Psychological Fallout

Jude Austin
Jude Austin Author Interview

Homecoming is the second book in your Projects book series. What were some new ideas you wanted to introduce in this book that were different from book one?

Honestly, I don’t sit down and plan my books – although I do have a timeline to keep events straight – so there was no one moment when I sat down and thought, “Right, for Book Two I definitely want to bring in this!” The storyline and endings all changed and evolved dramatically as I was writing (for the better!) and so the version that readers pick up is very different from the version I started to write at the beginning! The only two ideas that survived the original concept were Kata’s reunion with his father, and the idea of going to the planet Atthiras to search for the diplomat’s daughter. The outcome of that second one originally panned out very differently; originally, the new characters of Alan and Kurai didn’t exist, and neither did the field hospital where much of Book 2 takes place.

I always say that I write sci-fi realism. You won’t find any aliens, epic space battles, dystopian settings and/or Evil Governments With Secret Police (seriously guys, am I the only sci-fi writer who’s optimistic about the future?) AI or robots (especially not those last two!) in my books. Instead, you’ll find regular people, some better/worse than others, some smarter/dumber than others, people who live and eat and who just happen to be thrust into very unusual situations and forced to cope with them as best they can. And like all regular people, they make mistakes – some with minor consequences, some catastrophic – and they have to face those consequences and deal with them. At the end of the book, they’re still not perfect and they never will be, but hopefully they’re better and more developed than they were at the start. Several comments I got from readers for this and Book 1 was that it wasn’t ‘typical’ sci-fi. Others said that even though they don’t like sci-fi as a genre, they really enjoyed my work. That was wonderful to hear!

Kata is an intriguing and well developed character. What were some driving ideals behind the character development?

Again, reality ensues. That’s about the only idea I use in all my characters and/or settings. Recently, I’ve become very disillusioned with books and movies, as they all seem to feature characters who are apparently born perfect. It’s like the creators are terrified that if the character (particularly a female character) is shown to be flawed, readers/viewers will jump up and down and scream about sexism and racism and ageism and just about any other -ism you can envisage.

Speaking as a woman here, I don’t want some amazing, perfect Strong Female Protagonist who never puts a foot wrong. That doesn’t bring me any pleasure as a reader and it’s certainly not someone I can aspire to be like; it’s someone who makes me feel inadequate. I want a normal protagonist of any gender who I can relate to, who has flaws and problems and worries and who makes mistakes, but who doesn’t give up and who eventually triumphs despite all the setbacks. That’s what I tried to create with Kata, just like all my characters.
In Kata’s case, he was locked up when he was barely 17 and dehumanized and tortured for the following two years, so there’s going to be a tremendous amount of psychological fallout now that he has finally escaped. He’s never lived away from home unless you count a couple of weeks spent in a college dorm – where, as an underage student, he was watched quite carefully and had to observe a curfew – so he has very little in terms of life skills and no experience of being independent, so he has that to contend with. Plus, he and Tau are no longer on such an equal footing as they were in the lab; Tau is far more dependent on Kata here. A huge part of the book centers around Kata slowly learning to trust again, especially since he comes from a friendless background, lousy parents and so had serious trust issues even before the events of Book 1.

What were some themes that were important for you to focus on in this book?

Well, human rights and the question of what it means to be human have always formed an important part of the Projects series. Whereas Book 1 (Project Tau) focused on how the scientists treated the titular Projects, Homecoming lets us see how Projects are viewed by society in general.

Family values also played a large part here. Kata’s strained relationship with his parents is hinted at throughout Book 1, but it’s only here that we see that his childhood left him pretty screwed up emotionally even before the events of Book 1. Emotional abuse – even if it’s inadvertent, as is the case here – isn’t as widely publicized as physical and sexual abuse, yet it can be just as damaging in its own way. It even causes Kata to develop his eating disorder, which wasn’t planned but was something else I was glad to have the chance to address when it came along in the book. There’s this lingering belief that eating disorders are things that only girls and women get, and I wanted to show people that it’s something guys can suffer from as well.

The one theme that I wanted to get right, though, was that of mental health. Too often, I read books about these superhero-like characters, who go through horrific experiences and have to do horrific things and yet they’re completely fine afterward barring the occasional nightmare. Following the events of Book 1, Kata’s been betrayed, he’s been forced to kill, he’s been locked up, tortured and dehumanized to the point of being considered no more than a talking pet, he went through that for two years and – as we find out in Homecoming – he was barely seventeen when it started. That’s really going to leave a serious mark on him. So yeah, Kata has flashbacks, his view of himself is very warped and he’s become even more cynical and distrusting than he was in Book 1, only this time he’s no longer bothering to hide it. He’s angry, he’s hostile, he’s been betrayed by everyone he turned to and he’s terrified of making the wrong call and getting him and Tau shipped back to GenTech. Character Alan Morgan puts it best when he describes Kata as “a battered, traumatized kid who thinks he can hold the world at bay by swearing at it when it threatens to get too close to him.” Given it’s such a potentially sensitive area, I did a lot of research into PTSD and mental health prior to writing this book and during its creation.

Again, it comes down to reality. Without wanting to give away spoilers, the reviewer at Literary Titan said that the ending was “unexpected and unpredictable.” That’s obviously a great thing, but part of me really wants to know how the reviewer expected the book to end!

What can readers expect in book three of your Projects series?

For a start, it’s more like two books in one! Kata and Tau both play very prominent roles, but they both have their own very separate, novel-length stories that only really come together at the end, setting up the events of Book 4. The ending of Book 2 also played its part here. I can’t remember which version your team read, but I do know that a lot of readers and reviewers kept clamoring for more Tau at the ending, which is why I added a new Tau chapter and included more details about his ultimate fate in the final chapter, along with Kata’s.
Relationships that were formed in Book 2 will continue to grow and develop throughout the whole series, and some loose ends from Book 2 (particularly involving Core Central) will be tied up.

Kata’s mental health issues are still present, as these things take a very long time to heal completely. He’s better than he was in Book 2, but he’s still got a long way to go. Alan also comes into his own as a major character in Book 3, which isn’t bad for a character that was never supposed to be a part of Book 2.

At present, the series will consist of five books, but I plan to keep writing just as long as I can think of fresh, new ideas.

Author Links: Amazon | GoodReads | Website

After escaping the laboratory where he was imprisoned by the scientific mega-corporation GenTech, former college student Kalin Taylor, aka Kata, wants just one thing: to go back to his homeworld of Trandellia with his friend Tau and forget all about what happened. Forget about being imprisoned and mutated, forget about GenTech’s attempts to break and sell him as a piece of livestock, and above all, forget the tortures he suffered at the hands of some of the scientists.

Too bad life has other ideas. Everyone who meets him, including his own rulers, see him as nothing but a weapon to be turned on their enemies. The price of his return to Trandellia is simple: go to the entirely lawless world of Atthiras, and find the child of a foreign ambassador who went missing there five years ago.

Betrayed at every turn, surrounded by people whose only thought is to turn him to their own cause, Kata will soon have to make a choice about who to trust. If he picks the wrong person, he and Tau will be dead or re-enslaved, and this time, there’ll be no escape.

About Literary Titan

The Literary Titan is an organization of professional editors, writers, and professors that have a passion for the written word. We review fiction and non-fiction books in many different genres, as well as conduct author interviews, and recognize talented authors with our Literary Book Award. We are privileged to work with so many creative authors around the globe.

Posted on December 12, 2020, in Interviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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