10 Questions with Linda Davies
My guest today is Ms. Linda Davies, author of a fantastic thriller, ARK STORM, which comes out today. Please scroll down to enjoy her interview, where we talk among others about what Atmospheric Rivers are, how ARK STORM came to be published and the “democratisation of publishing.”
1. Ms. Davies, thank you for this opportunity to be interviewed for my blog. ARK STORM, your new thriller, comes out today. Tell us a bit more about this book.
It’s about a brave, beautiful and brilliant meteorologist, Dr Gwen Boudain, who thinks she’s just landed her dream job but has in fact just walked into a conspiracy that stretches from the oilfields of Saudi Arabia to the private equity billionaires of Silicon Valley and the corrupt insider traders on Wall Street.
It’s about a morally compromised but ultimately heroic Navy SEAL, Dan Jacobsen.
It’s about a brilliant invention that can create rain.
It’s about the one in 200 year storm that is due to hit California.
It’s about a terrorist attack on US soil using drones.
It’s about risk, bravery, belief and love.
Here’s the synopsis:
Ark Storm – What if you could control the weather?
The ARk storm is coming, a catastrophic weather phenomenon that will unleash massive floods and wreak more damage in California than the feared Shake Out earthquake. One man wants to profit from it. Another man wants to harness it to wage Jihad on American soil. One woman stands in their way. Dr Gwen Boudain, is 28, a brave, beautiful and brilliant meteorologist and big wave surfer. She is used to all the violence that nature can throw at her, but is she finally out of her depth?
Standing in the shadows is journalist Dan Jacobsen, a former Navy SEAL, war hardened, cynical and handsome; a man with his own hidden agenda.
ARk Storm brings together the worlds of finance, scientific innovation and terrorism. Boudain and Jacobsen, battling their growing feelings for each other, play a pivotal part in attempting to foil a terrorist attack that is as darkly ingenious as it is evil.
2. Who is Dr. Gwen Boudain and how did you come up with her character?
Gwen is my big-wave surfing, meteorologist heroine – I needed someone who could understand and explain the science in the novel so I gave her a Doctorate in Meteorology. She just kind of strode into my novel, all glorious six foot of her. It is from her point of view that I frame the novel. Her interactions with journalist and former Navy SEAL, Dan Jacobsen, push that narrative along in a number of interesting directions.
3. How much of what you describe in ARK STORM is real and how much is fiction?
Ark Storm has a massive factual content. I did a ton of research that brought me into contact with many fascinating and helpful people in the worlds of science, finance, counterterrorism, military hardware, surveillance, counter surveillance and close quarter combat.
I’m going to give you a little background specifically on the true science that underpins Ark Storm.
ARk Storms take their name from “Atmospheric Rivers.” Most people looking up on a clear day would never think that just a few miles above their heads a huge ribbon of moist air hundreds of kilometers wide and over two thousand long could be coursing through the atmosphere at speeds in excess of 12.5 meters a second.
Small atmospheric river storms hit around the world every year. But every so often, a monster emerges. In California they are preparing for the next one. A team of 117 scientists, engineers, public policy and insurance experts under the umbrella of the Multi-Hazards Demonstration Project worked for two years to create the hypothetical scenario of what such a storm could be and what damage it would wreak across the state of California. In an ARk Storm 1000 scenario, this river, described by the head of the ARk Storm Unit as “like Forty Mississippis,” races from the tropics toward the west coast of the US, then hits, and keeps on hitting. The Storm Door opens and fails to close. Rain falls in feet instead of inches. There would be major landslides across the state, 1.5 million people would need to be evacuated out, 9 million homes would be flooded and damage would be up to $1 trillion. This is a storm so intense it has been described as “like Hurricane Katrina pushed through a keyhole.”
Major ARk Storms have hit California on a regular basis, roughly every two hundred years. The last huge one was in 1861–62 when it rained continuously for forty-five consecutive days. Witnesses describe a “flying river” washing away livestock and humans. That storm turned the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys into a lake. And bankrupted the state. And it gets worse. . . . The geological record shows six megastorms more severe than 1861–1862 hit in California in the last 1800 years. History suggests the next one is due…
The technology where rain can be created is also real. Let me give you some background:
It was the summer of 2010. I was living in Dubai. I read that dramatically heavy rains were falling in the deserts of neighbouring El Ain in the United Arab Emirates. The historical average number of rainfall events for June through September is 2. The National Weather Service forecast zero rain events over that period. But it did rain. On 52 separate occasions. And it hailed and galed and thundered. It made the international news.
There were rumors of masts in the desert, of scientists and computer models.
It sounded like something out of a James Bond movie. And then I read an article which explained what had been going on.
