Loralyn Mears, PhD has spent her life merging the worlds of science and marketing to establish more trust among the scientific community. Her latest book “The Battle for Humanity” reflects that work in a gripping novel that blurs the lines between sci-fi and hard science, but does so without boring the reader. We took some time to chat with Dr. Mears about the development of her latest book and how it’s timing during the Covid-19 era ended up being good for its release.
Grit Daily: You’ve had your own extensive writing background before authoring “The Battle for Humanity.” Share that.
Loralyn Mears: I’ve spent a fair chunk of my career writing scientific articles, whitepapers, blogs and other content, so sitting down to write something planned, structured and detailed was hardly unusual for me. In 2018, my first novel, One Sip at a Time: a Memoir, received a national Gold Medal Indie Book award. And, for the last year and a half, I’ve written several columns per week for Grit Daily News among other media publications.
GD: What prompted you to write this book?
LM: As a PhD scientist and marketer, I’ve often lamented how poor scientists are in general, and how woefully inadequate the field is overall, when it comes to marketing. Scientists, at least prior to COVID-19, were among the least trusted and least valued professions and that’s shameful given the tremendous contributions made to every aspect of the world around us. Those sentiments were crystalized for me on March 11, 2020, when Dr. Holden Thorp, editor of Science Magazine, published a pointed letter directed to President Trump. Dr. Thorp’s quote was spot-on, “But you can’t insult science when you don’t like it and then suddenly insist on something that science can’t give on demand.” Literally, within minutes of reading his Letter From the Editor, I sat down at my laptop and began writing; Dr. Thorp’s quote had essentially become both the thesis and impetus for my novel.
GD: You published it pretty early in the COVID-19 era, had you started writing it prior to the pandemic’s start?
LM: No! That’s something that I’m personally still astonished by. Writers understand how passion projects can become all-consuming. All that it takes is one little spark and then you write until you flame out. I’ve never experienced anything quite this intense. COVID-19 had barely begun it’s scourge yet I knew that I had to do something, write something, and try to help in some way to get the story out.
It was imperative that I cover key tropes like xenophobia because I (accurately) predicted that some people would cast blame on the people of Wuhan. Most importantly, it was an opportunity to share how science was moving at an unprecedented pace with collaborative discovery in operation at a level never before seen. And, it was a chance to raise money for the NJ Community Food Bank once I sold enough books to cover my production costs.
GD: A number of other authors have cited their difficulties getting books like this published because many booksellers and publishers regard them as controversial. Did you have any problems getting your book published?
LM: Yes, I did! I completed the manuscript on March 23, edited and formatted it overnight then submitted it to Amazon the next morning. Within 48h it had not only been rejected, but it had been flagged as controversial and my bookshelf was locked. To be fair, and to their credit, Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Google, Draft2Digital and other publishers were on heightened alert for all submissions regarding COVID-19. They had to be: public health was at risk. For example, publications with themes like eating the right herbs to ward off the coronavirus or recover from it were starting to pop up – en masse. Estimates of more than 3,000 books per week regarding COVID were being published on topics like how to wash your hands, how to have safe play dates and so on where many of the “books,” which were often less than 20 pages, were directly copied and pasted from copyrighted content on the web and submitted by people without domain expertise.
After numerous calls back and forth with Amazon, which in of itself was amazing that I could get through to people directly, I made a few small changes to the manuscript and it was accepted on April 2. At the time, it felt like forever, but, in the context of the challenges that they were dealing with both from the perspective of the health of their workers and the high volume of submissions, it really wasn’t that long. However, that window coincided with the growing fatigue in the population who was beginning to withdraw from the news after being glued to all things COVID 24/7.
GD: Your book spans a few genres from hard science to thriller to Sci-Fi, is the science going to put readers to sleep?
LM: No, it’s a thriller! I recognized that one of the gaps in the published literature is making science fun. STEM has been branded as boring and dull and it’s marketed that way. Most of my readers have said that they didn’t even realize that they were learning because they were so caught up in the plot’s twists and turns. To carry a scientific story like mine, the characters had to be compelling, complex and relatable – and they are – that’s what makes my book a thrilling page-turner. Scientists who have read my novel love and appreciate its detailed accuracy whereas non-scientists have enjoyed learning about the scientific research process.
Scientists generally love reading Sci-Fi because the futuristic concepts are often grounded in real science and creative storytelling is wrapped around those scientific concepts. I decided to take it one step further; although every news outlet was covering COVID 24/7, there was no coverage on the high volume of credible, peer-reviewed scientific publications that were being published every week.
As someone who has always tracked the scientific literature, the break-neck pace was mind boggling and I was deeply passionate about lauding the efforts of the scientists doing this incredible research. I did a lot of reading and analysis then stitched together a reasonable and data-informed hypothesis, found scientific publications that would support my hypothesis, then made a defensible leap to advance the science to a logical conclusion.
GD: Will there be a sequel?
LM: I artfully ended it to queue up a sequel – whether there is or not depends on demand. Demand is growing and I already have the sequel mapped out in my head. So, a sequel just might happen, you’ll have to wait and see!
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