Welcome to #VirtualVoyager Week! Don’t worry, you haven’t stumbled onto the wrong blog. Our pals over at Voyager are hosting a week long celebration of their digital authors, and when they approached us with a thriller with ‘police… but in space’ we had to get involved. So hop aboard to the first day of #VirtualVoyager. We have an exclusive Q&A with Jason Lapier the author Unexpected Rain.
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.
What drew you to the world of suspense?
I grew up on science fiction, but I’ve always had a taste for darker films no matter the genre. Movies like Chinatown are where I got my first taste of noir detective, with my all-time favourite being the noir-sci-fi crossover Blade Runner. Once I got old enough to expand my reading selections beyond sci-fi/fantasy, I started to mix more mystery/suspense into my library. Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson was one of my gateways, as well as Henning Mankell. There are a lot of authors that aren’t necessarily ‘mystery’, but fall between the worlds of the weird, the dark, and the suspenseful that I just devour, from Haruki Murakami to Chuck Palahniuk to Cormac McCarthy.
Tell us about your new book.
In the distant future of Unexpected Rain, planets outside our solar system are colonized, primarily using advanced dome technology. Life inside these domes is safe and fairly bland, which is why the local police are in over their heads when an entire block is murdered. The for-hire organization Modern Policing and Peacekeeping comes in with detectives and officers, quickly pinning the crime on life-support operator ‘Jax’ Jackson. Only one lowly officer, Stanford Runstom, believes Jax is innocent. When given the chance, Runstom risks everything to help Jax go on the run so they can criss-cross the galaxy in search of the real killer.
Is there a lot of research that goes into your books?
The setting of Unexpected Rain is several hundred years into the future, and high-speed travel has allowed the human race to visit and populate star systems nearest to our solar system. I try to keep techno/science-babble under control in the narrative, but as this is sci-fi, it’s in there. Most of the research I’ve done is around exoplanets (planets around stars outside of our solar system) and the properties of various moons, especially those in orbit around gas giants. In the last several years, real-world expeditions with space probes such as Galileo and Cassini have revealed all kinds of interesting discoveries about the moons of Jupiter and Saturn.
Additionally, I’m a software engineer by trade, and so a lot of my day-to-day observations inform some of the underpinnings of my future world. I love to play with the disconnect between the designs of engineers and the real-world usage of their efforts by consumers.
What author (besides yourself) do you think that everyone should read?
In the world of thrillers, I really loved Gun Machine by Warren Ellis. It’s dark and creepy and at times has a twisted sense of humour – it’s right up my alley. On the weirder side of things, I’m going with Jeff VanderMeer all the way. The Southern Reach trilogy, which just came out last year, is destined to become a classic. It describes this intense ecological anomaly and the expeditions that attempt to probe it. Each of the three books has a very different literary style, but all of them are creepy and mind-bending. VanderMeer’s other offerings include Finch, which is a great noir-weird tale crossover, and Wonderbook, his book on writing, which should be required reading for any genre author, and even of a few non-genre writers.
Favourite thing to do aside from writing:
I live in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, so I do a lot of hiking, gardening, cooking, and drinking. I also love my job as a software architect because it requires a combination of logic and creativity, and a combination of big-picture vision and attention to detail. Coincidentally, I suppose these same skills translate pretty well to the art of writing.
Advice for someone considering a career in writing:
I’m here to say it’s possible to become a published author while working a day job. It’s just my take, but I believe that pulling this double-duty gives me a little more artistic freedom because I’m not relying on that tenuous author income to make a living. In other words, I feel less pressure to ‘write to the market’. It also means I can use writing as a creative outlet, and that’s something I’m very grateful to have – in fact, I’ve come to depend on it – and because of that, I never run out of passion for writing. It re-energizes me.
What’s your poison?
I’m a coffee-snob in the morning – fair trade, locally roasted beans, all that. When it comes to alcohol, I love my whiskey, pinot noir, and, most of all, microbrew: lagers when the sun’s out, hoppy ale in the fall, and dark-as-motor-oil porters and stouts in the winter.