Monday, June 1, 2015

PUYB Virtual Book Club Chats 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:

Title: Unexpected Rain
Author: Jason LaPier
Publisher: HarperCollins (HarperVoyager)
Pages: 350
Genre: SciFi
Format: Paperback/Kindle/Nook

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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Thanks for joining us at the book club today, Jason.  Can we begin by having you tell us how you got into writing space age noir murder mysteries?

Jason: I've been into sci-fi for as long as I can remember: the original Star Wars trilogy, the original Star Trek series, old G-Force cartoons, Doctor Who (Tom Baker was always my favorite), and by the time I hit puberty, I was reading sci-fi and fantasy novels continuously. As I got older and my tastes expanded, I started to read more mysteries, thrillers, and literary fiction, but I always come back to the SF/F well. It's where I have the most fun!
When I read Isaac Asimov's Caves of Steel, I first realized the genres of mystery and sci-fi could be effectively combined. Even though I'd read that many, many years before I wrote Unexpected Rain, the concept stuck with me, and I stood up and took notice whenever I saw SF combined with noir or mystery: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and Minority Report, by Philip K. Dick; Thirteen, by Richard K. Morgan; Finch by Jeff VanderMeer; and so on. I wanted to have the freedom of far-future space-traveling sci-fi and the grittiness of noir mystery, and so Unexpected Rain is the result of mashing those together.

How much fun was it to write Unexpected Rain?

Jason: I had started and stopped writing a few other novels before I started Unexpected Rain. I always seemed to get about a third of the way in and then get lost. So when I set out to do Unexpected Rain, I was determined to have an outline that went all the way to the end. It wasn't exactly scene-by-scene - in fact, it was quite thin in parts - but it had the main plot points, and most importantly, it had an ending. That made the experience much more enjoyable for me; the guidelines of an outline gave me more freedom in a sense, because I didn't have to plan and write at the same time.
I was elated when that first draft was done, and I proudly shared it with those closest to me, and then I was subsequently crushed by the feedback. As a writer, you eventually come to understand this to be part of the process: you need critical feedback in order to improve the piece. To answer the original question: it was a ton of fun, then horrible, then a bunch of work, and then before I realized it, it was fun again.

Can you tell us a little about Jax?

Jason: Jax works as a life-support operator on a colonized planet in another solar system. His job mostly consists of sitting around and monitoring statistics, pushing the occasional button, or writing the occasional bit of programming script. He's an underachiever, and he differs from the other residents of the domes in that most of them don't think about the surface of the planet, content to live in a sort of sheltered reality. Jax on the other hand is always reminded of the harsh environment outside the domes by the loss of his mother, who was part of a construction crew, all of whom were killed during an accident while working on the unprotected surface of the planet.
Jax's father, an engineer, remarried quickly, to another engineer. He always wanted Jax to follow in his footsteps, and although Jax had the aptitude, his resentment pushed him down the path of apathy. Instead, he's worked odd job to odd job throughout his life, into his late twenties.

Can you tell us a little about the supporting characters?

Jason: When Jax is arrested for the crime of asphyxiating a block of residents in a sub-dome, several officers and detectives of Modern Policing and Peacekeeping are sent to the scene to investigate. Officer Stanford Runstom has over a decade of experience on the force and yet despite his drive, a promotion to detective has eluded him. He is the first to question how quick and weak the investigation is, and the first to suspect they've arrested the wrong man. When later presented with an opportunity to solve the case on his own, he takes it, deliberately disobeying his superiors and helping a fugitive stay on the run.
An elusive assassin named Dava works for an interstellar criminal outfit known as Space Waste. Because of the effect of filtration systems on pigmentation, most dome residents have pale skin. As a child, Dava was part of a mass exodus, "rescued" from Earth and brought to the colonies, where her black skin marks her as an Earthling. Growing up an outcast, she found solace in the diversity of the criminal world, though she still struggles to make friends with anyone other than her mentor, Moses Down. Down is the boss of Space Waste and is intent on seeing Dava become a leader some day. 

They say all books of fiction have at least one pivotal point where the reader just can’t put the book down.  What’s one pivotal point in Unexpected Rain?

Jason: Wow, great question. Hmm, well, I'll try to do this without too much spoiling. There's a sequence where Jax is taken aboard a prisoner transport ship that is heading out to the outer reaches of the solar system. During the long flight, the ship is attacked by the criminal outfit Space Waste, intent on springing a couple of their own who are also prisoners on the ship. Officer Runstom and others try to fight off the attack, but it's such pure chaos that they're mostly trying to stay alive more so than mount a proper defense. This is the point where Runstom has to decide whether or not to believe Jax is innocent and whether they should work together to escape a losing battle.
It's a pretty intense action sequence with a lot of do-or-die decision-making happening, and it's definitely the big kicking-off point of their adventure.

Can you see this becoming a movie?

Jason: Ha, absolutely! Sci-fi films have really gotten big again in the last ten years or so and what filmmakers can pull off these days is remarkable. The closest I think this book would come to in style and setting would be Joss Whedon's Serenity: the hyper-technological "core planets", the wild west outer planets and moons, the variety of spacecraft, and of course, best of all, the broad cast of characters, most of whom have a sense of humor. Firefly and Serenity have definitely been an influence on me.

What’s next for you, Jason?  More space age type novels?

Jason: I'm currently working on the sequel for Unexpected Rain, and when all is said and done it will be a trilogy (though I believe Unexpected Rain stands on its own; it wraps up enough at the end to be satisfying). I'm really excited about how the arcs of Jax, Runstom, and Dava continue and intersect through the series. I've also been working on an unrelated novel that is a modern-day private-eye thriller with sci-fi twists blended in, tentatively titled Crossfade. No word yet on when and where that will be released, but it's creepy as hell and I can't wait to unleash it upon the world.

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