In 2005, Mahwah’s AJ Colucci was home with her two daughters, then ages 4 and 6, when a Discovery Channel special on killer ants caught her eye. Seven years later, that special has become the inspiration for her first published novel – a science fiction thriller, The Colony, which hits stores nationwide Tuesday.
“I just found the ants in that special fascinating,” Colucci said of the documentary. “Their organizational capabilities, the way they took down their prey and pretty much ate everything in sight. I was like, ‘this is cool.’”
Colucci, who grew up in Larchmont, N.Y. and moved to Mahwah with her husband 20 years ago, started writing the outline for the book in her kids’ crayons.
After writing about a quarter of the book, she sent it to an agent, “just to see if it was any good.” The agent was interested, and Colucci got to work.
“It takes a long time to write a marketable book. It took me five years,” she said.
The end result, she said, is a fast-paced thriller that has Manhattan on the brink of destruction, thanks to a colony of mutant ants. A divorced pair of entomologists must come together to figure out how to stop the colony before the President nucs the city.
“It’s all based on the true capabilities of fire ants and driver ants. The science is all sound,” Colucci said.
Still, the new author said she was insecure when writing it.
“I was a mom in New Jersey who’d been out of the work force for ten years,” she said. “This is a male-dominated genre. You typically have PhD’s writing these kinds of books. But, I think for women this is a growing genre.”
Her apprehensions proved unfounded. The Colony will be sold in every Barnes and Noble across the country, on Amazon.com, in other major book retailers, as an eBook, and it’s being ordered by libraries across the country, including the Mahwah Public Library.
“I’m so glad [St. Martin’s Press, a Macmillan company] published it in hardcover, because that was my dream,” she said. “I need to be able to hold it and smell it. I love the way new books smell.”
Colucci, who worked in magazines, journalism and PR before becoming a stay-at-home mom, said the process of finding the right agent, editing her story, getting it sold to a publisher and waiting for it to come out, has been a long one.
“There are so many ups and downs in this whole thing. But, this is seven years of work, so [Tuesday] is a big party for me,” she said.
Colucci will be celebrating the release of The Colony by hosting a reading, author talk and book signing at the Barnes and Noble on Route 17 in Paramus at 7 p.m.