A Debut Novel Worth Reading

Let me introduce you to a friend of mine and encourage you to read her debut novel. Her name is Anita Halvorssen and the book is a killer thriller.

Originally from Norway, living in Colorado, Anita has taught law and writing on environmental issues, especially climate change. Her first law degree is from the University of Oslo, Norway. She has a Master of Laws and a Doctorate in Law from Columbia Law School, New York. Before pursuing an academic career, she was an Executive Officer at the Norwegian Ministry of Environment. She is a member of the International Law and Sea Level Rise Committee of the International Law Association. Halvorssen is Director of Global Legal Solutions, LLC, an international think tank and consultancy. She is also a member of the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, the Lighthouse Writers Workshop, and the International Thriller Writers.

Why fiction when your previous publications have been non-fiction?

Teaching climate change law at the University of Denver, I thought that having some students learn about climate change was fine, but a much broader audience should be enlightened. Few people read the scientific reports (IPCC reports, etc.) and the newspapers had the stories backwards for a long time. I thought plenty of people still read novels, so I decided to write a novel and put climate change into it, being careful to make it a thriller first and foremost, not an info dump on climate change. This thriller belongs to the newly recognized genre of climate fiction (cli-fi).

You chose thriller as your genre. Do you read thrillers? Whose work do you enjoy?

Yes, I read thrillers. I enjoy Stieg Larsson, Jo Nesbø, Liza Marklund, Dan Brown, Daniel Silva, John Le Carre, and many others.

Talk a bit about your writing process.

I used the first draft just to get the plot down. Then I focused on character development and emotions. It takes a lot of work, since I wrote law journal articles for a long time and they don’t have characters or any emotions.

What has changed for you since you began writing fiction?

It’s a whole different world. Discipline is of the utmost importance. Writing every day is the key. Joining workshops to learning the writing craft is crucial.

Who is your ideal reader?

Everyone who’s worried about climate change.

As we should all be. How did you come to feature your main character, Zakia?

Somehow the idea came to me to start in Morocco. I met a woman in a restaurant in New York City who was from Morocco and named my character after her. Then I did a lot of research on the country as it related to Zakia. Since she has a mixed background, British-Syrian on her father’s side, French-Moroccan on her mother’s side, and is also married to an American, I look upon Zakai as multicultural. The idea of Zakia being a journalist was based on journalists having to present facts—in my case, climate change facts. Having met her American husband at Columbia University and ending up in Chicago allows readers in the US to identify more with the characters.

What advice do you have for new novelists?

Keep at it. Don’t give up if you’re passionate about what you’re writing, and you’ll most likely persevere.

What’s next for you?

I’m working on a sequel with Zakia again, also addressing climate change.

This sounds wonderful. When will we get to read the book?

The Dirty Network will be launched at Barnes & Noble, Pearl Street, Boulder CO on December 18 at 4:30pm.

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