It was the giant Spinosaurus on the cover that stole my attention while I perused the bookshelves of my local bookstore. I knew that moment I had to have the book, I opened it up, read a few pages and was hooked. Dinosaurs have always been an interest in mine. Growing up my room was full-on dinosaur, from the bedspread and curtains to the shelf of books and the toy box filled with dinosaurs. I was the only second grader that could spell paleontologist. And then Jurassic Park the movie release and I further fell in love with Dinosaurs. Edge of extinction brings together two of my favorite types of stories; post-apocalypticism and dinosaurs. A unique and never before background to this story set it apart from the other middle grade books and series out there. Readers looking for something new and full of action, will want to get their hands on this. After finishing the book I knew I wanted to reach out to Laura and do an interview, what I didn't know was that she too is a believer.
Brock: What inspired you to write the Edge of Extinction series?
Laura: I took a quick trip to New York with my mom, and we spent an afternoon wandering around their Natural History Museum. The dinosaur display there is amazing. But amongst all those gigantic bones, I spotted one little dinosaur skeleton set off to the side. It was roughly the size of a dog, and I wondered if we brought dinosaurs out of extinction, would we have them as pets? Would they replace dogs? Cows? Would we have them in zoos? And in that instant, I had a vision of a girl running like mad to get the mail, gigantic dinosaurs hot on her heels, and the very first scene of Edge of Extinction was born.
Brock: Can you tell us about Sky Mundy? Who is she?
Laura: Sky Mundy is resilient. She lives in one of the last underground refuges of the human race, and she’s despised by almost everyone around her. But despite that, she hasn’t given up hope. She knows there is more to her father’s disappearance, and she’s not stopping until she finds out what happened to him.
Brock: Would you mind giving us one fact about each main character that no one else knows?
Laura: I love this question!
Brock: It's one of my favorite questions as well. I like learning a bit more about the characters in the books I read. In three words what is this book about?
Laura: Dinosaurs. Friendship. Survival.
Brock: You had me at, 'Dinosaurs.' Did you outline the entire book before starting, or do you write as you go and let the characters take control of the story?
Laura: I didn’t! I’ve heard people call writers like myself “panters” because we fly by the seat of our pants! I usually just start with an idea and let the story go where it will. My characters dictate what happens next.
Brock: I'm a by the seat writer too. I always tell kids when I speak that if your characters aren't talking back to you or leading you into the next moment of the story, then you (as the author) don't know them very well. How do you believe The Ark Plan relates to the lives of readers?
Laura: Sky’s story is essentially about overcoming the odds and believing in yourself no matter what everyone around you is telling you, and I think that relates to all of us. Sky has the grit and determination to see her plans through, but she realizes along the way that it’s okay to accept help from friends.
Brock: What is your favorite genre and audience to write for?
Laura: I taught seventh grade English for six years, so the middle-grade category has my heart, and probably always will. Genre? I’d have to say Fantasy and Science Fiction are my favorites, just because that’s what I tend to read the most.
Brock: Is there any biblical background or basis for the series?
Laura: I grew up going to Christian schools all the way to college, so I had Bible stories etched into my brain and memory verses inscribed in my soul by the time I stepped out of my protective Christian school bubble and into the “real world.” When I started working on Edge of Extinction-The Ark Plan, I used the familiar story of Noah’s Ark as a vehicle, and the symbolism of Noah’s ark is woven throughout both books. (Book two is titled “Code Name Flood.”) So while my book wouldn’t technically be considered a Christian book, readers do have to have a working knowledge of the story of Noah in order to really understand what’s happening, which I like!
Brock: I like that too. The Bible is full of wonderful stories with interesting people and events. The truth behind it for us Believers makes these stories something more, but the allegorical value and story arcs inside are great road maps for storytelling. Do you have a favorite Bible verse?
Laura: Ephesians 3:20-21- Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be the glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. This verse was in my acknowledgments, which unfortunately didn’t make it into the first edition of my book.
Brock: What sort of research did you do for a book about dinosaurs?
Laura: All of the dinosaurs in my book really did exist, and I had to do some extensive research to make sure that I represented them as accurately as possible, which was tricky, as new dinosaur discoveries are coming to light almost daily. For example, there is now a controversy over whether our not our favorite dinosaur the T. rex had lips! I kid you not. But I was also lucky because we don’t really know everything about dinosaurs; they lived a million years ago after all, so I was able to fill in the gaps with my imagination. (If you want to read about the mess I made with the brontosaurus, just check out the author’s note in the back of my book!)
Brock: I did enjoy your author's note. In fact the back of the book acknowledgements, author notes, etc., are typically the first place I look after reading the first few lines of book. Did you pull any of your characters from your life?
Laura: I think as a writer we pull bits and pieces from here and there as we weave our stories together. For example, Todd has a lot of the characteristics of my younger brother Aric, but it took family and friends reading the book for me to realize that Ivan is a lot like my late grandfather.
Brock: How does it feel to have your work published?
Laura: Surreal. I’ve been a bookworm ever since second grade when I discovered C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and I’ve always wanted to be a writer. (To be honest, my original plan was to be a vet and a writer a’la James Herriot, but I dropped the vet bit and went the teaching route instead!) Getting published for me was a lengthy process, and when I finally got the call that my book was going to be published, I couldn’t quite wrap my head around it. In fact, the whole thing didn’t feel quite real until I was holding my book in my hands, and, even then, it took a few days to sink in.
Brock: There's nothing better than holding that 100k plus words of hard work in bound form. If your book changed as you wrote it, how is it different than how you originally planned?