It was the work of scientists. Technicians were mounting ionizers on masts, producing electrons which attached to dust particles in the atmosphere. These dust particles rose by convection till they reached the right height for cloud formation where they attracted water molecules floating in the air which then started to condense around them. Billions of droplets of rain formed and fell…
So far, so Bondian. Then I heard about the latest twist where the ionisers are sent up on drones… Which made me think of terrorists…
4. What separates ARK STORM from the avalanche of thrillers in your genre?
Ark Storm is unique in that the science behind it has never been used in a novel before. I am also told by readers (and I’ve heard this before with reference to my other books particularly Nest of Vipers, Wilderness of Mirrors and Into the Fire) that the way I write appeals very much to male readers of thrillers (who are often not so keen on thrillers written by women) as well as to female readers. Also, possibly due to the way that I have woven in a lot of factual content into my thriller, I’ve been told that the book appeals to many readers of non-fiction who do not normally like fiction. I’ve heard that from one of the scientists behind the whole Ark Storm project which was a fabulous endorsement.
5. How did ARK STORM go from an idea to seeing the light of publishing?
That would be the work of my brilliant agent, David Vigliano. I was in New York having lunch with him and I told him about my idea for the novel. I also mentioned various other ideas I had for other novels. He loved the concept of Ark Storm and basically said go away right now and write it!
6. Why did you decide to write? Why thrillers?
I have always loved to write since I was a little girl. All through my childhood I wrote stories. I think it was a way of entering another world and making that world as fascinating and exciting as I possibly could. I’m a bit of an adrenaline junkie so it was natural that I would write thrillers. I loved them then, I love them now.
Apart from the excitement of both writing and reading thrillers I love how you can analyse characters by putting them in extreme situations, stripping them of all the props that surround us in our daily lives and make us feel safe. You can really drill down to the core of a character that way. I think the other thing is that we are all curious about ourselves, about how we would react in extreme situations, in extreme peril. I like to explore how characters rise to that challenge. Bizarrely I ended up having to do that myself when I pretty much stepped into the pages of one of my own thrillers when I was kidnapped at sea by a Iranian Marines when I was sailing in the Persian Gulf (in international waters) and then flown to mainland Iran and held in captivity. The story of my experience: Hostage, kidnapped on the high seas the true story of my captivity in Iran, has just been published. It’s non-fiction but it reads like a thriller.
7. What are your favorite pastimes?
I love to surf, small waves unlike my heroine from Ark Storm, Gwen Boudain, who is a big wave surfer and rides 35 foot monsters. I also love to swim in the sea and walk beside it with my dogs. I love to hang out with my husband and three children, playing games, eating delicious food, watching sport on the television, watching movies, going for walks with the dogs. Obviously, I love reading!
8. What is your greatest satisfaction as a writer? What is your greatest disappointment?
My greatest satisfaction is shared by most writers I think: holding my physical book in my hand. That is just the biggest thrill. Close to that is when people say nice things about my books! As a writer you labour away for years, alone in an office or at a desk and to hear somebody say that they have loved one of your books is wonderful!
My greatest disappointment is when any of my books are turned down by publishers. Then I remind myself of JK Rowling and Harry Potter. It just takes one brilliant publisher to support you and you’re away.
9. What are your thoughts on the latest publishing industry developments, mainly the rise of the self-publishing?
I like to think of it as the democratisation of publishing. I have been lucky enough to be published by mainstream publishers but I think self publishing is wonderful. So many of us have stories to tell and this gives people a way of getting their stories out there. The Internet gives them a fabulous chance to connect with readers all over the world.
10. What is your next book going to be about?
Watch this space!
Who is Linda Davies
I’m an economist by training, a novelist by nature. I spent seven years as an investment banker, being exposed to more potential plots than was decent. Money is a great catalyst, bringing out the good, and the evil…..
I escaped before I became seduced/corrupted, depending on your standpoint. I’ve also taken inspiration from where I lived. I have my European books, my North American books, my South American books and my Middle Eastern books.
I also have my Iran book, Hostage: kidnapped on the high seas, the true story of my captivity in Iran.
Thrillers for adults
Nest of Vipers – PB and E books – Vigliano Books
Wilderness of Mirrors – PB and E books -Vigliano Books
Into the Fire – PB and E books – Vigliano Books
Something Wild – PB and E books – Vigliano Books
Final Settlement – PB and E books -Vigliano Books
ARk Storm – HB and E Books – Tor Books, Macmillan US
Non-fiction – Hostage: kidnapped on the high seas, the true story of my captivity in Iran – PB and E book – Vigliano Books
Thrillers for Young Adults
Sea Djinn – E Books – Vigliano Books.
Fire Djinn – E Books – Vigliano Books.
Strom Djinn – E Books – Vigliano Books.
King of the Djinn – E Books – Vigliano Books.