Player Profile: Eleanor Learmonth, author of No Mercy: True Stories of Disaster, Survival and Brutality

OFFICAL HEADSHOT Eleanor CompressedEleanor Learmonth, author of No Mercy: True Stories of Disaster, Survival and Brutality

 Tell us about your latest creation:

“No Mercy: True Stories of Disaster, Survival and Brutality” considers the fate of stranded, isolated groups from 134 BC to 2010 AD. What causes these small groups trapped in hostile and remote locations to turn on each other with catastrophic results? No Mercy outlines the physical and psychological changes that affect stranded disaster victims, and compares them to the rapid social implosion imagined in William Golding’s “Lord of the Flies”. Does reality support his dark, dystopian vision of an isolated micro-community? If anything, these historical groups descend deeper than even Golding pictured.

9781922147240Where are you from / where do you call home?:

I was born in Sydney, lived in Japan for a decade, then returned to my birthplace to have a family (just like a salmon).

When you were a kid, what did you want to become?  An author?:

Either a psychologist or a writer.

What do you consider to be your best work? Why?:

I have to say “No Mercy” for the simple reason that the subject matter is so intriguing. The dark side of human nature is a creepy place to explore, but I find the permutations of a malfunctioning group to be endlessly fascinating. How thin is our layer of social conditioning? Paper thin. What lies beneath? Instinct, aggression and a sharp-focused will for self-preservation.

Describe your writing environment to us – your writing room, desk, etc.; is it ordered or chaotic?:

It’s a disgrace! My desk has paper everywhere and I have an almost fatal addiction to post-its. My worst nightmare? Hard-drive meltdown. The ideal workday is to have a head full of ideas and spend the entire day glued to the keyboard in my pyjamas and ugg boots. I also find swearing a lot very conducive to the creative process.

When you’re not writing, who/what do you like to read?:

Old historical journals, the New Yorker and the International Herald Tribune. (Also the occasional novel).

What was the defining book(s) of your childhood/schooling?:

The Narnia books, anything on archaeology, history or fish, “Catch 22”, and “Lord of the Flies”.

If you were a literary character, who would you be?:

My family says Lady Macbeth (Way Harsh!), but I think Beowulf. He never took ‘no’ for an answer, and never ran away from a fight.

Apart from books, what do you do in your spare time (surprise us!)?:

I like to snorkel – most of all with sharks, turtles or any members of the squid/octopus/cuttlefish family.

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?:

My dream dinner would be top quality sushi – sitting at the counter with the chef making me a perfect pair of uni (sea-urchin roe) sushi. I’m also very partial to a Cherry Ripe, as long as I don’t have to share it! My all-time favourite tipple would be a generous Moscow Mule made with freshly grated ginger, and garnished with a lychee.

Who is your hero? Why?:

Captain Thomas Musgrave, who kept himself and his men alive through the worst possible circumstances on a miserable sub-Antarctic island for 19 months following a shipwreck, and then facilitated the rescue of the entire group at great risk to his own life. He is an unsung hero, but they are the best kind.

Crystal ball time – what is the biggest challenge for the future of books and reading?:

It might be adapting to the digital age, and stopping the kind of piracy that has gutted the music industry.

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Jon Page

Jon Page is a bookseller and author of the Bite the Book Blog.