Laura: My book went through A LOT of transformations in its path to publication. It started out life as a YA book, but, in my hunt for a literary agent, Alec Shane, my literary agent’s assistant, suggested that the story would really work better as a middle-grade adventure novel. And he was SO right. So after revising it into a middle-grade novel (a too long middle-grade novel I might add), I landed my fabulous agent Jodi Reamer, and she brought the book to the publishing houses. It was sold as a two-book deal with HarperCollins, so my original book was then split into two books. The first book, Edge of Extinction-The Ark Plan is actually about ¾ of my original novel. Book two Edge of Extinction- Code Name Flood is the remaining ¼ plus a bunch of new material that I absolutely love. But as I look at the finished book sitting on my desk now, I couldn’t imagine it any other way.
Brock: And it's a great middle-grade novel at that. How do you hope parents will use this book with their kids?
Laura: I hope parents use this book to help their kids LOVE reading. It’s why I wrote the book. As a seventh grade English teacher, I made it my mission to get kids reading. I have a firm belief that it just takes one book, the right book, to turn a non-reader into a reader. Many of the kids who repeatedly told me that they “hated” reading were boys, and in a lot of ways I wrote this book for them. Was it my best marketing strategy to create a book specifically for people who don’t read? No, it wasn’t. But being a passionate teacher makes you do crazy things sometimes.
Brock: Well I'm an adult who hated reading as a kid myself, and after finding the right series grew to love and eventually became an author with the same passion (as yourself) of getting books into the hands of resistant readers. What do you hope kids take away from this book or series?
Laura: This is a hard one. I’d say I want them to take away Sky’s tenacity, Shawn’s ingenuity, and Todd’s heart, but more than that, I hope that they take away a LOVE of reading. That they emerge from Edge of Extinction and have to look around and blink a bit before they remember that there really AREN’T dinosaurs still wandering around. I want them to have lived within the pages of the book, breathed the heady topside air along with Sky and her friends, and that the story churns in their brains for days after they finish the book.
Brock: What’s your view on e-books?
Laura: E-books don’t smell as good as the real thing. The end.
Brock: Couldn't agree more! What was your favorite book as a teen or child?
Laura: If it had pages, I probably loved it. That sounds like an exaggeration. It isn’t. I was addicted to books, and I used every excuse possible to slip between the pages of a story and get lost in the worlds I found there. There used to be a rule that I couldn't bring books to friend’s houses…because I wouldn’t play with the friends. Addicted I tell you.
If I HAVE to choose, I’d say anything written by Tamora Pierce, The Thoroughbred Series (I had a major horse obsession as a kid), The Chronicles of Narnia, Lillian Jackson Braun’s Cat Who series, and Harry Potter will ALWAYS have my heart.
Brock: Harry Potter was the series that got me reading. Like it or hate it, the series brought reading back to popularity for the younger generation who was leaning toward television and video games (The latter being me.) What are your hopes for your future as an author?
Laura: I want this book to be the first of many more. I have so many stories yet to tell, and I want to still be in the author game ten, fifteen, fifty years from now. I want to die with a book half written…and everyone to be horribly sad about that!
Brock: Well that just made me smile. What is your favorite quote?
Laura: “Dreams don’t work unless you do.”
Brock: Now for some rapid fire questions of the non-book sort. Coke or Pepsi?
Laura: Neither. Green tea. I lived on Diet Coke in college, up to six or seven a day, and I have a mouthful of cavities to show for it! Green tea is a million times better and better for you. Make the switch!
Brock: Soft shell or Hard Shell tacos?
Laura: Soft. I’m not coordinated enough to eat the hard variety without losing all the taco guts onto my plate.
Brock: Favorite place to vacation?
Laura: My family’s lake house in Monticello, Indiana. I grew up going there every summer. It’s where my heart is happy. Also, my parents are there, and they are some of my favorite people in this whole wide world.
Brock: Favorite season?
Laura: Fall. Or as I call it, hooded sweatshirt weather.
Brock: Do you have a particular drink or food you consume when you write? Like cocoa, raspberry tea, animal crackers?
Laura: I love having a cup of coffee when I write. Part of it is the ritual of sipping something warm, but I also have a baby that doesn’t sleep through the night yet, so without it, I’d fall asleep on my keyboard.
Brock: Favorite color?
Brock: Do you listen to music while you write? If so, what are some examples?
Laura: I sometimes put on Pandora when I write to block out the sound of my husband watching television in the other room. I can’t focus enough to write if the songs have lyrics, though, so I listen to a station based on the Forrest Gump soundtrack.
Brock: Thanks for answering all my questions on The Ark Plan. I can't recommend this book enough to my readers. If you enjoyed the chapters with TIffany and Oliver on Featured Products Lyt, then you'll really like The Ark Plan, Book 1 in The Edge of Extinction.
In case you need a reminder of an awesome dinosaur scene on Re Lyt. Check out this moment when a velociraptor busts through the top of the corridor. Plus scrolls down to see some of the art from the visual glossary in Unleash.
(Unleash, Book 3 in The Quest for Truth)
Laura Martin believes in chasing her dreams and she brought that philosophy to her classroom for six years as a seventh grade English teacher. Edge of Extinction-The Ark Plan is Laura’s first novel—and a dream come true. When she isn’t writing stories about dinosaurs and underground civilizations, she can be found in the Indianapolis area with her dashing husband, Josh, her adorable kids, daughter London and son Lincoln, and two opinionated bulldogs.