Don’t try to be topical. That’s what writers, agents, and editors say. By the time you’re done with the book and it’s in stores, it could be over two years since you came up with the idea for the story. So when I wrote my debut novel, The Ark, what were the odds that, a couple of weeks before the novel’s release, two attention-grabbing news stories would relate directly to the plot of my book? Apparently, the odds were very good, because that’s exactly what happened.
I wasn’t trying to be topical, but I did want to explore universal themes like the dangers of religious fanaticism and recovery from personal loss, which makes The Ark sound like a PBS documentary combined with a Very Special Episode of Blossom. It’s not. The Ark is a thriller about a former combat engineer named Tyler Locke who must find Noah’s Ark in seven days to stop the end of the world.
There were some eerie links to my book that made the news in the weeks leading up to the release. At the beginning of The Ark, Tyler is on an oil rig in the north Atlantic when he discovers that bombs have been planted somewhere on the structure. If he doesn’t find them in 10 minutes, the platform will explode.
The Ark being a fun thriller novel, I’m not giving much away by saying that Tyler heroically averts catastrophe. Oh, if only BP had written their story the same way. Just before the book came out, the Deepwater Horizon blew up, killing eleven and turning the Gulf of Mexico into the Black Sea. I thought, Huh, that’s an unsettling coincidence.
It gets weirder. One week later, at a splashy news conference in Hong Kong, Noah’s Ark Ministries International claimed they found the remnants of Noah’s Ark high on Mount Ararat. If it were true, my novel would be outdated before it was even released.
I wasn’t worried. I tend to be skeptical of these kinds of announcements. Someone seems to “discover” Noah’s Ark every ten years. So far, they’ve all turned out to be a hoax, or a rock formation, or a shadow on the satellite photo. In the latest case, although the discoverers are “99.9% certain” it’s Noah’s Ark, their irrefutable evidence consists of a few pieces of wood and rope carbon-dated to 4,800 years ago. How they know the bits are from Noah’s Ark and not some dirt farmer’s hovel, they’re not saying. They also have some underwhelming photos that show the interior of a tiny room made of wood. Next time, I’d like to see some exterior shots.
So to my surprise, even though I finished the first draft of The Ark in 2007, the story is now timely. I just hope history doesn’t repeat itself with my next book coming in December. Cross your fingers because it’s a disaster thriller called Rogue Wave, and it’s about tsunamis.
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