They say there are a certain set of questions to help you really get to know a person. With that in mind, we’ve applied this to our wonderful digital-first authors and, more specifically, their books and asked them five vital questions to get better acquainted. Welcome, Jason LaPier and UNEXPECTED RAIN.
1. You open up a new world in space that readers are able to completely immerse themselves in. From where did you draw your inspiration for the interplanetary setting of the book?
Starting with classic sci-fi literature: Isaac Asimov’s Caves of Steel was an early influence on the domes of Unexpected Rain. In terms of mood and atmosphere, I draw on anything by Philip K. Dick and Stanislaw Lem. I’m sure Ursula K. LeGuin’s Hainish Cycle books planted a few seeds as well.
And I can’t deny the effect television and film has had on my everlasting love of sci-fi, so you’re sure to find influence from Star Wars, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, and most of all Firefly and Serenity.
2. During your writing process, how did you find the experience of putting together a mystery? Did you have a conclusion in mind before planning out the book, or did you start from the beginning and go from there?
The actual crime was in my head in some form before anything else – but I needed villains and motivations to lead up to that crime. Going a few layers deep, I was able to map out all the characters’ involvement, and then use those individual incidents and contributions to create a trail of breadcrumbs for the protagonists to follow. Once I began developing those bad guys more deeply, their drives set the course for the later stages of the story.
3. How would you describe the relationship between the two main characters, Jax and Runstom?
They are an Odd Couple: two people with such divergent backgrounds, they would never expect to become acquaintances under normal circumstances. Often they don’t see eye-to-eye, and they really only work together because they have a common goal, but their motivations are very different. Jax is the fugitive who just wants to be free (and stay alive), and Runstom is looking for a chance to prove himself, but is also very idealistic in his sense of justice. They’re both individually knowledgeable about a few specific things – which they use to their advantage as a team – but they are also both very naive about a great number of things. What makes them such a fun pairing is that neither one is an over-achieving hero type, but their stumbles and missteps are offset by complementary flashes of brilliance.
4. You’re a software engineer by day and a writer by night. Did your knowledge of computer systems help you in developing the plot of Unexpected Rain?
Yes, it helped in the development of ideas about how to create a mystery that involved technological clues: software exploits, cryptography, code obfuscation and so on. More uniquely, I think I tapped into my experience with inherent fallacies in the technology development and implementation process. Sometimes engineers live in a bit of an ideal world, and I love to play with the disconnect between how these things were meant to be used and how they are actually used.
5. There are a number of elements unique to the world of Unexpected Rain, from the sport of bombball to the radio wave messaging system called RadMess. Which of these do you think would be most likely to exist in the future?
I hope interstellar flight becomes a reality someday, because it’s inevitable that there is a point in the future – maybe distant, maybe not – when Earth can no longer support life. If star-hopping does ever happen, I do believe it will be driven by the private sector. This has exciting but also frightening implications, and while Unexpected Rain is not what I would call dystopian fiction, the domes of these new worlds create an uncomfortable level of corporate influence over the lives of the inhabitants.