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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.

Homecoming (Projects Book 2)

Homecoming (Projects Book 2) by [Jude Austin]

A sequel to the gripping action-thriller Project Tau, Jude Austin’s Homecoming traces the journeys of Tau and Kata, right after they’ve managed to escape from GenTech. Struggling to fit into the world, they realize that their lives aren’t free from imminent dangers. Not just GenTech, but other enemies are lurking in the dark to capture and utilize them to fulfill their own selfish needs. Kata desperately wishes to return to Trandellia and to forget the trauma they had just experienced. The tussle between remembrance and an earnest attempt to find a way to liberation infuses a tragic tone into the work. At a crucial moment in the story, Kata has to decide who he should trust. Will he be able to save himself and Tau from the clutches of slavery, torture, maltreatment, and death? 

The ending is unexpected and unpredictable, and that’s what makes the novel quite an interesting read. In a world full of super heroes, Austin offers a breath of fresh air to readers. The language is simple, and it goes well with the rawness of the plot. A little refinement would have been better, without a doubt, but the author manages to hold on to the reader’s attention with a strong grip. The plot focuses on the perspectives of different people, putting together a rounded view. The book is highly engaging, but the recurring plot twists sometimes become difficult to follow. Nonetheless, the storyline has seen a great deal of improvement from the previous book, with this one being more thoughtfully executed. Due to the treatment of issues such as slavery, physical torture, and the use of crude language, this one is not suitable for young readers. The story not only narrates an intergalactic adventure but also addresses dire issues that have been plaguing humanity since time immemorial. Trauma induced by slavery, and a lack of empathy towards others take the center stage as the two try to leave behind their painful past to start afresh. The selfishness of the ones who plan to use Tau and Kata as powerful weapons reflect the world that we live in, where the powerful oppresses the marginalized and dehumanizes them to serve their personal vendetta.

Homecoming (Projects Book 2) is for readers that are fond of science-fiction, thrillers, and space adventures. This is a highly enjoyable read, but to understand the nuances of the novel better, I would highly recommend you to read Project Tau before you dive into this one. 

Pages: 398 | ASIN: B085VFRSD6

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The Sterling Wood Series

Charlene Johnson Author Interview

Charlene Johnson Author Interview

Homecoming follow Lily as she goes back to her small hometown where she discovers that someone is out to kill her. What was the inspiration for the setup to this thrilling story?

I grew up in a small town in Southwestern Pennsylvania and had relatives and friends that worked in the coal mines. Everyone knew each other , and it was a nice place to grow up. When I decided to write a Romantic Suspense, I thought it would be fun to create a small town and a storyline located in that area.

Lily was an intriguing character. What were some driving ideals behind her character development?

I drew very loosely from my own life for Lily’s character. The town where I grew up was predominantly white. There was a small group of black families living in town, and I was related to most of them in one way or another. In the local cemetery, blacks were buried separately from whites for the most part. After attending college and working for a few years in town, I wanted to see more of the country and advance in my career. There wasn’t much opportunity for upward mobility in my field of study. I took a job with the federal government, moved to California, and thirty-six years later, I still live there.

I enjoyed the mystery at the heart of this story. Was it planned before writing or did it develop organically while writing?

I’m a plotter, not pantser. I had the main storyline before I started writing. I planned to write a standalone, but as I developed some secondary characters, I thought they had stories of their own. Thus, why I decided to write a series. I’m planning five books in the series, but who knows? I created two other local towns while writing Homecoming that will play a role in the other books in the series.

This is book one in your Sterling Woods series. What can readers expect in book two?

I’m currently finishing up the 5th book in my paranormal romance series, Circle of the Red Scorpion. I will immediately start working on Changing the Rules, Book 2 in the Sterling Wood Series, and hope to have it done in the late 3rd quarter of this year.

Author Links: GoodReadsTwitterFacebookFacebook GroupFacebook PageInstagramWebsite | Sterling Woods Series

Lily Sommers reluctantly returns to Sterling Wood to attend her Uncle Jimmy’s funeral – a town she left years ago.

Sterling Wood holds painful memories she’s tried to forget.  One, in particular, is still raw and every time she returns pulls the scab off a wound that will not heal – Luc Pearson, the handsome high school sweetheart who betrayed her.

Seeing Luc again isn’t the only problem she has to face in Sterling Wood.  Someone is trying to kill her, and she doesn’t know why. 

She soon learns shocking revelations that could change the course of her life as a ruthless killer stalks her. Will the people closest to her be able to save her?

Things like that aren’t supposed to happen in Sterling Wood.

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Homecoming (The Sterling Woods Series Book 1) by [Charlene Johnson]

For Lily, a high school heartbreak had given her few reasons to be fond of seeing her hometown, and trips to Sterling Wood were as short and infrequent as she could manage. All that changed quickly, though, with the death of her Uncle Jimmy. Suddenly reconciled with her high school sweetheart while dealing with her grief, Lily becomes involved in a mystery with decades old origins, and twists that will change almost everything she knows about her family. Unshakable love, senseless murder, and shocking secrets will all be uncovered to rattle the small town of Sterling Wood.

