Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Virtual Book Tour Guest: Interivew with Jason LaPier, author of 'Unexpected Rain'





Born and raised in upstate New York, Jason LaPier lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife and their dachshund. In past lives he has been a guitar player for a metal band, a drum-n-bass DJ, a record store owner, a game developer, and an IT consultant. These days he divides his time between writing fiction and developing software, and doing Oregonian things like gardening, hiking, and drinking microbrew. He is always in search of the perfect Italian sandwich.

His latest book is the space age noir murder mystery, Unexpected Rain.

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About the Book:

In a domed city on a planet orbiting Barnard's Star, a recently hired maintenance man named Kane has just committed murder.

Minutes later, the airlocks on the neighbourhood block are opened and the murderer is asphyxiated along with thirty-one innocent residents.

Jax, the lowly dome operator on duty at the time, is accused of mass homicide and faced with a mound of impossible evidence against him.

His only ally is Runstom, the rogue police officer charged with transporting him to a secure off-world facility. The pair must risk everything to prove Jax didn’t commit the atrocity and uncover the truth before they both wind up dead.

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Q: Welcome to The Writer's Life!  Now that your book has been published, we’d love to find out more about the process.  Can we begin by having you take us at the beginning?  Where did you come up with the idea to write your book?

My record as a novelist prior to Unexpected Rain was pretty bleak. I had started a few novels, never making it more than halfway through any. When I set out to do Unexpected Rain, I wanted a fresh start. I chose a somewhat straightforward science fiction setting: far enough into the future that interstellar travel was possible and a few nearby star systems had been colonized. No aliens, no special powers, no killer robots. I would say the base setting of Firefly would come closest (minus the psychic girl). Don't get me wrong: I love aliens, special powers, and killer robots, but in my universe, I left that stuff out so that I could focus on a different angle: a murder mystery for the interstellar age.

Q: How hard was it to write a book like this and do you have any tips that you could pass on which would make the journey easier for other writers?

I used to do a kind of partial plot and then just start writing by the seat of my pants. This is what led to two dead-end, unfinished novels. I discovered that for me to be successful, I need to plot from beginning to end. Now, let me clarify: my outlines always have a beginning, middle, and end, but they usually have a lot of wiggle room in between. I understand the value of pantsing, the freedom to allow the story to evolve on its own. Personally, I need a minimum amount of structure to keep my momentum going, but I appreciate a level of flexibility.

And that's my key tip: do whatever it takes to keep the momentum going. A book is a long journey. Sometimes you're going to get bored, distracted, stuck, lost. Those are the times that you need the next thing to pull you forward. Sometimes revisiting your outline does it. Sometimes freewriting a piece that won't actually be part of the narrative helps; I've on occasion taken a step back and written from the perspective of a non-POV character, such as a villain. The freedom of writing something related to the story, but not actually going into the book, can jumpstart your creativity and get that momentum back.

Q: Who is your publisher and how did you find them or did you self-publish?

HarperVoyager (UK), which is a sci-fi/fantasy imprint of HarperCollins. When the imprint was looking to bolster their roster with a dozen new authors, they had an open submission period for two weeks back in 2012, and that’s how I got my foot through the door.

Q: Is there anything that surprised you about getting your first book published?

Getting published was a surprise in itself! After I submitted my work to HarperVoyager, I had moved on and was working on another novel. Meanwhile, Unexpected Rain was (unbeknownst to me) making its way through a gauntlet of a selection process. A year and half after I submitted the manuscript, I got an email. As you may imagine, I had forgotten all about the open submission call, having assumed long ago I had been cut. So it was a complete surprise to find out that they had received over 5,000 manuscripts and had spent nearly 18 months whittling the list down to 15 selections.

[ Here's the press release that came out in August, 2014, nearly two years after the open submission call: http://www.thebookseller.com/news/harpervoyager-signs-15-open-submission-fortnight ]

Q: What other books (if any) are you working on and when will they be published?

I'm currently working on the sequel to Unexpected Rain, to be released in mid-2016, which will be followed by the conclusion of the trilogy to be released in mid-2017. Aside from that, I've been working on an unrelated book: a modern day private-eye thriller with some mind-bending sci-fi twists. It's pretty much complete, but I haven't figured out how and when it will be released yet.

Q: What’s your favorite place to hang out online?

Admittedly, as I've gotten older, it's harder for me to be as social online as I used to be. Part of this is that my day job keeps me a lot busier than previous day jobs have - so not much time for idle surfing during the day. :) I poke my head into Twitter and Facebook at least once a day, and I have some private forums I frequent where I can talk to other authors (invaluable resources!). I also gobble up certain SF/F blogs, such as tor.com and io9.com and occasionally join conversations there.

Q: Finally, what message (if any) are you trying to get across with your book?

A lot of sci-fi these days is trying to send a warning or a message that's right there on the surface - dystopias, for example. I consume a lot of that stuff, and I place a great deal of value on any work that can successfully bring a strong message to readers. However, I think for the health of the genre you have to have some less heavy-handed (for lack of a better word) stories to balance things out and remind us that ultimately this is all for entertainment purposes.

There are some of those dystopian-esque warnings in Unexpected Rain, but as a backdrop almost; it's not a full-fledged dystopia, but far from the utopia of the old Star Trek designs. There are backhanded digs against capitalism running unchecked, but I admit my approach is less a lesson and more just a cynical "it is what it is". And there are other challenging themes in there; racism rears its ugly head from time to time, which is my way of saying, even as humans evolve technologically, there will still be assholes among us.

Above everything though, the core arc of Unexpected Rain is internal to the main characters. They all struggle with being a little different, and with the direction their lives are heading; however their obstacles are different, and thus each has vastly different lessons to learn. This is where I hope to connect to readers the most.
  
Q: Thank you again for this interview!  Do you have any final words?

Thanks so much for having me!