Although most of us in the United States will never encounter the maniacal, yet strangely powerful ant species known as “driver ants,” that doesn’t mean we won’t shudder in fright when hearing about a swarm of 22 million of the blind insects—native to West Africa—tearing apart any animal in their path.
This is exactly the reaction the former Larchmont resident and author A.J. Colucci had when she first saw a documentary about the lethal ants.
“They sense movement so well…they might cross a huge field and kill everything in sight. They’re deadly,” she said, adding that cows, chickens and even humans have been victim to the ant’s onslaught.
According to the BBC, the ants hunt by swarming prey in huge numbers and can dismember up to 100,000 animals in a single raid.
In Colucci’s new scientific thriller The Colony, a combination driver/fire ant colony terrorizes Manhattan, leaving three men dead. Two people—a Pulitzer Prize-winning scientist/ant expert and his ex-wife—are tasked with hunting down the queen and capturing her before the city gets hit with a nuclear bomb.
“I took their naturally frightening behaviors and just amplified it,” said Colucci, describing the fearsome ant colony featured in the book.
Largely self-taught, Colucci—a former journalist—describes herself as a “terrible student in science and math,” who didn’t become passionate about science until her 20s, although she nurtured a childhood love of nature.
“I would watch NOVA and the Science Channel—it fueled my writing,” she said.
Colucci’s first stab at writing The Colony, however, happened when she scrawled down a few ideas on napkins with a crayon while her daughters played nearby.
From there, “I just realized I had to do a ton of research. When I felt like I was comfortable with my characters I just started writing. I can’t exactly describe the writing process—stories just come to me,” she said.
Eighty rewrites and five years later, the book was published.
Though many struggle with the process of getting their novels published, Colucci’s path to publication seemed lighting fast by comparison, with her agent selling the novel within six weeks.
What does she think makes a novel marketable?
“It’s the same as with film—a high concept idea that’s exciting and can be summed up in one sentence and someone can see a blockbuster right in front of their eyes,” she said, “Especially if it’s a first book—it’s easier to sell with a high concept novel than other genres.”
Colucci is currently in the negotiation process for publication of her second novel, which she describes as, “a darker, scarier book” than The Colony.
“It’s a science thriller that involves nature gone awry,” she said, reveling few details.
This Saturday, Nov. 17 at 2 p.m., Colucci will be signing copies of her book at Anderson’s Book Shop in Larchmont. She will be following in the footsteps of her mother, a poet, who also signed copies of a book she published at Anderson’s several years earlier.
Writing a novel is no easy task though, says Colucci.
“It’s a very long process, learning how to write a good book,” she said, continuing, “Once you get your own voice and find out how to develop new books, it becomes easier.”
For more information on Colucci or to order The Colony, please visit her website here.