Monday, January 14, 2013

Interview with L.A. Larkin @lalarkinauthor

L.A. Larkin’s first book, The Genesis Flaw, launched a new voice in thriller writing in Australia. Larkin’s gift of combining her understanding of environmental science with a fast-paced read won her many fans. In her new book Thirst, using the backdrop of the Antarctic, L.A. Larkin has produced a novel that will have you on the edge of your
seat. L.A. Larkin travelled to Antarctica to research Thirst on a former Russian oceanographic research vessel. She learnt about crevasse rescue, Antarctic survival and how to sew up a wound (nobody was harmed, the pig’s leg she practiced on
came from the butcher). After the success of her first thriller, L.A. Larkin gave up her climate change consultancy role, and now divides her time between writing thrillers, public speaking engagements and running thriller writing courses both in the UK and Australia. She lives in Sydney.

Thriller author, L.A. Larkin, has been likened to Michael Crichton and John Grisham. Her debut novel, The Genesis Flaw, was nominated for four crime fiction awards. She goes to extremes to research her stories: to write Thirst she went to Antarctica, learned about Polar survival, explosives, and how to sew up a wound. Larkin writes fast-paced thrillers that tap into the fears of our time. Born in the UK, she now lives in Sydney, Australia.

The Digital Ink Spot: Please tell the readers about your book Thirst.
L.A. Larkin: Thirst is a thriller about a maverick glaciologist on a remote station in Antarctica, who is hunted by killers, and must survive long enough to prevent a global catastrophe. So if you like fast-pace, high stakes, action adventure set in a stunning and chilling location, then you will love Thirst, which has been described as “The best Antarctic thriller since Ice Station” (James Phelan).

The Digital Ink Spot: From the very beginning of Thirst the action starts but then quickly settles down. The reader still has this cloud of doom lurking in the background. I read that you are a self taught thriller writer, what was your process to becoming so good at drawing the reader in?
L.A. Larkin: I believe that the best way to learn to write thrillers is to read the masters of the genre: work out what works in the story, and even what didn’t. That’s how I did it, and that’s what I tell me students who attend my thriller writing classes. I have a degree in literature from the University of London, but we certainly didn’t study modern-day thrillers. In thrillers, it’s critical the opening of the book grabs your attention and makes you want to keep reading. It must thrill from the very first page! I tend to write openings that create a mystery and raises lots of questions. My central character is plunged into danger fast, and the adversary is seen doing something terrible. In Thirst, we see an unidentified assailant murder two members of the Antarctic team and he makes their deaths look like an accident. Our hero, Luke Searle, goes on a rescue mission, unaware they are already dead and soon he is isolated, hunted and totally cut off from the outside world, unable to warn anyone that a global disaster is about to be unleashed.

The Digital Ink Spot: How did you get to the point in your research for Thirst to decide to jump on a boat to Antarctica? Do you think your personal adventure added to the book?
L.A. Larkin: I believe that to write a convincing and exciting story is such an alien and hostile environment, you need to experience it. I did a lot of research for the story: I spent time with the Australian Antarctic Division and British Antarctic Survey. I learned about the Polar survival, crevasse rescue and even how to sew up a wound! But it wasn’t until I went to Antarctica that I began to understand what the extreme cold can do to you (the coldest temperature ever recorded is at Vostok Station at -89.6°C or -129°F) and that without shelter you cannot survive for very long. I discovered that fire is the biggest fear on an Antarctic station, that deep crevasses can be hidden under snow bridges that look safe to walk on, that you can smell penguin colonies from quite a distance and that there are abandoned station, fifty or a hundred years old, still standing and still equipped, left as if the original occupants might return at any moment. One such station will feature in Thirst and will offer Luke the chance to survive his ordeal, or will it?

The Digital Ink Spot: How much of the book is realistic?
L.A. Larkin: Thirst is set on and around the Pine Island Glacier which is a real glacier in the Amundsen Sea Embayment, Antarctica. This NASA footage will reveal why I picked this particular location for my action adventure:
I have tried to make the experiences and potential catastrophe of Thirst as real as possible and I spent time understanding the science behind my story. Luke Searle is Antarctica’s champion and his passion for, and knowledge of, Antarctica, was inspired by a man I met on a ship as we traveled there. Likewise, Luke’s buddy, Vitaly Yushkov, and the Russian ship’s captain, were not part of the original story but after sailing with a Russian crew to Antarctica, I knew they would make intriguing and fun supporting characters for my hero.

The Digital Ink Spot: What can readers except from you in the near future?
L.A. Larkin: I am working on my next thriller, as well as a young adult crime fiction series.

*bonus question - Can an adult leopard seal really eat a human?

L.A. Larkin:Yes, it is rare but they can. They are the predators of the Antarctic and can grow to 3.5m or 11.7 feet long and have huge mouths. In 2003 a female British researcher was killed by one. My hero knows this only too well, but can this knowledge save him?

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