Albert Camus

Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

a crime punishable by death - The Ark by Laura Liddell Nolen

There’s a meteor headed for Earth, and there is only one way to survive.
With her criminal record, sixteen-year-old Char is never going to get a place on an Ark, one of the five massive bioships designed to protect Earth’s survivors. The Arks are reserved for the real goody-goodies, like Char’s mom, dad, and brother, all of whom have long since turned their backs on her.


Publication date: March 26th, 2015

There’s a meteor headed for Earth, and there is only one way to survive.

With her criminal record, sixteen-year-old Char is never going to get a place on an Ark, one of the five massive bioships designed to protect Earth’s survivors. The Arks are reserved for the real goody-goodies, like Char’s mom, dad, and brother, all of whom have long since turned their backs on her.

With Earth on the brink of destruction, Char must use all her tricks of the trade to swindle her way into outer space, where she hopes to reunite with her family, regardless of whether they want to see her or not.

Once she arrives on the North American Ark, Char discovers that the remnants of humanity haven’t achieved the egalitarian utopia they’d planned for. For starters, the “Officers of the Peace” are anything but peaceful, especially since stealing a spot on an Ark is a crime punishable by death…


Thank you so much for having me! I’m a fan of your site.

1. We all know about the biblical Ark of Noah and its significance. What made you choose this starting point for your story?
It’s a story about survival and redemption, so it felt like the perfect fit for the character I wanted to write- someone who is struggling to find herself. I’m also fascinated with the idea that certain things were able to be salvaged in the flood/meteor, along with people, and I had a lot of fun thinking through what things we would save from modern-day earth, and at what cost. It’s the idea that humanity can start over again, just like Char wants to do, but are we just going to make the same mistakes the next time around?

2. Tell us about Char’s family relationship and why did you constructed such a premise?
Char is trying to find herself. Because of the bad decisions she’s made, she struggles with some anger that she doesn’t entirely understand. As she explains in the book, a lot of it comes from trying– and failing– to meet her parents’ unrealistic and superficial expectations for her life. Char is fiercely independent, but not as much as she thinks she is, and because of Char’s resentment, her parents’ influence over her life is probably going to be more apparent to the reader than to Char herself.

When I wrote the book, I was pregnant with my first child, 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. These are fantastic qualities, and if Char uses her considerable talents for good, they will serve her well. Eventually.

3. From what I read, in Ark we will find some blurred lines between good and bad (persons). What bring these grey areas to the story and how hard is to keep them “under control”?
I’m so glad you noticed! I wanted my characters to be a mix of good and bad because that’s how people are. Of course, some are much more good than bad! It’s easiest to do this when you really think about things from a particular character’s point of view- what does the Commander truly want, for example? That’s a question I get into in the next book, and it goes a long way toward explaining his extreme behavior.

4. What a girl author could do to write a SF “readeable” by boys? Where Ark stands from this point of view?
Great question.
You have to tell the story in the way that makes the most sense for that particular story. All this worry about gender is just going to sidetrack you and potentially add to any self-doubts you might already be facing. So what if you have a romance in an action novel? Or a chase scene in a romance? There are male and female fans of books that feature both.

As to where The Ark fits in with all this, I tried to tell the most exciting, realistic story I possibly could, given the wildness of the premise. That meant making my characters as well-rounded as possible in spite of my love of action and adventure. I don’t think there’s a single meaningful rule you can follow that will earn you male readers. If you look at the best and most popular sci-fi novels of all time, they don’t have a lot in common as far as content. It’s one of the things that make this genre so exciting. Many, but not all, feature a problematic romance, like Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, The Hunger Games, and 1984. Those books have tons of male readers. It’s the same with action scenes. So if it makes your story stronger, go for it.

5. What are the negative and positive aspects of using a cliffhanger and can you, please, tell us if and/or when to expect a next book?
The negative: Welp, this is an easy one. People do not respond super well to cliffhangers. That’s just a quick warning to any aspiring writers out there, as well as my future self. I love my readers SO MUCH, and the thought of letting them down in any way is really hard on me. So I can say that you should not expect another cliffhanger from me anytime soon.

That being said, I honestly didn’t think I was ending The Ark on a true cliffhanger when I wrote it. At the time, I really believed that the most important part of the story- Char’s internal journey, her fight with herself- was resolved, so it would be fine to leave an external plot thread dangling.

All this to say, I’m doubly excited to pick up where I left off! I can’t wait for Char to go back into battle.

As far as what’s next for the series: The Ark is a planned trilogy. My amazing editor at HarperVoyager has since changed the title on Amazon to make this clear. She’s the best! The next book will be out in 2016, and I can’t wait to share its title with you soon.

Thank you so much for all your thoughtful questions! This has been really fun.


