotional ride with a thriller.

 

Sorry, what was the question again?

 

Valerie

What do you hope readers will feel when they’re —

 

Louisa

What they’ll feel, yeah.

 

Valerie

Or how you would like them to react.

 

Louisa

I hope they will have enjoyed it. I think the thing is they would have actually thought, “Wow, that really got my heart pumping. I really enjoyed the character.” I hope people really like Olivia Wolfe, that they want to carry on with her on her next adventure.

 

I suppose it would be satisfying in a way if they have a think about the topic of the book, because the stories I write are about subjects that I find fascinating, worrying, frightening. So, there is a lot more behind them. I hope they might go away and think, “Wow, I’ve never thought about things from perhaps that point of view, whether this is a good thing or bad thing, I’ve just sort of not really paid much attention to it. It would be interesting to find out,” because then I think the story lives on. That it moves into a more real world scenario, which can be equally fascinating, if you move over to the world of non-fiction. So, you know, a book set in Antarctica, if people want to then find out about the real expedition to Antarctica they can.

 

Valerie

Yes.

 

 

Louisa

You know? They can find out about the real Lake Ellsworth Project, and they can also think about the question, perhaps, you know, is it the right thing to do? If we’re always exploring and trying to do these experimental things, is the result always good? These are questions I’m not going to say I ever have the answers to, but I think it’s good to take a step back every now and again and say, “In this world I live in, is this a good thing? And should I be paying attention to it,” perhaps?

 

Valerie

Finally, for people who want to write crime books or thriller books and they want to be in a position like you one day where they’ve actually written one or published one, what’s your advice to them, if they haven’t got there yet?

 

Louisa

My advice would be that it’s probably the toughest thing I’ve ever done. So, I’ve worked in all sorts of corporate careers, I can safely tell you I’ve never worked so hard. But, the reward is far greater because you’re doing it for yourself, you know? You’re doing something that is very personal. And, it’s your book, and it’s your legacy, I guess. That’s the thing. It’s a very personal legacy that you leave the world.

 

My main advice would be don’t give up. If you really love doing it, if you really enjoy the writing process then don’t give up because you will get a lot of people who will say ‘no’ to you. A lot of people who won’t like what you’re writing, but there will always be people who do and it’s just a case of finding them.

 

Valerie

Great advice. And on that note, thanks so much for your time today, Louisa.

 

Louisa

My pleasure. Thank you so much. I really enjoyed talking to you.

 

 

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