QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS: for media reporters and book readers. Questions from Danny Bloom, all answers by Jim Laughter. Media may use answers for quotes with correct attribution.
DANNY BLOOM: You've said elsewhere that when you first started writing the
initial chapters of POLAR CITY RED, your new novel, that in the
beginning you were not so convinced that global warming was such a big
problem for mankind, but that as you wrote more of the book
and did more online research about the issues involved, you become
more and more convinced that global warming and climate change
are very important issues for humankind to face now, before it is too
late. Can you tell me more about how this process evolved in your mind
as you worked on your novel over a 7-month period?
JIM LAUGHTER: Up until last year when I was first approached about writing this book, global warming was a term I’d only heard about in passing or on nature documentaries. Politicians and Green Peace environmentalists rattled on about stuff that I didn’t understand. But now that I’ve had a chance to dig into the cause and effect of global warming, I’ve grown to realize that this old world is in trouble and we’re to blame.DANNY BLOOM: The title of your book is POLAR CITY RED. Can you tell us the
How did this process evolve in my mind? Wow, that’s a loaded question. I spent hour after hour on the internet reading everything I could find about global warming and the effects it is having on the polar caps and Greenland ice sheets. I didn’t realize that only a three or four degree increase in air temperatures can serve to melt ice that’s been frozen for millions of years. Of course, I didn’t know carbon dioxide from carbonated water when I started, but it didn’t take long for me to realize that fossil fuel emissions are the culprit behind the whole mess.
But even though I learn quite a bit about global warming, I’m not a scientist. I’m a storyteller. So I had to figure out a way to create a good story around a serious problem. I knew I needed characters that I could wrap the seriousness of global warming around without boring readers with a lot of technical mumbo-jumbo that neither of us would understand. I think I got pretty close with Polar City Red.
significance of the color RED in the title? Why red? Does it have
any significance to the story or is it just a color?
JIM LAUGHTER: I think I’ll let two of the characters in the book answer this question. Dr. Alexi Romanov is a Russian scientist in the city and Carson Moore is a college professor recently rescued along with his family while escaping the chaos on the lower continent. In this scene, Dr. Romanov is giving Moore his first tour of the city. Jerky is a screwball old character that people are going to love.
No one else in the city knew more about the history of the city or how to keep it working. He was the last of the original population. He knew his time was limited and that he was getting old. He would need to find a replacement soon. Perhaps this young man that Jerky had found out on the tundra could be just the man he’d been waiting for.
“Polar City Red is designation,” Romanov began. Moore turned and faced the scientist, inching closer to the old man so he wouldn’t miss any of his words.
“A designation, sir?”
“Yes, designation,” Romanov repeated. “Other cities scattered across northern hemisphere as part of 21st century science experiment. Eight city total. Each city given color designation. This one red.”
QUESTION: You've created a story and a cast of characters based around Jerky
and Dr. Romanov and the Moore’s and Nona and Daniel. How did you
create these characters and where did they come from? Did you work
from an outline or did the characters take on a life of their own as
wrote the novel? And do you yourself have a favorite character and why him or her?
JIM LAUGHTER: I work from a basic outline but nothing I can’t get away from if the story takes a turn in a different direction. I generally have a pretty good idea about the characters I need, but never a clear picture of who they are until they introduce themselves to me. Jerky just stepped out of the dark and set the pace for the rest of the story. He’s a rough, no nonsense old hunter with a crossbow in one hand and heart of gold beneath his tunic. I guess if I have one favorite character, it would be Jerky, mainly because he and I speak the same language; screwy. I also identify with Carson Moore because he and I think a lot alike and share a lot of the same values when it comes to family, responsibility, and other very core issues.
QUESTION: Polar City Red contains a lot of technical details about military
hardware and operations, and scientific terms too. Did you earlier
career as a technical writer in the USAF help you as you wrote the book?
JIM LAUGHTER: No, my technical writing in the Air Force had very little to do with weapons, operations, or hardware. I was a supply and training NCO for twenty years. I dealt with people on a one-on-one basis, working in customer service, training, etc. I didn’t carry a weapon even though I was a weapons sergeant for a while. Then again, I was also a security sergeant for a while in charge of top secret material. But if you know what you’re looking for, that kind of information isn’t hard to find. As for the science, I figured if I did good research and stuck to the facts, I’m a good enough storyteller that I figured I could weave a good story around it. But as we say in writing, if you don’t know what you’re talking about, talk about it anyway. There’s always a critic out there somewhere that will eventually contact you and tell you what you did wrong.
QUESTION: You’ve said elsewhere that you wrote the book for your four
grandchildren in Oklahoma. What did you mean by that?
JIM LAUGHTER: My grandchildren are very important to me. Every parent wants their children to have it better than they had it. As a child, I knew I would have opportunities that my parents never had. We were small town people living in a big world. But that was in the 50s and 60s. The air was clean and the streets were safe. Neither of those things apply now. I want my grandchildren to grow up in a world where they can be happy and prosper, a world where conservation isn’t a cliché, and a world where business and politicians watch out for the future of the planet instead of the next balance sheet or election result.
QUESTION: As a father, a grandfather, and as a human being living in the
early part of the 21st century, how do YOU feel about the future fate
of mankind, in terms of these climate and global warming issues that
confront us today? What's your prognosis for the future? Are you
hopeful or pessimistic about mankind's capacity to solve these
problems before things get so bad there is no escape?
JIM LAUGHTER: I wish I had a crystal ball that I could look in to and see the future. I’d like to know if fifty years from now we’d have a habitable planet or not. I’m a student of history, so I know that people who fail to learn from history are destined to repeat it. I turned 59-years old this month, so by the time global warming overtakes this planets, I will have already shuffled off into eternity and my ashes will be helping young things grow. But for the people alive at the end of this century, I believe they will face a hostile world that has turned its back on humanity and is looking for a fresh start. It may take 100,000 years for the Earth to regain its balance, but it’s been around for 4 billion years and has learned patience. I only wish we could learn to respect her wishes and treat her with the dignity she deserves.