On the last day of Earth, I couldn’t find my hairbrush. That probably seems like a silly thing to worry about, what with the imminent destruction of, well, everything, but my mom was always after me about my usual ratty ponytail. Normally, I’d ignore her. Or, if I were having a really bad day, I’d tell her what she could do with her hairbrush. But like I said, it was the last day of Earth. And I figured, since it was the last time she’d ever see me, I wanted it to go smoothly. I wanted her to remember me, if not fondly, then at least without anger.
A girl can dream.
I slipped out of my cell as soon as the door swung open. I’d done the same every day for the past month, and my family had yet to show up. Their OPT—Off-Planet Transport—took off in eighteen hours, so they still had time. Barely. I couldn’t blame them if they didn’t come. It wasn’t hard to imagine that they’d rather escape to the stars without so much as a backward glance at me, their big disappointment. Even my father’s influence couldn’t persuade the government to give me a spot on an OPT.
Turns out, when humankind is deciding which of its children to save, the last place it looks is in prison.
But I was pretty sure they’d come. West had said as much in his last transmission. The thought of my younger brother actually halted me mid-step, like one of those punches in the gut where you can’t breathe for a few seconds.
“Looking for something?” The lazy drawl floated out of the nearest cell.
Against my better instincts, I turned to see Cassa lying on her bunk, her arm draped across Kip. My Kip. Or at least, my ex-Kip. Whatever. In twenty-two hours, I wouldn’t have to think about him anymore.
See? Silver lining. And they called me a perpetual pessimist at my last psych workup.
They barely fit next to each other on the flimsy mattress, but that wasn’t the weird part. The guys’ ward was separated by a substantial metal wall. We were kept apart during evening hours, for obvious reasons. Not that anyone cared anymore. The med staff had been the first to go, followed by the cleaning crew, followed by the kitchen crew. To show you where girls like me fell on the government’s list of priorities, there was still a skeleton crew of guards lurking around, despite the fact that I hadn’t had a real meal for going on a week. The guards would be gone soon, too, and then there’d be no one in here but us chickens.
I figured either Kip had a key, or the guards had left already. A key could be useful. My curiosity got the best of me. “How’d he get in here before the first bell?”
He cocked an eyebrow. “I got some tricks you ain’t seen, babe. Why don’t you join us? End of the world and all.”
The guards were gone, then. I felt a small trill of anxiety deep in my chest. If the guards were gone, my family was even less likely to show. But it was never smart to show fear. “The Pinball could be headed straight for this building, and I still wouldn’t be desperate enough to touch you. Oh, wait. Guess you don’t have to take my word for it.”
I turned to leave, but he continued. “Now is that any way to treat your dear ole partners? Be nice or I won’t give you back your stuff.”
“Ugh, you were in my room?” I flexed my shoulder blades, making sure my gun was still tightly secured between them.
“Don’t worry, Char. I didn’t handle the merchandise. Didn’t want to wake you up. Just lifted me a few keepsakes.” He pronounced my name the way I like: Char, as in charred. Something that got burned.
I wasn’t sure what Kip and Cassa were planning, but I knew I wouldn’t like it. They were thieves and liars. I would know. I used to be one of them. That was before the last job, when Cassa had attacked an elderly man in the home we were robbing. She’d kicked him until he stopped fighting back. Kip had called her off after a few licks, but I just stood there, staring. The old man looked at me, like right at me, while we made our getaway, and my stomach twisted into a knot so tight that I tasted bile. That was the moment I knew I wanted out.
But by then, no one believed me. Or, if they did, no one cared. Except for Kip and Cassa, of course. They’d taken the news pretty hard, to put it lightly.
If I lunged for the box, I could probably grab my hairbrush and get out of there. I wouldn’t have time for more than that. Then again, I’d be doing exactly what they expected, and I didn’t have time for delays. My family could be in the commissary any second now.
“Ahem. Seeing as it’s your last day of life, I might let you have one thing back,” said Kip.
“In exchange for what?”
“I’m hurt. All our time together, and you still don’t believe in my inherent generosity. But now that you mention it, I’ve got a hankering for some peanut butter crackers.”
“Sorry, Kip. I’m fresh out of food. Kinda like everyone else.”
“Nice try, Charrr.” He drew my name out, as though tasting it. “I saw them yesterday. Figured you were hiding them under your pillow when I couldn’t find them last night.”
“You figured wrong.”
All I could think about was my brother’s face. And how I had this one last chance to apologize to my parents, for everything. I shrugged and turned to leave.
That was probably a mistake

About the author:
Laura grew up in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, where she spent an excellent childhood playing make-believe with her two younger brothers.

The Ark is the direct result of those stories and a lifelong devotion to space-themed television.
It received a Work in Progress Grant from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

Laura has a degree in French and a license to practice law, but both are frozen in carbonite at present. She lives in Texas with her family.

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