K.A. Liddiard - Contemporary Thrillers with a Futurist Tweak
Karen (KA) Liddiard writes contemporary thrillers with a futurist tweak, a twist of adventure and a dash of romance, because who doesn’t need time out in between saving the world? Like Michael Crichton weaving a great adventure after extracting DNA trapped in amber, Karen teases scientific possibility into intriguing encounters with current reality. Her debut series, The Alexa Chronicles, is a page-turning escape that explores the ultimate life do-over with the classic be careful what you wish for twist! While she lacks the fighting skills of her feisty heroines; Karen has survived teaching angst-ridden teenagers how to read and write proper-like; the epic pettiness (and sharp knives) of corporate politics and the moral ambivalence of selling business software that almost works but no-one will use. She enjoys launching fast cars down a freeway and on weekends she’ll sling an SUV through dust, dirt and ruts to get to the perfect Aussie outback campfire destination to enjoy with her partner and their bark-aholic fur-kid. As our Author of the Day, she tells us all about her book, Defying Destiny/
Please give us a short introduction to what Defying Destiny is about.
Defying Destiny is a fast-paced thriller set in the not-too-distant future which begins with the transformation of Ashleigh Daniels, a successful but aging career woman. Ashleigh is transformed and given a new identity as Alexa Dartmoor by a secretive mega-corporation that specializes in advanced bio-science. Ashleigh/Alexa must work for GenTech for ten years to pay for her young, rejuvenated body.
She soon suspects the company has a dark and hidden agenda but is betrayed by the man who seduced her; she is trapped and unable to escape her new role in GenTech’s terrifying master plan.
Defying Destiny weaves together technology, mystery, danger, and a little romance in a story that prompts consideration not just about the obsession we have with aging but the danger that can occur when science and big business conspire with little regard for humanity and ethics.
What inspired you to write about someone who turned their biological clock back 30 years?
A few glasses of wine with the “girls”! As we were approaching a major milestone birthday, we were debating what we might do differently if we could start over. We all shuddered at the agony of being a young woman without the experience we’d gained in the previous thirty years. But the thought of regaining that slim, fit body that the years had rounded to comfortable curves, with the odd ache and pain, was distinctly appealing. The practical side of my brain immediately realised the difficulties of fitting back into your existing life after a dramatic and surreal transformation. So, the devious plotter created a scenario where it not only made sense, but would be extremely desirable to a character.
Tell us more about Ashleigh Daniels. What makes her so special?
Ashleigh’s dilemma is relatable to anyone who is old enough to have regrets, glared at a younger woman (or man) or wondered “what might have been”. She has been too focused on success in one area of her life and lost all round balance. It makes her vulnerable and easily seduced into seizing the opportunity for a miraculous start over. She’s clever, ethical and tough but still finds herself trapped as she is manipulated into taking one tiny step after another down a road she would not have willingly traveled. It’s easy to imagine how unexpected events and unusual circumstances can mentally transform an individual as much as clever science can renew an aging body.
Why did you include a conspiracy to transform the world in your story?
Because I watch too much Netflix? While I’m far from the perfect traveler leaving only footprints on the planet, I am concerned about world-wide attitudes toward consumption and consumerism. About ten years back, I read The Meaning of the 21st Century by Dr. James Martin. It’s a fascinating book by a passionate advocate for future change who argues that we are on the brink of a turning point—fundamentally between utopia or dystopia. One concept, in particular, stayed with me. The idea that the need to remain in power paralyzed governments that are manipulated by lobbyists and centrists. And that massive change could come at the hands of mega corporations with the power, wealth and vision to transform the world. Whether that transformation would be toward a better future for humanity is unpredictable.
Defying Destiny posits a company led by a man who believes the end justifies the means and questions whether others would have the will or the way to prevent the greater good if the price was billions of lives.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
Apart from being a ninja warrior who can walk on water? Oops, I swore an oath to my feudal lord to keep that a secret, so forget I mentioned that. From a creative perspective, I like to dabble in digital art and throw some paint on canvas in abstract chaos. I also enjoy cooking—meaning neither I nor my life partner will ever be thin. I’m also a dog whisperer; every pup in the park sprints my way with scrambling paws, flying ears, and wide-opened smiles. I like to pretend that it’s because of my superior ear-fussing skills but the sad truth is that it’s all belly-love; I carry the best treats in the neighborhood.
Why do you write futuristic thrillers? What drew you to the genre?
I was an avid reader as a child, partly because I grew up on a farm far enough away from school mates that play dates were a challenge. There was no social media to fill after-school hours and two older brothers who always got first choice on tv channels. Books were my escape and my friends. I soon discovered the thrill of off-world adventures and fondly remember Anne McCaffrey’s dragons; or the heralds of Mercedes Lackey and their magical horses. But I also enjoyed crime, adventure, spies and thrillers that my brothers read like Alistair Maclean or Jack Higgins.
In my teens, a more scientific approach intrigued my logical brain to explore alternate universes or future worlds. I do read and watch classic sci-fi, (may you live long and prosper). But what inspires me is that when I open my Kindle, I remember when I was ten, and I was reading stories from the library on yellowed pages that included amazing devices called book plaques!
