I’m proud to introduce a good friend (though that may be presumptuous of me – she may hate my guts for all I know…) I’ve had the rare privilege of meeting in person. Yes, real flesh and bones in a world of bits and bytes. Leah Petersen is a talented author, an outspoken supporter of fellow authors, and a very entertaining Twitter follow (especially if you hate your day job – she’s got some great one liners).
I read her debut novel, Fighting Gravity, last year (review here), easily one of my most enjoyable reads of the year. Truly great storytelling, hard to put down, and I attribute that 100% to the characters she created. Those characters are back for another story, picking up where the first left off. Cascade Effect (The Physics of Falling, Book 2) was released last week, and Leah was generous enough to stop by the “all new” Author’s Cafe to chat about it.
LP: Jake survived exile & an execution order. Now he’s back with his emperor, and the assassination attempts are the least of his problems.
SU: Cascade Effect is a sequel to Fighting Gravity, a self-contained story that left off with a bit of a hanger that led naturally into another story. Was this planned, or was FG supposed to be a standalone?
LP: Fighting Gravity was written as a standalone, but changes in the editing and revision process with my publisher ended it quite a lot earlier in the timeline than I’d planned. At that point I had to decide whether I simply wanted to let their story end at a different point in time than I’d planned, or write a sequel. I ended up writing a sequel.
SU: I found FG to be a fascinating blend of science fiction, romance, and class/nobility. Does CE maintain that same mix, or did you go more in-depth into one area versus the others?
LP: I like to think all elements are still strong and in a good balance, but as is the nature of sequels, I was able to get more in-depth about the society itself, the class issues, their history, and more details about how that specifically impacts the classes day-to-day.
SU: One of the central themes of both stories is the marriage of not only a ‘commoner’ with a noble, but also between two men. The latter is obviously a hot button issue in recent years with a lot of progress towards acceptance. Did this influence what you wrote originally, or was that relationship something you always wanted to put to paper?
LP: The same-sex relationship was never a deliberate plot device, just something I realized was going to happen when I really started to set down the story. Once I was writing a world where homophobia was one of those archaic ideas from way-back-then, the marriage was a natural progression. But I’m sure I must have been unconsciously influenced by the issue being so much in the public consciousness, I started writing the first book shortly after Prop 8 passed in California. And once I realized how intrinsic it was to the story, it was deeply satisfying to NOT address the issue. At all. No one comments on it in the story because no one cares. They are prejudiced against Jake for a completely different reason.
SU: Jacob Dawes rose from the slums to the palace in FG. How does he continue to grow, whether positively or negatively, in CE? Give one aspect, without giving away the story, of course.
LP: Jake’s very often (OK, pretty much always) selfish and short-sighted. In Fighting Gravity, he’s largely acting from a position where he has no power, and as self-destructive as his actions end up being, it doesn’t usually have the potential to affect anyone but him. In Cascade Effect his situation has completely changed, and his obtuseness has the potential to affect millions, even billions of people, of all classes of society. The only thing to do there is either learn to be less selfish and short-sighted, or make colossal screw-ups on a galactic scale. So, no spoiler, but either he learns to grow up a bit, or the whole empire comes crashing down.
SU: Are there any plans for a follow up? Will this become a trilogy, or more?
LP: Yes, there’s a third coming. I plan on torturing Jake one more time before I let him be.
SU: Last but not least, take as much time/characters to describe the overall story arc you’ve put together for Jacob and the emperor, and why readers will enjoy it.
LP: A reviewer said this was a story that convincingly put the prince and the pauper in bed together. I love that way of putting it because, at its heart, this is a love story. But it’s also a story of just a guy, with all his flaws, who gets pulled out of the dregs of society, the worst of circumstances, and thrust into the world of privilege, power, and prestige–where no one wants him. Until the emperor does. Then everyone hates him even more. It’s the story of how Jake deals with prejudice and discrimination and not only changes himself, but the world around him when he refuses to accept the labels put on him and others like him. And how he deals with the cost to himself for doing it.
A big thanks to Leah for taking time out of what I can imagine is a very busy launch week. Do yourselves a favor, folks. Visit her site. Follow her on Twitter. And most of all, take a look at Fighting Gravity (Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Goodreads) for the first in this series, then Cascade Effect (Kindle, Goodreads, other outlets coming soon) to pick up the story of Jake and Pete as it moves forward.