I am excited to welcome debut author Jess Anastasi, who is celebrating the release of her new novel, Escape Velocity.
Rebuilding his life. And rediscovering love…
Ilari, Brannon System, 2436
At first, Dr. Sacha Dalton is simply curious about the prisoner of war admitted to her med-lab…until she sees who it is. For Commander Kai Yang—the commander of the battleship Valiant Knox—has long been thought dead. Killed in action. But after almost a year and half, he’s returned home. Returned to her.
Kai is recovering from his ordeal and under the watchful care of Sacha, his childhood friend and the widow of his best friend. Only now, their friendship has grown and deepened into something far deeper, and far more complicated. Yet as Kai’s body recovers, his psyche remains broken. How could he ever be the man he was, and the man Sacha deserves? But an intergalactic war has a way of forcing a man to be the hero he was always meant to be…
Literary Escapism: For those of my readers unfamiliar with Escape Velocity and the Valiant Knox series, can you give us a brief look at your novel and what readers can look forward to? Something we haven’t seen yet?
Jess Anastasi: After almost a year and a half as a prisoner of the enemy, Commander Kai Yang escapes and returns to his battleship, the Valiant Knox. But his fight is far from over — many things have changed in the time he’s been gone, most notably his childhood friend, Doctor Sacha Dalton, becoming a widow. As Kai struggles through the PTSD from his time as a POW, Sacha struggles with the grief of losing her husband and the guilt over her feelings for Kai. The two should make each other stronger, but both of them have deep emotional scars to contend with.
LE: Why Kai and Sascha? What was it about them – either individually or as a couple – that drew you to them and want to tell their story?
JA: I wanted to explore the childhood-friends-to-lovers relationship. What happens when you suddenly see the person you’ve known almost your whole life as something more? So that was my aim for them as a couple. But I’d also been wanting to do a character working through post-traumatic stress disorder for a while as well, and considering where Kai starts off in the book, it was a natural progression.
LE: What was your inspiration when you created your characters and the worlds they live in? How did you determine how they were going to interact with each other?
JA: I’ve been a serious sci-fi and sci-fi romance fan for a number of years now, the possibilities of the future and what mankind might find out there beyond our own solar system really sparks my imagination. However, I didn’t want to make my characters or world too far removed or alien to our current society. I also wondered, if even though we might go out and conquer the galaxy, will people ever really change? It was easy to imagine that in the distant future, people will still fight for the same things. I had also been wanting to write something military-based for a while, and things all came together very easily.
LE: Can you introduce us to a few of the side characters that we’ll be meeting or who will play an important role to/for Sascha and Kai?
JA: In this book, we meet several other characters who will get their own books, and several that I hope will get their own book (depending on how many I write and publish!) The first is Captain Leigh Alphin, or Alpha as he’s mostly known. He features in the second book, Damage Control (due out later in 2015). Leigh is a very controlled, but straight-shooting sort of person. He’s the Captain of the Fighter Force, and he’s worked hard to get where he is. Unfortunately for Leigh, his very orderly world is about to be upended on all sides.
Another character we get to meet is Lieutenant Sebastian Rayne, or Seb, for the third book, Cover Fire. He’s a fighter pilot under Leigh’s command and the polar opposite to the Captain in personality. He’s known as the “cowboy” of the squad and is the go-to person for suicidally dangerous missions behind enemy lines. He’s tasked with one such assignment, which doesn’t go anywhere near to plan, and will have far-reaching consequences for both himself and the crew of the Valiant Knox.
LE: Was there any character that didn’t make as big of an impact on the story that you thought they would? Was there a character who stayed on the page longer than you thought they would?
JA: Sacha’s friend, Cassidy Willow, who features in Sacha’s first scene, when she gets the news about Kai returning. At that point she was almost a prop character with no real substance and a very brief mention. I actually didn’t expect to use her again, and in the first draft I didn’t. However, during a later revision. I realized that Sacha needed some more support, and Cassidy was the obvious choice.
LE: Which do you find is more central in your writing: the characters or world creation? Why?
JA: It depends on the book or series. There have been instances in the past where the world has definitely come first, and I’ve worked the characters into it (an example of this would be Atrophy, due out later in 2015). But in this instance, the characters definitely came first and I built the world up around them. As stated above, I think it happened this way because I had certain character types and issues I wanted to explore so those elements drove the story.
LE: What was it about the science fiction genre that drew you to write in it? Why science fiction romance? Was there a certain book that captured your imagination and lead to thinking up your own fantastical stories or did it come to you naturally?
JA: My love of science fiction actually started with a number of TV series, and I’m afraid to say I haven’t read a lot of the classics. I did start reading a bit of sci-fi romance before I started writing it, authors like Linnea Sinclair and Anne Aguirre. I’d been a romance reader since I was a teenager, and had actually tried writing several other romance genres, but couldn’t ever quite get the hang of it. When I finally decided to try writing a sci-fi romance, it was a bit of a revelation. My writing flowed in a way it never had before and I knew I was finally where I needed to be. If anything influenced me, it had to be Joss Whedon’s Firefly. I’m a huge JW fan, and actually think he’s one of the best writers of our generation. Firefly was like nothing I’d ever seen before, and it was probably the first spark to making me think about writing sci-fi myself one day.
LE: What is the most painful part of the process for you when you’re writing a book? Why?
JA: Easily editing! That’s when I start second-guessing myself. I start asking “does this scene do what I want it to do? Is this bit too melodramatic? Are my characters coming across the way I envisaged? Should I have even bothered including that chapter?” I discovered in my early years of writing that if I don’t temper myself, I can end up destroying a perfectly good book through over editing. These days, my “first draft” is fairly clean and I actually won’t do much except correct the obvious technical mistakes until after my crit partner or beta-reader have finished with it. There are a lot of scenes in Escape Velocity that had very little done to them from the first time I wrote them.
LE: When you’re not writing, what are you reading? Have you found an author that’s new to you and/or one the rest of the world really needs to find? Is there a certain niche genre that you prefer to escape to? If so, which one and why?
JA: I actually got a bit slack in my reading last year, but my new year’s resolution for 2015 is make more time for books! Over the holiday period, I discovered Rachel Bach’s Fortune trilogy, which was a really great sci-fi romance series with a really tough heroine. I would definitely recommend that! I also read The 100 and Day 21 by Kass Morgan, because I’m loving The 100 TV series at the moment.
As of this week, I’m in the mood for romantic suspense, so I’ve got a new Suzanne Brockmann book (one of my all time favorite authors) and am thinking about trying Maya Banks’s KGI series. In a few weeks from now I might be into historical romance and reading Julia Quinn. My tastes are a bit all over the place!
LE: And my favorite question to ask…Which authors do you read and/or think “Damn! I wish I had thought of that”?
JA: I recently read A Hero for the Empire by Christina Wescott (another great sci-fi romance read that I would recommend) and in her book she had these telepathic cats… I’m not a cat person at all, but I’m a pet person, and though the idea might sound a bit out there, she actually did it really well, and it gave an extra element to an already great story. I definitely had a “damn I wish I’d thought of that!” moment when I read it.
Meet Jess Anastasi!
Jess has been making up stories ever since she can remember. Though her messy handwriting made it hard for anyone else to read them, she wasn’t deterred and now she gets to make up stories for a living. She loves loud music, a good book on a rainy day, and probably spends too much time watching too many TV shows. Jess lives in regional Victoria, Australia, with her very supportive husband, three daughters, one ball-obsessed border collie, and one cat who thinks he’s one of the kids.
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