# Please introduce yourself and your books.
L. A. Starks. I write the Lynn Dayton energy thriller series—three books so far. Conflict is the engine of plot: I write about many kinds of conflict: cross-cultural, personal, physical, boardroom, family, you name it.
While the series does not have to be read sequentially, in order the titles are:
*13 Days, The Pythagoras Conspiracy, Lynn Dayton Thriller #1
*Strike Price, Lynn Dayton Thriller #2
*The Second Law, Lynn Dayton Thriller #3
# What are the real-life stories behind your books?
With my training and experience in engineering and finance, I inhabit the world of my books. I am familiar with its risks. The risks are not just the trillion-dollar global stakes but more importantly, how lives of millions or billions of people can be impacted by just a few wrong moves. Risks can be as small as being trapped on a narrow walkway inside a barred-from-the-outside cooling tower or a massively destructive and deadly ammonium nitrate (fertilizer) explosion.
# What inspires your creativity?
Places limn stories of the people who live there. This derives from my days selling (invisible, odorless) natural gas. I learned about customers by traveling to see them, be it winters in the Iowa farm belt, steel foundries in Pennsylvania, clay companies in the red hills of Georgia, or gargantuan Gulf Coast chemical plants.
# How do you deal with creative block?
My second office is away from home. It has no internet connectivity.
# How do bad reviews and negative feedback affect you and how do you deal with them?
These are different. Negative feedback during the editing and beta reader process is important to making the book better, livelier, and more reader-friendly. But once a book is launched, bad reviews are as relevant or irrelevant as good reviews. Of course, I have received good reviews and prefer them, especially ones showing my books connected with readers.
# How has your creation process improved over time?
Outlining cuts the number of times I write myself into blind corners. Without an outline, it is easy for me to write scenes that head in the wrong direction or don’t contribute to the plot. But lemons to lemonade: I have developed some of these wayward scenes into short stories.
# What were the best, worst and most surprising things you encountered during the entire process of completing your books?
Compared to the pace of other businesses, the narrow funnel of agent queries and the infinite response time (wars are won and lost in fewer months than it takes some agents to respond) mean it’s good, normal, and balance-restoring for new authors to consider a range of publishing options. That said, since book marketing is difficult and the returns in publishing are paltry, I respect the job agents and commercial publishers do and the risks they take.
# Do you tend towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how?
In the early drafts, it’s vital that I like what I am writing. For a finished book, translating the characters, plot, and storyline flow to appeal to readers is key. I like dialect, jargon, and foreign phrases as ways to give a character personality and a scene credibility. However, as much fun as coded tech words are, I don’t want them to pull readers out of the story, only add context and color.
# What role do emotions play in creativity?
Huge. Writing well and revising (and then marketing the finished book!) is a long, slow process, so emotion catalyzes motion.
# Do you have any creativity tricks?
I find it key to turn off the negative “meta-voices.” Agents and publishers are in the rejection business and reject books for all kinds of reasons. It is especially important to separate story and writing quality (and marketability) factors from a given publisher’s political platform. I have long found the “bad oil/good renewables” myth (all energy is equally dirty and equally good) to be monolithic in publishing—even fiction! Early on, an agent told me I could only get commercially published by making monsters of all my characters, which not just contradicted my own experience but would have made boring reading. For a long list of reasons—especially because most of the people on the globe suffer from energy poverty—my expertise informs my books differently from this agent’s view.
As I have observed from the successful careers of other authors and artists and have increased my own non-fiction technical writing on investments, the advice I try to follow is put words on the page every day. As someone has said, the best marketing for your existing books is your next one.
# What are your plans for future books?
I have completed research and am writing the first draft of the fourth Lynn Dayton energy thriller.
# Tell us some quirky facts about yourself.
My most illuminating teen-age summer job was to sell an artist’s watercolors to tourists from a tiny gallery in New Orleans’ French Quarter, located right on Bourbon Street. My love for New Orleans is reflected in the dedication of my first book, 13 Days. Experiences from that summer are refracted throughout my third book, The Second Law.