Homecoming by Charlene Johnson is equal parts enduring love story and twisted murder mystery. Sterling Wood is depicted as the typical small town, full of people who are happy to stay and continue the status quo. Lily is the one who made it out, becoming a successful photographer with her own business and high profile clients. Her short trips home to visit family are in large part a means of avoiding Luc, the high school love who broke her heart. When she has to return for her uncle’s funeral however, she knows it will be a longer visit, and soon, years of misunderstanding are washed away and the two are an item again. It only takes a little longer than that before it becomes clear that someone has malicious feelings toward both Lily and her family.

Love, family, and maybe more accurately, what makes a person family, are the themes that are constantly revisited throughout the book. The idea of a small town that breeds intense friendships and well as deep seeded resentments is a common one, and Johnson does well to create her own version of it here. She uses a variety of concepts that can be found often, but infuses enough originality and backstory to keep it fresh.

The book quickly delves into an engaging and well thought out mystery. Many of the characters represent common personality tropes. While Lily is presented as fiercely independent and successful, it quickly becomes clear that most, if not all, of her motivations are driven solely by her past issues with Luc. Even when she returns to Sterling Wood and begins to uncover her family history, Luc stands as more of a driving force. I felt the the other characters in the book were interesting and well developed in comparison to Lily.

The compelling mystery at the heart of this enchanting novel kept me turning pages and I was very eager to find out the next twist. Although I would have enjoyed a deeper dive into Lily’s character, the big reveal at the end was well worth the read.

Pages: 270 | ASIN: B085SZP4B1

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Really Real

Ellie G. Collins Author Interview

Ellie G. Collins Author Interview

Mylee in the Mirror explores young romance and school drama with an infusion of Greek Mythology. What were some themes you wanted to continue from your first book and what were some new ideas you wanted to explore?

Well, in Daisy, Bold & Beautiful I wanted to create a situation for my main character that would demonstrate the same moral of the story that I find within Persephone’s story – it is important to stand up for yourself. The story in Mylee In The Mirror is very different, but I arrived at it in the same manner – I wanted a story that would demonstrate the moral of the story I find in Aphrodite’s story – you can’t force someone to love someone else. I hope to do that with all the books in this series – decide on a moral of the story for each god/goddess featured in the book and create a story that demonstrates that moral.

I enjoyed Ty and My’s characters and interactions. What was the inspiration for their relationship?

Hmmm… well, I didn’t really have a specific relationship in mind when I was writing it. I developed each character (for instance, Ty is loose combination of my [real life] Trampoline & Tumbling teammate, Ty, my dad, and my brother, Will), then had them interact the way I imagined those characters would interact with each other. I have a friend, Peter, who I joke around with, kinda like Mylee and Ty joked around together, but My & Ty were friends longer than Pete and I have been and they’re closer than Pete and I are.

How has your writing developed and changed from book one in your Greek Mythology Fantasy Series?

I don’t know exactly how my writing developed and changed from Daisy to Mylee, but this book was really different to write because Daisy was all about 6th graders and I was a 6th grader when I was writing it, so I could really relate to what they were doing and how they were acting. Mylee is about ninth graders AND Ty was my first male main character. Obviously, I don’t know anything about being a boy, and certainly not a 9th grade boy, so I had to talk with my brother quite a bit to decide what Ty would do and how he would act. I also talked quite a bit with my mom about the two moms in the story and Grammy Jean. Grammy Jean was based on my real-life great grandmother, who passed away last winter. The character wasn’t exactly like my Grammy Jean, but pretty close. So, I guess I can say I worked more and worked harder this time trying to understand motivations to make the characters feel really real, know what I mean?

What are you currently writing and when will it be published?

I’m just starting work on book 3. This will feature my first god (instead of a goddess), and the main character will be a boy this time. I hope to be done with it sometime this spring, so hopefully it’ll be published sometime in the summer. I’ve been busy, though, because this is competition season for both my gymnastics team and my tramp & tumble team. Last weekend we traveled down to Oregon for a meet and this weekend we fly to Reno, Nevada for another one. Between all that and school there isn’t a ton of time for writing, but I’m really anxious to share this next story, so I’ll find the time! 😊

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Mylee in the Mirror (Greek Mythology Fantasy Series Book 2) by [Collins, Ellie]

Freshman year is just starting, and already Mylee fears her family is falling apart. She’s not interested in dating or any of the high-school drama it brings, but that’s just what she gets when Sam, the most popular guy at school, invites her to the Homecoming dance. Mylee needs advice, so she summons Aphrodite, Goddess of Love and Beauty, her secret confidant.

Tyler is worried about Mylee, his best friend and teammate. Already sad about her family woes, he’s livid that Slimeball Sam is trying to ooze his way into her life. And she seems to be falling for Sam’s act! Worse, Ty is worried all this attention from such a popular guy will place Mylee officially out of his league.

What does an ancient Greek goddess know about modern teenage romance? Can My and Ty save their friendship and discover what matters most?

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