Interesting interview with L.S. Larson, author of IGIST and President at Axon

IGIST, creating positive female space hero role models with L.S. Larson

What is your background briefly?

My name is L.S. Larson. I grew up in Washington State on the Olympic Peninsula in the small town of Forks, which is actually where Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series takes place. I now live in Arizona and run a company calleIGISd Axon, which is known for making body cameras and the TASER device for law enforcement and civilians.

I wrote my first book 10 years ago after I had just finished my second tour in Ar Ramadi, Iraq, serving as an infantry officer in the Marine Corps. This book called Senator’s Son was about my experience in the Iraq War. In the years that followed, I put most of my time and energy into my day job at Axon and raising my family. My daughters then inspired me to start writing IGIST.

Does it seem like a logical background to what you do now?

Yes, I’m still at Axon and so for my day job, I collaborate with engineers and other technologists. I’ve learned a lot from the smart and talented people I’ve had the great opportunity of working with at Axon. Working there has expanded my worldview and so has raising a family. A few years ago, my oldest daughter, Kendall, who’s now 10, sat in on an earnings call with me. After the call was finished, Kendall said something very interesting to me.

She asked why weren’t there any women on the call. That was an eye-opening moment, specifically the phrase: you can’t become what you can’t see. So instead of just sitting back and hoping there would be someone my daughters could look up to in a lead role in something like Back to the Future or Harry Potter, I decided to create a series where there was one.

It’s a big reason I wrote my latest book, IGIST. Research shows that only 11% of physicists and astronomers are women. Only 8% of mechanical engineers are women. There’s a massive gender gap within STEM professions. My hope is that IGIST will inspire my daughters and more young women to study STEM. My ultimate dream is that 10 or 12 years from now when the first person walks on Mars, she’ll be a scientist who was inspired to explore space from reading IGIST as a kid.

1 min pitch for what you are doing now?

200 years in the future, Earth is not so nice a place. A plague has turned the planet into a dystopia and has terrorized the bygones left on Earth. Meanwhile, humans in the cosmos push the boundaries of space exploration, opening up new vistas for humanity. The best and brightest explorers and scientists are educated and trained at IGIST, the Intergalactic Institute of Science and Technology, kind of like an MIT in space. The IGIST series follows Emi, a 14 year-old Earthling, who dreams of becoming a great scientist like her mother, studying at IGIST, and learning how to create an antidote to save the universe from the plague.

Readers can experience Emi’s stellar adventure as a traditional paperback book and they can get transported to the future and immersed in the cosmos with the IGIST app that brings the book to life with beautiful photorealistic illustrations, cinematic CG animations, and Augmented Reality filters which are also really fun. We’ve found that IGIST really appeals to kids who historically haven’t been readers. It’s also been a hit with critics. One described IGIST as “Star Wars meets Harry Potter.” Another said “IGIST reads like the Da Vinci Code.”

Congrats on the book, did you enjoy writing it, what was your inspiration?

Thanks! Creating IGIST was a lot of fun mostly because of the people I got to work with. I actually collaborated with my oldest daughter Kendall on the story. I would write a chapter before work and then Kendall would read the chapter that night and give me her feedback. Kendall and my younger daughters, Kaylee and London, inspired me to get up at 4 AM every morning and write IGIST. Another big inspiration for me came from Axon, which as I mentioned earlier, makes the TASER device.

The inventor of the TASER was a NASA scientist named Jack Cover. When Jack was a kid, his favorite book series was called Thomas A. Swift and His Electric Rifle. The Tom Swift series inspired Jack to become an inventor and he actually named the TASER device after Tom Swift, who in every book plot would come up against an existential crisis and save the day with one of his inventions. I think of Emi, the protagonist of IGIST, as a strong and smart distant relative of Tom Swift.

A few years ago when I was mapping out the first IGIST book, I had noticed that my daughters, nieces, and nephews enjoyed apps like TikTok and games like Fortnite which do a great job of utilizing the amazing technological capabilities of smartphones. Yet, E-readers and most E-reading apps have shied away from innovating the digital reading experience in favor of a flat, relatively boring platform. My goal with the IGIST app was to create an immersive digital reading experience that took advantage of the smartphone’s incredible functionalities.

When I was mapping out IGIST and came up with the plague, an amoeba-like monster that gobbles up anything in its path, I envisioned it popping off the screen, surprising the viewer. And so the first “Sputnik” animation was born. I had a blast creating the IGIST app with a super talented team of animators, illustrators, and computer programmers. We’re all proud of the first IGIST Immersive Novel experience.

How many books do you plan / hope / intend to write in the series?

I’ve mapped out five IGIST books. I’m also working with other authors on stories we’re developing as Immersive Novels in the IGIST app. I think we’ve created a new medium of storytelling with our app and I’m excited to build out this platform with other storytellers.

How soon you do think / hope / wish some of the things come to pass?

I’ve really enjoyed watching my daughters grow up. The last ten years has flown by. The last year has been particularly special as my family and I have travelled around the world launching IGIST. We were in Edinburgh in June and we’re currently in Nice, France. It’s been a thrill for me and Kendall to meet fans and discuss IGIST with journalists like yourself. I wish I had more time to relish all the fun.

How important is it for people to use the app, and / or for the book to stand on its own merits too?

I think the compelling story in the book stands on its own, but the app really enhances the reading experience. With the app, readers can transform the black and white illustrations in the book into colorful animations and unearth hidden animations by scanning other parts of the book, like the front cover. Readers can even turn themselves into a hologram and add their favorite characters to their photos with Character Stickers in the IGIST app.

The response from readers has been really positive. One of my favorite pieces of feedback came from The Write Way blog. They said we “made reading fun again.” I think using the app to interact with the book is the most fun way to experience IGIST.

How can people find out more about you & your work?

You can follow @igistuniverse on Instagram to get a behind the scenes look at our epic book tour and sneak peaks of Book 2 concept art. We’re also on Facebook and Twitter @IGIST_studios. I’m @ls_larson.

Who are you sci-fi writer heroes?

H.G. Wells, Isaac Asimov, and Aldous Huxley to name a few. The Time Machine and Brave New World were two of my favorite stories I read growing up. Asimov’s Foundation is one of my favorite series. I’m also a huge fan of the fantasy genre and authors like C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien.

Anything else you’d like to add / we should have asked?

Those were great questions. Thank you for having me.

More about IGIST, available from Amazon here.

IGIST follows the challenges and triumphs of Emi, a 14 year-old Earthling girl that dreams of getting into the renowned Intergalactic Institute of Science and Technology, or IGIST. The odds are stacked against her however. As humanity has spread across the galaxy they have grown to look down on the Bygones left on the brain-drained backwater of planet Earth and have no interest in stopping the Plague that ravages the people left there.

As Emi strives to become the first Earthling in 20 years to gain admittance to IGIST she meets an incredible cast of out-of-this-world characters: business tycoons from the asteroid belt, yak-men of the Warden Corps,  snobby Martians, holographic deep-space Scouts, and of course her droid sidekick Sadee. Immerse yourself in the universe of IGIST, and find out if Emi has what it takes to save her home.

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