This month, I have an interview with author Neus Figueras, whose children’s book Lorac is beautifully illustrated and written. Inspired by the coral reefs near Myanmar, where Neus spent time doing restoration, this story is aimed toward the younger generation but immensely enjoyed by adults as well.
About the Book
Lorac didn’t set out to be the voice of the ocean, but when the future is at stake, being a hero is the only choice. Lorac, the youngest of a family of sea nomads, suffers a series of unfortunate events and has to seek refuge in the heart of the sea. The transition isn’t easy, and unexpected difficulties arise. But helped by his new friend Zoe, Lorac joins a family of centenarian creatures and discovers the secrets of the coral reef – his real home. A threat that affects the marine world, however, makes him depart to the place he once knew and now knows no more, in a daring mission to save the ocean – and the planet. Lorac will have to make difficult decisions, live in worlds where he doesn’t belong, and prove his worth for the good of all. Science and fantasy come together in an adventure of hope and courage that transmits an important message to protect our environment.
Chat with the Author
Tell us about yourself – your life so far and how you got started in writing. Have you published anything before Lorac?
I started writing at an early age because I am a highly sensitive person and crafting stories helps me to project the great amount of stimulus I perceived from my surroundings ― and as I grew up, from the world. I remember that I wrote my first “unofficial” novel at the age of ten and that my friends begged me to tell them stories that I improvised as I went along (yes, we grew up without mobile phones).
Since then, I have taken several courses in creative writing, won six local and regional literary contests, and only stopped writing when I went to the Canary Islands to study Marine Sciences. I must admit that it was difficult to choose science over the humanities, but my insatiable curiosity and passion for nature won out and I knew that I could always continue my career as a writer on my own.
To be honest, my scientific career has helped me as a writer because writers tell truths for the world and science has allowed me to know our world on another level.
Lorac is my first novel. Before it, I wrote countless short stories and one novelette.
Tell us something about your novel. Who is the intended audience, and what’s going on in the story?
The story follows the life of Lorac, which begins with the traditional way of living of an Indigenous community of sea nomads – I personally met them while I was restoring coral reefs in Myanmar. Then, Lorac suffers a series of unfortunate events and has to seek refuge in the heart of the sea along with his new friend Zoe, the book’s most fantasy character although “she” actually exists. Finally, climate change and pollution come into play, sending Lorac out into our world on a mission to restore the balance of his true home, the ocean.
It is recommended for adults and teens eleven and older as it deals with the value of family and friendship, death, growing up, and global Earth issues. But, as anything related to art, nothing is rigid, and so far I’ve heard of an 8-year-old girl who devours books and read Lorac in two days, and of a retired man who loves historical literature but gave Lorac a try and it got him so hooked that he read it in one sitting.
What sorts of ecological themes does your novel have, and how were you inspired to write about them?
It has very interesting information about marine life, deals with how our impacts on the ocean have increased over time, especially due to climate change, pollution, and overfishing, and shows what we need to do to reverse this.
I was inspired to write about these things because I was working with coral reefs. And unless there is global action on climate change, our reefs are projected to be almost completely lost at 2ºC warming, a threshold that will be reached within the lifetime of many of us.
So I wanted to create a story that would convey, in an exciting and clear way, the need to conserve our planet. For the first time in my life, I wrote not because I needed to, but because it was necessary. Everyone’s contribution, however small, is vital to maintaining the planet that sustains us – a message that the book supports in a positive and inspiring way.
After publication, did you do any book fairs or talks? How would you describe the reaction to your book? Is it hard to market during the coronavirus?
Yes, I have done many, until we had to stop because of the coronavirus, but I kept doing online events.
Marketing is difficult with or without the coronavirus. I am much better at and prefer to write, but for Lorac I make the effort to do marketing because all the proceeds go towards spreading awareness of the book to help the urgent task of preserving life on Earth.
Readers’ most common reactions to Lorac is that they find they can relate to the characters and they feel the need to protect our environment. Some even have gone “Wow!” and laughed at the bantering. It has even managed to capture the attention of one reader who is not into sea-based books. Others think it would make a nice animated film, and many point out how it highlights the issues around ocean conservation in a impactful and empowering way.
Personally, I have seen Lorac succeed in changing people’s attitude towards the environment – people who, after several years of trying, I thought would never change.
Are you working on anything else right now, and do you want to add other thoughts about your book?
I’m editing a novelette I wrote some time ago, and I’m “baking” the structure of a story (so I haven’t started yet, and I’ll just write it if it turns out the way I hope) that will use some “seeds” I scattered in Lorac to create a sequel: a second book whose theme will be how biodiversity loss makes us more susceptible to pandemics.
We are also translating Lorac into French and Portuguese (it is currently available in Spanish and English).
This all sounds so incredibly cool. Thanks, Neus!
(Top image: Detail of one of Lorac’s illustrations by Evan Piccirillo.)
Mary Woodbury, a graduate of Purdue University, runs Dragonfly.eco, a site that explores ecology in literature, including works about climate change. She writes fiction under pen name Clara Hume. Her novel Back to the Garden has been discussed in Dissent Magazine, Ethnobiology for the Future: Linking Cultural and Ecological Diversity (University of Arizona Press), and Uncertainty and the Philosophy of Climate Change (Routledge). Mary lives in Nova Scotia and enjoys hiking, writing, and reading.