The Story Behind The Ark by Laura Liddell Nolen


Growing up, I was the oldest of three kids. My brothers and I made up stories all the time. Our ideas were all over the place. Most of them barely made sense, but they had one common thread- action. We were always running, always fighting the bad guys. Someone always needed to be rescued. Hiding places were sought, but only ever provided temporary refuge.

The Ark 2We were more than a little influenced by our favorite space-themed movies and tv shows, and by my father’s comic book collection, which was full of some of the best action stories out there.

I wanted the same sense of excitement for The Ark. In it, there’s a meteor headed toward earth, precisely on track to wipe out the entire planet. Earth has just wrapped up World War III, and with the ink barely dry on the Treaty of Phoenix, humanity has one last shot at peace. We either cooperate long enough to escape to space together, or we die.

Meanwhile, 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.

Of course, the theme of family runs strongly through the story. That’s not surprising, now that you know what influenced me to write it! Char wants to reunite with her brother, who used to be her best friend, before he decided to be a straight-A student and she became a delinquent. She’s also trying to redeem herself with her parents, whose unflagging commitment to success has chafed against Char her whole life. It’s too late for Char to survive the meteor, but at least she can hope they’ll come to say goodbye, and she can apologize for the pain her decisions have caused.

But the goodbyes turn out to be a lot more complicated than that. Char realizes that if she really wants to apologize properly, she’s going to have to break out of prison and stow away on a spaceship, a crime punishable by death. The closer she gets to her family, the more of an outlaw she becomes. And even if she succeeds, they may not even want to see her again, anyway.

The Ark is based on the kind of thrills my brothers and I were always chasing when we made our stories up together. The plot is different, thankfully, but my addiction to that breathless sense of danger hasn’t changed with time.

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Laura NolenLaura 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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