Please welcome C.A. Higgins to the blog! Her brand new book, Lightless, will be out tomorrow, and she kindly answered a few of my questions about the new book, and more! Please give her a warm welcome.
Congrats on the new book! Will you tell us a little about Lightless and what inspired it?
Thank you! I got the idea for LIGHTLESS from a physics class where we were talking about thermodynamics. Something about ideal gas particles in a box made them seem like little people to me: if I turned up the heat in the box, or made the box suddenly smaller, they would get worried and run around. And every time I changed something about their situation, the disorder in the box would increase. So I imagined a group of characters in an isolated space, the Ananke, who were affecting each other and being affected by the frightening ways that their isolated environment was changing, with the whole situation slowly spiraling out of control.
Why do you think readers will root for Althea and Ivan? What makes them compelling characters?
For most of the book, Ivan and Althea are each other’s antagonists. Ivan stands in the way of Althea fixing the Ananke and is the reason the ship was disrupted in the first place, while Althea is one of the people keeping Ivan captive. Yet even though they’re on opposite sides, both practically and ideologically, they develop a relationship with one another—and I think that the same things that let them empathize with each other despite their differences allow the reader root for them in spite of their sometimes glaring flaws. Both Ivan and Althea are in vulnerable positions: Ivan is friendless and captured by the enemy, and Althea finds that her priorities conflict with the priorities of her superiors. And both Althea and Ivan have a strong sense of love and loyalty for someone else: Althea for the Ananke, and Ivan for his friends and family, especially Mattie.
What kind of research did you do for the book?
I did some reading on abnormal psychology and early childhood development, and I took an elective class about robotic motion in order to get a better sense of the Ananke. I’m not sure how helpful it was as research, but I do now know how to make what is basically a Roomba get very, very lost in a maze.
I have always wanted to be a writer and I have always written—there exists, somewhere, a floppy disk containing the first book I ever wrote when I was seven. Hopefully it will remain lost for all time. In college I started to write more seriously with the intention of completing and selling a novel rather than just writing for fun.
What’s one of the first things you remember writing?
Aside from the aforementioned floppy disk novel, there exist little books I made in kindergarten that are mostly picture books documenting the adventures of various unicorns, fairies, and mermaids. They usually get chased by some sort of nameless evil, and there is almost always a waterfall involved. I think it was a metaphor.
Why science fiction? What do you enjoy most about writing, and reading, in the genre?
I really like the freedom of a science fiction setting. There is a lot of room to explore interesting concepts with a science fiction setting, and to explore the way those concepts would affect people. Also, space is just plain cool: I’ll never get to travel to another planet, but I can read about it.
What are a few of your favorite books and authors?
I’m a big fan of Fyodor Dostoevsky, Robin Hobb, Tanith Lee, and Vivian Vande Velde. My favorite books are probably Dostoevsky’s THE IDIOT, Hobb’s The Farseer series, and—a recent read!—JONATHAN STRANGE & MR. NORRELL by Susanna Clarke.
If you could read one book again for the first time, which one would it be?
Probably THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE by Shirley Jackson. It’s such a fantastic and spectacularly creepy novel, and I’d love to re-experience the abject terror of someone unexpectedly knocking on my door while I was halfway through it.
What are you currently reading?
Right now I am reading Michael Chabon’s THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF KAVALIER AND CLAY. Several people independently recommended it to me. Since when people recommend books to me those books are usually psychological thrillers, weird science fiction, existential Victorian novels, or epic fantasy, I was a little confused when I actually started to read KAVALIER AND CLAY and discovered that it was none of the above. But now I understand why it was recommended so many times: It’s brilliant.
What’s next for you?
LIGHTLESS will have two sequels. The next one, SUPERNOVA, picks up where LIGHTLESS left off and follows some of the characters as they become entangled in the chaos resulting from the events of LIGHTLESS. It’s a very exciting book, and you’ll learn more about the terrorist Ida is hunting in LIGHTLESS, the Mallt-y-Nos.
With deeply moving human drama, nail-biting suspense—and bold speculation informed by a degree in physics—C. A. Higgins spins a riveting science fiction debut guaranteed to catapult readers beyond their expectations.
Serving aboard the Ananke, an experimental military spacecraft launched by the ruthless organization that rules Earth and its solar system, computer scientist Althea has established an intense emotional bond—not with any of her crewmates, but with the ship’s electronic systems, which speak more deeply to her analytical mind than human feelings do. But when a pair of fugitive terrorists gain access to the Ananke, Althea must draw upon her heart and soul for the strength to defend her beloved ship.
While one of the saboteurs remains at large somewhere on board, his captured partner—the enigmatic Ivan—may prove to be more dangerous. The perversely fascinating criminal whose silver tongue is his most effective weapon has long evaded the authorities’ most relentless surveillance—and kept the truth about his methods and motives well hidden.
As the ship’s systems begin to malfunction and the claustrophobic atmosphere is increasingly poisoned by distrust and suspicion, it falls to Althea to penetrate the prisoner’s layers of intrigue and deception before all is lost. But when the true nature of Ivan’s mission is exposed, it will change Althea forever—if it doesn’t kill her first.