Christoph Martin on researching THE EXPANSION

Today we welcome Christoph Martin, the collaborative writing team of Christoph Martin Zollinger and Libby O’Loghlin, to Booklover Book Reviews to tell us about the research that went into their new novel The Expansion.

The Expansion Christoph MartinThe Expansion Synopsis:

In politics and big business, truth is a matter of opinion.

Straddling the storyworlds of Panama, Washington and London, The Expansion follows British-born geomatic engineer Max Burns, whose revolutionary water-saving system wins him the esteemed position of head engineer for one of the 21st century’s most politically contested megaprojects: the expansion of the Panama Canal.

For Max it is a dream come true: not only is he able to work closely with construction giant and old high-school friend Godfredo Roco in one of the most beautiful tropical environments, but it’s the kind of job Max has been working toward his entire career.

Yet in the arena of global trade and diplomacy, stakes are high, and when a senior official of the Panama Canal Administration is found dead, Max finds himself in the frame for sabotage and murder, and at the centre of a web of political intrigue and betrayal that reaches far beyond the idyllic shores of Central America. The only person Max can trust is his new-found love, Karis Deen, a scientist with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. Except Karis herself holds a secret that could not only destroy Max, but could change the entire balance of world power.

(Clink Street Publishing, May 2017)


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Part of the fun of this project is that while our skills and strengths are very complementary, we have had very different life experiences, so we were able to bring a lot of different points of view and diversity to the process, and to the characters.

Early on in the process we travelled together to Zuoz, which is the little village in the south-east of Switzerland where Max’s story really starts. Christoph had this location in mind for Max and Godfredo’s schoolboy friendship, right from the start, because that friendship is really a pivotal bond for Max, right up until the end of the book. So we were lucky enough to be able to visit a boarding school in the area, which gave us the setting with its the ice hockey rink and the WWII bunker and the dormitories.

We tend to do a lot of talking to people and visiting places, not only for inspiration but to really get to know our storyworlds. Christoph had also lived in Panama for more than 15 years, so he was able to draw on that experience and bring that to the writing process.

In 2015 we travelled together to Panama to visit some of the locations that would play a part in the story, as well as the site of the canal expansion itself, which was a superb experience. Breathtakingly huge, in fact!

Libby O'Loghlin and Christoph Martin Zollinger
Libby O’Loghlin and Christoph Martin Zollinger

We were able to talk to a very diverse range of people in Panama, including the Director of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, and even some ex-street gang members, who had lived through very violent times on the streets of Panama City, and who now run tours of the Old Town.

During the process of researching, we also interviewed a number of experts in the areas of engineering and architecture, medicine, the military and diplomatic corps. Both of us tend to do a lot of reading from all kinds of sources, which is not really ‘hard work’ as we’re both quite curious by nature!

For the next book, we’ve had to steep ourselves in the Cold War and Russia. And Christoph is planning a trip to the Arctic … perhaps that will give you an idea of the scope of the next story!

Get your copy of The Expansion from:
Book Depository | Amazon UK | Amazon International | Kobo | B&N

You can join Christoph and Libby’s email list by going to the book’s website.

About the Writing Team, Christoph Martin

Christoph Martin is the writing team of Christoph Martin Zollinger and Libby O’Loghlin.

Christoph Zollinger is a Swiss entrepreneur whose career spans legal, military, corporate and private enterprise. Christoph graduated with a law degree from the University of Zürich, after which time he went on to live and work in Panama in corporate and private enterprise for more than a decade. In 2012 he returned to Switzerland with his wife and children. He divides his time between his home in Zürich and a tiny Alpine village in Graubünden.

Libby O’Loghlin is an Australian novelist and prize-winning short story writer who has a career in narrative media production, including film and television, as well as print and digital publishing. She has lived in the UK, USA and Malaysia, and she now lives with her family in Switzerland.

Reviews of The Expansion

Goodreads, Rae Reads