Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Up The Tower

Today's special guest is J.P. Lantern. J.P. lives in the Midwestern US, though his heart and probably some essential parts of his liver and pancreas and whatnot live metaphorically in Texas. He writes speculative science fiction short stories, novellas, and novels which he has deemed "rugged," though he would also be fine with "roughhewn" because that is a terrific and wonderfully apt word.

Full of adventure and discovery, these stories examine complex people in situations fraught with conflict as they search for truth in increasingly violent and complicated worlds.


I asked J.P. how he found the inspiration for his writing. Here is his response:

So, UP THE TOWER is my new young adult dystopian action novel. It’s a fun, short stand-alone book that I think any fans of stuff like China Meiville’s RAILSEA or Suzanne Collins’ THE HUNGER GAMES would love. It’s got a crazy cloned assassin, a boy genius, robot cops, gangsters with crazy techno-arms and mech-suits, and all sorts of fun stuff.

I started brainstorming this book almost immediately after watching a movie called Sorcerer, which was directed by William Friedkin (who famously directed The Exorcist). Sorcerer is about four unlucky souls who have to transport unstable, explosive nitroglycerine to a collapsed mine in Latin America, traveling through practically un-traversable jungle the whole time. I just fell in love with it immediately; these poor guys who were stuck in this horrible situation because of the mistakes in their past, and who barely had any chance of ever getting anything better, and the only way they could ever get out was by risking their lives in the most insane way possible.

So I took that idea, added a couple more main characters, made it vertical, and set in a dystopian slum beset with a catastrophic earthquake. Thus, UP THE TOWER was born.

Originally, I had wanted the characters to be completely hating each other, but somehow getting along by the end. That sort of happens now, but not (I think) in the way you might expect. 

I often realize who characters are by the way of their dynamics with other characters. This makes the most sense to me, because most of us can be understood as just responses to the people and situations around us.
So, the first character I really started to get a hold of was Ana. I knew I wanted Ana to be this painfully pretty young woman, and that I wanted the character of Gary to idolize her in an almost-creepy way. So I started exploring that a little, and I knew I had this character of Victor, who was a cloned assassin, and whose arc was supposed to have something to do with how he had never really experienced family before. Well, when it comes to the way men idolize women, we typically have two big roles—ideal mate and ideal mother. So I intensified the creepiness factor for Gary, and really upped the game with Victor, who subconsciously and irreversibly (and rather disastrously) recognizes Ana as a mother figure. 

So, if Ana becomes this sort of character who is a response to all the negative ways men idolize women, then I wanted a foil to that; that character became Ore. Ore is also a woman, but she's horribly disfigured, with only one eye and a metal exo-skeleton arm and scars everywhere. She's basically just this very cunning brute, and she's everything that Ana isn't, but she's still marginalized even by her own world of gangsterism because of her womanhood (all her physical scars are due to this in some form or another). 

But, where Ana ends up being a little crazy because of the way she's been shaped by patriarchy, I wanted Ore to end up basically all right—and the way to funnel this was by having her possess a positive interaction with some family figure, and that became Samson. Samson is a boy genius, separated from his sister when he was very young, and he ends up trying to form familial attachments with an amoral gang boss (typically a bad idea), who uses Samson for his own nefarious ends. In the novel, Samson forms an attachment with Partner, a robot, who is basically everything a lonely boy could ever want: loyal, strong, happy, and powerful. Partner is kind of like Optimus Prime, except a little bit dimmer and with a grappling hook. 

So, a lot of the characters in this book are defined in large part by what they are lacking, and the ways that they over-inflate themselves to compensate for what they feel they don't have. Ana lacks positive male presences, Gary lacks any understanding of feminity, Victor lacks any understanding of family, Ore lacks the feeling of purpose that her family gave her, Samson lacks the affection he remembers from his family. So there's this big interplay between family, gender, and class that I wanted to explore; but behind it all I hope is a good story about six individuals trying to get the hell out of a crazy mess.


Disaster brings everybody together. A cloned corporate assassin; a boy genius and his new robot; a tech-modified gangster with nothing to lose; a beautiful, damaged woman and her unbalanced stalker—these folks couldn't be more different, but somehow they must work together to save their own skin. Stranded in the epicenter of a monumental earthquake in the dystopian slum, Junktown, there is only one way to survive. These unlikely teammates must go...UP THE TOWER.


Before anything else—before the riot, before the flood, before the gap and the deaths and the fires and the pain—before all of that, Ana just wanted to get the hell out of Junktown.

But she was stuck there with Raj, and Raj had all the bodyguards, so she couldn't very well leave on her own. Walk into Junktown without any protection? No, thank you. She had a knife on her, but that was hardly enough. The knife fit neatly in a small, luxury Cardion-brand sheath at her side.

The rest of her outfit was direct out from a fashion magazine. She wore tight black Cardion slacks, her patent leather Aushwere ankle boots sexy and stylish and perfect for inner-city walking. Her dark blue blouse was Cardion again (there had been a sale); already she had noticed the way Raj had been hugging his eyes to how it cupped and clung to her body. He would have been looking a bit more, perhaps, but she wore her favorite Kadaya Sarin-brand leather jacket, allowing her a bit of modesty with the long sleeves and tight collar, despite the thinness of the material. She was a woman dressed to impress, but also was no whore—she had her man. He liked her dressed attractive, but not like some slut. Ana knew what he wanted, because that was her entire life, as she saw it, from now on.

They were inside the ground floor of a tall building. Cleanbots rushed around them, sweeping up dust, guided along by retrofitted eyebots that spied out areas of dust and disrepair.

 “Here's where we'll have the lobby,” said Raj, opening his hands out wide to the open space.

Ana had presence of mind to hold her tongue.

What she wanted to say was, “Really, dear? Here in the first possible place that someone could enter from the street? That's where you'll have the lobby? That's so inventive. You're so smart.”

What did she say was, “Oh! It will look beautiful, I'm sure.”


Blog/website: http://jplantern.com

twitter: @jplantern

The author will be awarding a backlist ebook copy to a randomly drawn winner at every stop during the tour and a Grand Prize of a $25 Amazon GC will be awarded to one randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during this tour.

Follow the tour and comment; the more you comment, the better your chances of winning. The tour dates can be found here: