Acclaimed thriller writers Heather Graham and Jon Land team up for a promising new NASA-inspired YA series.
The Rising marks a departure from the usual for bestselling authors Heather Graham and Jon Land, as a writing collaboration, as a YA novel, and as a work that blends science-fiction and thriller elements. It's a unique project inpsired by NASA's partnership with Tor Books on a series of science-themed books aimed at educating young readers about NASA’s mission, and stimulating their interest in science.
The story, involves two teens—high school quarterback and homecoming king Alex Chin, and his tutor and best friend, NASA intern Samantha Dixon—who find themselves on the run after Alex's parents are murdered and the two stumble across some frightening insights about Alex's past. It is a classic chase story replete with gripping, action-packed set pieces, compelling characters (both heroes and villains), and numerous twists. But, one wouldn’t expect less of its two authors, Graham, best known for her long-running Krewe of Hunters series, and Land, the author of 25 novels, including eight about tough-as-nails Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong.
“Collaborations like this can often be logistically difficult because even if it’s something the authors want to do, their publishers may not go along,” said Land, who has been friends with Graham ever since the two met through the International Thriller Writers organization. “In our case, the fact that we were featuring young adult heroes in a branded series for NASA provided a workaround that got everybody on board.”
Though neither Graham nor Land had ever written collaboratively, working together came easily to the two veteran scribes. “I don't know if it would work with everyone, but I think we're both lucky," said Graham. "We just got excited by the ideas we came up with," she added about the project became a launching pad for both writers to attempt something new.
“Neither of us had ever focused on young adults and we’d never written science fiction," said Land. "So I’d say we were delighted by how new and fresh it felt."
And The Rising, a relentless thriller with the relationship of Alex and Samantha at its core, manages to showcase both authors; strengths: Land's action scenes, and Graham's attention to character. "[Graham] is expert at building romantic relationships based on conflict, which fits the relationship between Alex and Samantha to a T," said Land, who added that the balance between his and Graham's sternghts were "the perfect combination.”
“We’re both storytellers who pride ourselves on writing page-turners driven by characters who, well, see love, at least romance, and the right relationships, as an anchor in their lives,” added Graham.
The relationship between the young protaganists isn't the only chemistry in the new series, though. The Rising is informed by real science, inspired by several trips Graham made to the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “I don’t think I would have had the interest in writing a book like The Rising if I hadn’t been so inspired by meeting and listening to the scientists here," she says.
Land did “lots of more traditional research and also passed the book through a few experts, one of whom helped design a futuristic, organic computer chip for me and also helped out with some of the other more quantum-oriented science.... We strived to include just enough science to fulfill the great Robert Louis Stevenson’s mantra that 'It doesn’t matter to me if you believe what I’m writing is real; all that matters is that you do not disbelieve it,'” said Land.
The authors also decided to set The Rising out West, closer to NASA’s Ames Center for Astrobiology (located in Mountain View, California), where both authors hope to visit for researching future books in the series. And sequels are planned.
"The Rising is very confined in terms of setting and time. It all takes place in California’s Bay Area in, literally, 48 hours," said Land. The second book in the series, Blood Moon, promises to have a more quest-like structure with Alex and Samantha journeying all over the world over a far less truncated patch of time. "We feel jumping from The Rising into this different approach will keep the series fresh,” added Land.
If the enthusiastic promotional blurbs are any indication, Graham and Land's initial effort has been a resounding success. James Rollins’ said “John Land’s talent at edge of your seat adventure blends perfectly with Heather Graham’s esteemed ability to balance suspense and pathos,” and Tess Gerritsen described the novel as “A mid-blowing, thrill-a-minute ride, a high octane launch of a stunningly inventive series.” The pair finds such praise gratifying.
“More than gratifying, actually,” said Land. The feedback was affirming. "[It] was the first evidence that we’d pulled it off. Every book starts out with a vision, in this case an entirely different kind of vision for both of us. We could just as easily have fallen on our faces, but that early praise showed us we were still standing.”
HEATHER GRAHAM is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author who has written over 100 novels and novellas including category, suspense, historical romance, vampire fiction, time travel, occult, and Christmas family fare.
JON LAND is the USA Today bestselling author of 38 novels, including the bestselling series featuring female Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong. He is also the coauthor of the nonfiction bestseller Betrayal. He lives in Providence, Rhode Island.