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Toxic Soup: A Contemporary Thriller

Toxic Soup — A contemporary thriller by debut author RR Rowley

Author Interview + Book & Author Info

Toxic Soup

Toxic waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation has been poisoning the environment, human beings, and wildlife for more than six decades.

When her brother dies a horrible death at Hanford, Casey Long, a kayaker and windsurfer by day and bartender by night in the Columbia River Gorge, Oregon/Washington, swears to put an end to the upriver contamination.

But, how can she possibly take on the entrenched fortress of a facility?

After she confides in Little Bear, a bitter Native American fisherman, they contrive a dangerous plan. Joined by a peculiar mishmash of collaborators, they risk everything to save the environment and achieve justice for all injured parties, past and present.

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The Interview with RR Rowley, Author of Toxic Soup

Toxic Soup takes place in my neck of the woods. Tell us about the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, and the Columbia River Gorge out here on the Washington/Oregon border.

The Hanford Nuclear Reservation is one of the original nuclear facilities in the USA. It is where the plutonium for the atomic bombs dropped in World War Two was produced. The plutonium for the thousands of nuclear warheads in the nation’s arsenal was also made there.

Situated on the banks of the Columbia River, the site displaced Native Americans and a small town. Afterward, the toxic waste from the production was first buried in ditches creating two hundred square miles of contaminated groundwater seeping into the river. It still seeps today. Then, the radioactive rods were dumped into the Colombia River. Airborne emissions affected humans, animals, and all of nature in the surrounding region. Fatal diseases and ailments created a class of people known as ‘downwinders.’

Google it. It is a long and terrible story.

Presently, fifty-three million gallons of ‘Toxic Soup’ are held in one hundred seventy-seven aged and leaking steel and concrete tanks.

The ‘Soup’ was sucked out of the burial ditches when people found out and raised a furor. Today, there is an additional steady influx of newly generated nuclear waste barrels stored on concrete slabs. Pray there isn’t a cataclysmic event. The Columbia Gorge is where the Columbia River cuts through the Cascade Mountain Range.

Casey Long is a kayaker and windsurfer by day and bartender by night, who turns into a reluctant hero. (If reluctant is the wrong word here, feel free to change or cut that word). What drew you to her as a lead character?

I wanted to write a novel with a female protagonist set in the Columbia Gorge, where I currently live. Both of these elements are different from what I had been previously writing.

The Gorge has a vibrant and unique culture. Through my perceptions gathered from being part of the place, I developed character sketches of people who live and play here, including Casey, my protagonist.

She came alive on the page as the two of us engaged. I didn’t sketch her out; she responded to the plot, which I outlined. The scenes in the story evolved organically through Casey’s reactions to her brother’s death at Hanford, her moral dilemma, and her complicated relationships with the people of her community. Sharing this story with her, we became deeply involved.

Tell us about the road to publication with your debut:

I came about my publisher by accident. An editor who worked on my book told me that she liked my writing and the story.

She offered to introduce me to her publisher, and along with her recommendation, I sent my query and synopsis. They offered a contract and here we are nine months later.

You’ve led an eclectic life, both in and out of the US. What has been your personal drive behind the choices you’ve made? If you were a character, what would your arc be?

Yes, I have made significant shifts along my life path. In fact, my whole life has been a succession of changes.

Seeking fulfillment has been a driving force. Sometimes led by the power of love, sometimes for the adventure of attempting to make a dream a reality. But, as to the arc, all roads lead to home – where I am in the here and now.

It took a while, but here I sit in the writing chair.

Describe the perfect dive site:

While sailing with a friend in the southern Caribbean, we made a diversion en route to the island of Margarita, Venezuela.

Our changed course led to a spot of an island we had heard of lying about one hundred miles out to sea in the middle of nowhere, north of Venezuela. The island was inhabited only by cactus and lizards, the surrounding seawater incredibly clear.

So far from any sources of pollution, the vibrant colors of the magnificent coral gardens beneath the surface were breathtaking. Shoals of shimmering little fishes shifted with our movements.

Beautiful, extraordinary, and abundant sea life intermingled with corals and lurked beneath ledges and in dark holes contrasted by adjacent brilliant white sands reflecting in watery sunlight. Many sharks also inhabited the area, so an edge prevailed from keeping an eye out for cruising hammerheads rising from the depths.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on a suspenseful novel set in the Caribbean. Can’t you tell how easily my mind goes back there?

Troubles in paradise can be played out in many ways. Along with a mysterious death, a Callaloo mix-up, as locals say, of sub plots such as: enchantment and disenchantment, CIA heavy-handedness, political intrigue, perils that implode agrarian cultures that embrace material modernism, romance, rise of feminism, and drug pirates will be stirred into the mix.

Should be fun writing and interesting reading.

Words of Wisdom for Aspiring Writers:

For aspiring writers, read, study craftsmanship, and write. But, most importantly, lose the fear of failure and venture forward with the best you can do.

Take query rejections as inspiration to work harder. Like all practicing of the arts, creating well is a learning experience. Your best today will be better tomorrow.

R R Rowley — Author of Toxic Soup

Toxic Soup

R R Rowley has lived coast to coast in the USA, in London, UK, and has spent many years on his farm in Grenada, West Indies.

He has owned and operated several companies and was involved in start-ups.

Currently, he resides in the Cascade Mountains of Washington State.

To learn more bout R R, click on his name, photo, or any of the following links: Twitter & Facebook

Blogger & Author Elena Taylor

Elena Taylor is the author of All We Buried, available now in print, e-book, and audio book format at all your favorite bookstores and on-line retailers.

For more information on All We Buriedclick on the link here to visit the home page.

Silver Falchion Award Finalist, Best Investigator 2020

Foreword INDIE Award Finalist, Best Mystery 2020

Elena Hartwell

Author and developmental editor.

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