Please welcome Rajan Khanna to The Qwillery as part of the 2014 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Falling Sky will be published on October 7th by Pyr.
TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?
Rajan: I've been telling stories my whole life but the first time I can actually remember writing a whole story was in 7th grade, for an assignment. It was a horribly cliche and moralistic tale, filled with elements lifted from D&D, but it is the first actual written story that I can remember. As for the why, as mentioned I've always told stories -- through action figures, roleplaying games, whatever. I had all these ideas inside my head so once I realized I could capture them in stories it put me on the path to writing.
TQ: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Rajan: I am mostly a pantser. Part of the joy of writing for me is figuring out the story, and even being surprised by it. However, I will say that after working on novels, I now appreciate the benefits of having a road map to work from, especially for longer works.
TQ: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?
Rajan: Aside from never seeming to have enough time, I'd say it's sometimes seeing the ending to a work. Because I don't outline, sometimes I jump into a story without knowing where it will go. Sometimes that means not knowing the ending for months. Or more. Luckily, as was the case with Falling Sky, sometimes it just seems to fall into place.
TQ: Who are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?
Rajan: Roger Zelazny, Fritz Leiber, and Michael Moorcock are three of my favorites and influences. I'm also a fan of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. Dune is probably my favorite SF novel. Contemporary writers include Richard Morgan, Jeff VanderMeer, China Mieville, George R. R. Martin, and Gene Wolfe, and Jeffrey Ford is my favorite writer of short stories.
TQ: Describe Falling Sky in 140 characters or less.
Rajan: I hate talking about my own book so I'm going to quote Tad William's blurb: " It’s a fast ride, scary and twisty-turny, and it also has plenty of airships, zombies, and sarcasm, three of the best things in the world."
TQ: Tell us something about Falling Sky that is not in the book description.
Rajan: I sometimes base character's physical appearances on actors. That is not the case with Ben, my POV character, but it was the case with two of my secondary characters, Diego and Claudia, who are based on two of my favorite actors. I don't want to give away who they are based on, but I will provide clues. The actor who inspired Diego is mostly known for his television roles but has appeared in movies, including two recent Marvel movies. The actor who inspired Claudia has likewise done both television and movies but has also done video game voices as well. Most of her work has been in science fiction. I wonder if anyone will be able to guess...
TQ: What inspired you to write Falling Sky? How would you describe the genre(s) of the novel?
Rajan: Falling Sky is based on a short story of the same name that I wrote at the Clarion West Writers Workshop back in 2008. I had a vague sense of a story where people lived predominantly in the sky, using airships to get around, to avoid something on the ground. One night that became a story and the response to that story was largely that it should be expanded into a novel.
In terms of genres, it is a bit of a mishmash. The setting is post-apocalyptic, taking place after a pandemic which has regressed most of humanity into bestial creatures called Ferals. It's not steampunk at all, but it does have airships. The Ferals are not zombies but bear a little resemblance to their undead counterparts. And it draws as well from thrillers with a touch of western and noir in there as well.
TQ: What sort of research did you do for Falling Sky?
Rajan: I mostly did research into modern airships and the geography of the western U.S. Not to downplay the research at all, but setting it in the near future meant that I had a bit more freedom (compared with other projects set in the past which have to stand up to more scrutiny).
TQ: In Falling Sky who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?
Rajan: Ben is the POV character and there's more than a little of me in Ben so I'd say he was the easiest. Other than him, I had a lot of fun with Claudia. As for the hardest, I think that it took me the longest to connect with the character of Rosie. I could visualize her pretty well, I had a good sense of her, but she wasn't coming through very well. Turned out I had to give her a little more space and that definitely helped.
TQ: Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from Falling Sky.
"The thing you have to understand for this to all make sense is that Miranda’s a little crazy. Back in the Clean, they would have called her idealistic, but back in the Clean idealistic wouldn’t have gotten you killed. Or maybe it would. I’ve never been too good at history."
TQ: What's next?
Rajan: I have a few projects that I'm working on at the moment. One of those is a sequel to Falling Sky. I'm also working on a young adult mystery novel. Then there are a few more projects after those including a weird western and something that might turn into a horror novel.
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Rajan: Thank you so much for inviting me.
Pyr, October 7, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 260 pages
Cover Artist: Chris McGrath
Ben Gold lives in dangerous times. Two generations ago, a virulent disease turned the population of most of North America into little more than beasts called Ferals. Some of those who survived took to the air, scratching out a living on airships and dirigibles soaring over the dangerous ground.
Ben has his own airship, a family heirloom, and has signed up to help a group of scientists looking for a cure. But that's not as easy as it sounds, especially with a power-hungry air city looking to raid any nearby settlements. To make matters worse, his airship, the only home he's ever known, is stolen. Ben must try to survive on the ground while trying to get his ship back.
This brings him to Gastown, a city in the air recently conquered by belligerent and expansionist pirates. When events turn deadly, Ben must decide what really matters-whether to risk it all on a desperate chance for a better future or to truly remain on his own.
Rajan Khanna is a graduate of the 2008 Clarion West Writers Workshop and a member of a New York-based writing group called Altered Fluid. His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Shimmer magazine, GUD, and several anthologies, and has received Honorable Mention in the Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror and the Year’s Best Science Fiction. He writes for Tor.com and LitReactor.com and his podcast narrations have appeared on sites such as Wired.com, Lightspeed magazine, Escape Pod, Podcastle, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Rajan also writes about wine, beer, and spirits at FermentedAdventures.com. He currently lives in New York.