So, I love near future science. Technology and research that is scientifically valid, but perhaps is in its infancy (or illegal) provides inspiration for stories that are entertaining, improbably possible, and raise questions about what the future may hold.
Readers say your books are thought-provoking. Is this intentional?
Despite my personal concerns about the future of the planet; I’m not expecting to change the world, and my prime intention is to provide an entertaining ride for my readers—who also say they can totally see the Alexa Chronicles as a Netflix series. However, I think it’s essential that for a story to be worthwhile, it has something more than pure entertainment value. For me, weaving a thrilling story-line requires that the plot has meaning beyond the personal angst of the characters.
What do you hope readers will take from Defying Destiny?
A racing heart and sore fingers from fast page turning! Well, there is a classic “be careful what you wish for” twist. So, on the one hand, I’m hoping that readers might be a little more satisfied with their own lives. It would also be great for them to expand their curiosity about technology that already exists or is under development and consider both the ethics and practical benefits of the underlying science. Most importantly, I want them to enjoy the adventure and escape into an exciting world far beyond the walls in which so many have been intermittently isolated for the past year.
Do any of your characters ever take off on their own tangent, refusing to do what you had planned for them?
Cue maniacal laughter! Of course they do. Characters are like friends or co-workers. You think you know what makes them tick, how they’ll react, what they will do next. Wrong. You’re positive that the arc of the story will smoothly rise to a satisfying climax, and then you find you’re three chapters deep into something fascinating but not intrinsic to the plot. On the plus side, at best it defines a more interesting road to “The End” and at worst it provides bonus reading material for fans who want to know more about their personal favourite character. Either way, I enjoy the journey and the surprises that an out-of-control character brings even to the person holding the reins.
The book has an interesting cover. Please tell us more about it.
Choosing a design for the cover is an agonizing experience. I’m driven by my personal taste, but how relevant is what I like? Deranged Doctor Design developed the cover; they are a fabulous team to work with; patient, helpful, knowledgeable and talented. I wanted a cover that reflected the style and fundamental premise of the book whereby an aging woman who is professionally successful and personally bereft receives the chance to start a fresh new life through advanced bio-science. While the book has romantic elements, the relationships are secondary to the suspense and thriller elements, so I didn’t want to include a gorgeous male lead on the cover (especially in a half-naked provocative pose).
Because it was the first in a series, it also needed to tie thematically to the subsequent books—hence the inclusion of the DNA strand that suggests the genetic engineering aspects of the technology.
I’m not sure how “on genre” the cover is—I’ve been told that I should have gone with something more symbolic and thriller-esque. What do you think? I love to hear from readers whether they think the cover suits the book because there’s nothing worse than being led astray by a cover and finding the book fails to meet your expectations.
Defying Destiny is part of a series. Can it be read as a standalone? How do the other books in the series tie in with this one?
You certainly can just read Defying Destiny. As it’s book one, everything is new and there’s no pre-knowledge required to enjoy the story. Of course, I hope that you’re intrigued and enjoying my writing enough to find out what happens next as the characters develop; the action continues and the conspiracy deepens. Most importantly, with the Feb-01 release of Finding Hope, the entire series is now available to read straight through. No dropped threads to pick up or loose ends waiting to be neatly tied. The series is one large arc but each book introduces new characters and aspects of the overall plot to ensure it remains interesting—although the key characters of Ashleigh/Alexa and Rick remain focal to the story.
Do you have any interesting writing habits? What is an average writing day like for you?
Mmm, nothing intriguing or weird, like writing naked in the lotus position in front of a reflective pool shimmering with the fine effervescence of cascading vintage champagne. Unfortunately, life is considerably more mundane! I start the day with essential dog walking, grooming, feeding and fussing. During which the characters wake up to whisper their next adventures—which means I race through the mundane chores of washing or shopping, getting increasingly disgruntled until I can get my hands on the keyboard and the voices out of my head. I keep meaning to master dictation so I can multi-task… although I might get some strange looks while out walking and describing a deadly ambush.
What are you working on right now?
After releasing the fourth and final book in the Alexa Chronicles; I’m spending some time on my other favourite genre, fantasy. Like the technothrillers with their subtle inclusion of terrifyingly possible future science; the fantasy elements are “low”. There’s no fantastical magic and the laws of physics are not irreparably broken. But some characters have mystical talents, and the wild beasties are far smarter than your average bear (or wolf or snowcat). Like my thrillers, the important elements are the way the characters interact and overcome extraordinary obstacles and survive (or die if they’ve been annoying me—albeit heroically, if they were only mildly irritating).
I’m also playing with what could be the start of a new technothriller series that plays with chaos theory, future analysis and time manipulation.
Oh, and I’m starting to record audio versions of the Alexa Chronicles for those who love to listen and conjure pictures in their mind while they walk, exercise or drive.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
The best place to visit with me is on my website at https://kaliddiard.com. My blog is a collection of the weird, wonderful and wild new science and technology that inspire plot twists and show just how close the future tech of my stories is in reality. I love to hear from readers and my contact details are on the site—along with links to social media platforms like FaceBook, Instagram and Pinterest. You can also sign up for my newsletter, which comes out about once a month and includes freebie downloads of bonus chapters, free books and promo discounts.